Government IT’s slow march from the past to the future

(credit: Torkild Retvedt)

On day two of Ars UNITE, our week-long virtual conference, we examined how government IT is slowly ditching old systems and developing new technology that makes it easier for citizens to access public services. We heard from a lot of grizzled IT veterans in the comment thread of our feature, and we expanded on the discussion in a live video chat with between IT Editor Sean Gallagher and me.

The conversation started by summarizing some of the most innovative government IT projects, which may point a way forward for other agencies. Officials in Detroit, Michigan and Oakland, California are overhauling their websites to reach mobile users, and they’re offering city services via smartphone apps. In Washington, DC, the Federal Communications Commission did a huge upgrade of back-end infrastructure in order to reduce the amount of money it spends on maintaining old systems. This is helping the FCC build a modern new website and scale up capacity to meet demand.

But there are still plenty of problem areas in government agencies that were shown in events like the rollout in 2013 and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) data breaches this year.

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