Governments betting on long-term tech planning to get 'smart'

The smart city and smart government pushes are two different animals. Smart government isn't fully appreciated yet, but necessary for financial survival.

Government groups at all levels are strapped for cash, but increasingly looking to technology and long-term planning cycles as a way to survive, according to Gartner. What's emerging is the beginning of a smart government movement that isn't as utopian as smart cities, but just as important.

Speaking at the Gartner Symposium and ITXpo in Orlando, Andrea Di Maio walked through the differences between smart cities and smart government.

Here's a slide that compares the two:

Perhaps the bigger takeaway is that government tech planning is looking to outlast election cycles. Typically, public sector tech spending runs on three-year planning cycles. Di Maio said:

We have noticed that, despite pressure from short-term issues (such as budget cuts and impending elections) and increasing socioeconomic and geopolitical uncertainties, strategic planning processes are tending to address a longer time frame than they did just a few years ago. We have noticed that most clients are targeting 2015 and some 2020 (most likely because of the symbolic attraction of a new decade), as opposed to the more traditional three-year planning horizon.

Another presentation at Gartner looked at the government technology budget battle. The reality: Government will have to replace manual labor with information technology. To keep that investment going, budgets will have to go beyond the political cycle.

The driver of this longer-term view appears to be sustainability---not the environmental kind but the financial flavor.

For instance, open government, Web 2.0 technology, social tools and consumerization can be used to improve connections between citizens, planning, management and operations. Meanwhile, smart government will be pushed by department heads, not the political leaders.

Di Maio noted that smart government efforts don't revolve around technology vendors as much as making connections easily and efficiently. In fact, smart government efforts may make vendors cringe since they imply smaller scale cheap projects. Vendors currently are focused on smart city efforts. Di Maio concluded:

Very few vendors appreciate the concept and implication of smart government as it applies to multiple tiers and implies smaller scale, interoperable development as well as the use of consumer technologies to reduce both costs and risks.

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