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Building a 21st Century Digital Government

President Obama has issued a directive entitled “Building a 21st Century Digital Government” that launches a comprehensive Digital Government Strategy.  According to the directive:

The innovative use of technology is fundamentally transforming how the American people do business and live their daily lives.  Exponential increases in computing power, the rise of high-speed networks, and the growing mobile revolution have put the Internet at our fingertips, encouraging innovations that are giving rise to new industries and reshaping existing ones . . . However, it is time for the Federal Government to do more . . . at a time when Americans increasingly pay bills and buy tickets on mobile devices, Government services often are not optimized for smartphones or tablets, assuming the services even available online.

At its core, the Strategy takes a coordinated, information- and customer-centric approach to changing how the government works and delivers services to the American people, writes Steven VanRoekel, the Federal Chief Information Officer in his blog on "Roadmap for a Digital Government". He continues, “Designing for openness from the start – making open data the default for government IT systems and embracing the use of web APIs – enables us to more easily deliver information and services through multiple channels, including mobile, and engage the public and America’s entrepreneurs as partners in building a better government.”

The Digital Government Strategy sets out to accomplish three things:

  • Enable the American people and an increasingly mobile workforce to access high-quality digital government information and services anywhere, anytime, on any device.
  • Ensure that as the government adjusts to this new digital world, we seize the opportunity to procure and manage devices, applications, and data in smart, secure and affordable ways.
  • Unlock the power of government data to spur innovation across our Nation and improve the quality of services for the American people. 

It is not surprising that the Strategy is centered around “the rapidly changing mobile landscape” and identifies cloud computing as both an opportunity and a challenge.  Among the four overarching principles (that includes approaches that are “information-centric”, “shared platform”, and “customer-centric”), “security and privacy” loom large and the strategy demands that “innovation happens in a way that ensures the safe and secure delivery and use of digital services to protect information and privacy.”  In response to the mobile threat, the Strategy advises:

We must also adopt new solutions in areas such as continuous monitoring, identity, authentication, and credential management, and cryptography that support the shift from securing devices to securing the data itself and ensure that data is only shared with authorized users.

The May 23rd memorandum from The White House directs agencies to 1) implement the requirements of the Strategy within 12 months, and 2) create a page on its website, located at www.[agency].gov/digitalstrategy, to publically report progress in meeting the requirements of the strategy.

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