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2/19/2010
09:52 AM
John Foley
John Foley
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What's The Next Breakthrough In Government IT?

Government agencies aren't known as hotbeds of IT innovation, but there are definitely some bold, game-changing moves underway in government technology. Here are five such initiatives. We're looking for others.

Government agencies aren't known as hotbeds of IT innovation, but there are definitely some bold, game-changing moves underway in government technology. Here are five such initiatives. We're looking for others.>>California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger this month ordered a 50% reduction in the state's data center footprint by July 2011 and a 30% cut in data center energy consumption 12 months after that, moves aimed at saving the state $1.4 billion. That's on top of a $1.5 billion savings and cost-avoidance strategy set into motion by Schwarzenegger and state CIO Teri Takai a year ago. California has had its share of IT flops, but these aggressive steps toward efficiency and cost-cutting show that state officials are serious not only about fixing the problems, but have a long-term strategy for improving IT governance and security while lowering costs and the carbon footprint.

>>NASA's Nebula cloud computing environment sets the standard for an internally managed private cloud that can tap into public cloud services. Under the watchful eye of Chris Kemp, CIO of NASA's Ames Research Center, Nebula is being built entirely with open source software components. Kemp had the idea of making Nebula available to other government agencies, a step toward the shared services IT model favored by federal CIO Vivek Kundra. Nebula can also be packaged into a shipping container and wheeled to other locations, possibly the first example of a portable compute cloud. Though it's still an alpha-stage project, Nebula has already been used in support of NASA space missions.

>>It's hard to overstate the significance of the U.S. government's push to open its databases to the public, one of the primary tenets of the Obama administration's Open Government Directive. Federal agencies are required to release "high value" data sets, and while you may argue with what qualifies as high value or find flaws in the data, the trend of making government data more widely available is a huge step forward. Businesses, entrepreneurs, and developers can tap into a growing number of data sets to create mashups and new services, while the public stands to be better informed in many ways.

>>The General Services Administration's software-as-a-service portal, Apps.gov, is a one-stop shop for hosted applications that are available to federal employees and agencies. It brings a new level of simplicity to "software" purchasing; in fact, there's nothing quite like it in the private sector. Federal CIO Kundra recently revealed plans to add mobile apps to Apps.gov, giving the public smartphone access to government services and data.

>>The application competition has emerged as a great way for local, state, and federal agencies to encourage development of a rich array of innovative apps for their constituencies. Washington, D.C.'s Apps For Democracy contest in 2008 resulted in nearly 50 Web, iPhone, and Facebook apps. Last year, San Francisco followed suit with the DataSF Application Showcase and New York City with its NYC Big Apps contest.

InformationWeek is looking for other examples of IT innovation in local, state, and federal government. Is your government organization using IT to provide new and improved services to the public? To lower costs, improve efficiency, or make government employees more productive? To engage the public in collaborative, participatory government? To create a safer, more secure environment?

Now in its second year, our Government IT Innovators program will shine a spotlight on innovative government IT organizations. Nominate your agency by submitting an essay on your most innovative IT initiative completed within the past 12 months. The deadline for submitting nominations is April 30, and the application form is here.

You can read about last year's winners in "10 Government Organizations That Understand IT Innovation."

Download the first issue of InformationWeek Government, with our cover story on government transparency. Get it here. (Registration required.)

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