Can IT save government? Perhaps with a better budget

Can IT save government? Perhaps with a better budget

Summary: Government techies should focus on non-IT productivity if they want a better budget. Why? Government needs to replace manual labor---and the people that go with them---with IT.


ORLANDO, Fla.---If you think you had a tough technology budget cycle, just try being a government exec these days.

At the Gartner Symposium Sunday, there were a bevy of presentations about government and IT.

As noted on Smart Planet, Gartner analyst Andrea Di Maio defined smart city efforts vs. smart government efforts. The upshot is that government IT spending is trying to get beyond the political cycle and do more long-term planning. You know the buzzwords by now e-government, Web 2.0, consumerization and other trends are all supposed to add up to more efficiency.

Smart government isn't about the vendor pitches as much as it is about doing technology cheaply. Why is that important? Government entities are broke---and that's a complement since some are over their heads in debt. Since that situation isn't likely to change, governments need IT for sustainability---the financial kind.

The issue with these efforts all revolve around financial planning. Can you really map out a 5-year overhaul when Congress and the administration turns over well before that budget period ends?

Jerry Mechling, a Gartner analyst, argued that IT budgets may increase for governments.

Now Mechling's take is a bit pie-in-the-sky because it would take a heroic effort to get the pols that control the budget to see the light. He seems to assume that CIOs can win allies and play the political game. Good luck with that. Here's the argument though:

It is the productivity-producing capacity of IT that makes it different and why it should be treated differently in budgeting. The "cut everybody equally" approach is widely acceptable politically, but when implemented carries a serious cost for governmental and societal productivity. To gain productivity, we need to continue the longstanding trend of replacing manual labor with IT.

While normal politics may of course slow the growth of IT and other costs in government, in many places it will be possible to better respond to requirements for cost-cutting by using the budget to look specifically for IT-enabled productivity improvement. The CIO should be part of the leadership driving such reform, but to succeed will need to develop allies among budget directors and other positions of power.

The upshot is that CIOs need a new budget game to reinvent government. In fact, government techies should focus on non-IT productivity if they want a better budget. Why? Government needs to replace manual labor---and the people that go with them---with IT. Cloud computing doesn't collect a pension. Replace Congress with IBM's Watson and then we're really on to something.

Topics: CXO, Government, Government US

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  • RE: Can IT save government? Perhaps with a better budget ...........
  • RE: Can IT save government? Perhaps with a better budget

    From the article:<br>"Government entities are broke - and thats a complement since some are over their heads in debt.<br><br>Think Iceland, Ireland, Greece and Portugal. Both Italy and Spain are at the precipice, with Belgium close behind. Austerity measures are in place in many other European countries (e.g., the UK). Across the pond, many government agencies in the U.S., especially at the municipal and state level, are hurting due to the drop in housing prices (but also commercial real estate prices), foreclosures, high unemployment and underemployment (think of workers that have had their hours, and pay, cut by 10-20%). Their primary revenue sources, property and wage taxes, are down. The unemployed and underemployed, for obvious reasons, are spending less money which is adversely impacting the private sector (as well as non-profits).<br><br>Also from the article (although Larry Dignan is clearly not a proponent, but simply reporting):<br>"Government needs to replace manual labor - and the people that go with them - with IT.<br><br>This might work in a healthy economy where jobs are being created elsewhere to replace jobs that are lost. But, the current economy is anything but healthy (see above).
    Rabid Howler Monkey
    • It is amazing how few people understand economics

      a government job, almost without exception, is a DRAIN on an economy. Because to pay that government worker you have to tax an employer or employee in the private sector. Which means the money the government employee spends in the private sector is ALWAYS less than what was taken out to pay him. IOW, laying off government workers is NOT a drain on an economy.
      • RE: Can IT save government? Perhaps with a better budget


        Long term, yes most government jobs are correspondingly less efficient and worse for the economy than private sector ones.

        But laying off gov employees does create temporary hurt to the economy in terms of consumer confidence, employment, etc. So it usually boils down to whether one thinks that the current market can bear the shock at the moment and whether that will impede recovery. One of those ironies where the best time to layoff gov employees are those times when the gov is rolling in money.

        Personally, I think that the tech of the next 25-40 years will see a shift out of a job-driven economy entirely ala Vonnegut's <i>Player Piano</i> or Star Trek. Of the two I think Player Piano has the right of it.
      • I doubt it's always lower


        Cost for the government to have its own programmer = wages paid to the programmer (less the taxes they withhold from his wages), called "X"

        Cost for the government to hire a programmer from a consultant = charge quoted by the vendor, which includes the wages for the programmer (including taxes withheld from the programmer's wages), called "Y", *plus* an additional fee to represent the value of the programmer's services and to provide the vendor with a net profit on the deal (possibly offset by whatever income taxes the company pays on its net profits, called "Z"... assuming they report a net profit for "tax purposes" -- note that most corporations have highly-paid accountants on staff, as well as from 3rd-party CPA firms, to help find as many tax loopholes & credits to reduce their "tax burden" as much as possible).

        So, unless Z < X - Y, it's *more* expensive for the government to outsource personnel than to handle it in-house.