Avi Bender, Chief Technology Officer at the Census Bureau, is on the leading edge of a monumental revolution in the federal government. He’s already a pioneer in digital government, but with the 2020 Census just around the corner, he’s looking to invest in an infrastructure that will not only support the processing and analysis of data, but enable it to become a jewel in the crown of the federal government’s open data mandate. In fact, The Census Bureau’s Lisa Blumerman, said recently that “[we]’re bringing the decennial census into the 21st century…This census is going to be like no other census.”
Bender is by no means alone among government IT leadership in advocating for government agencies to become more responsive to citizen demand for services to be accessible online.
This snapshot below represents the number of citizens using government websites in a single minute on a recent Tuesday morning. While that number is impressive, look at the number at the bottom of the graph to fully grasp the importance of IT to mission success: in the past 90 days 1.74 billion people have visited government web sites from IRS.gov with questions about tax returns to help finding a planet on NASA’s Space Place.
But with the drive for digital government and obvious enthusiasm from citizens to use these services, how do agencies ensure that they’re able to meet user demand?
It all comes down to ensuring that the IT infrastructure needed to support a high-demand environment is in place well before it is needed. But what exactly does a highly-responsive IT infrastructure look like?
In a recent NextGov article, Software AG Government Solutions’ Chris Steel weighed in with his key components for effective IT modernization. For him, smart infrastructure starts with microservices because of their ability to facilitate APIs and meet the demand for mobile platforms, enable citizen self service, and the ability to share data – both between government agencies and with industry.
And, while the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has put pressure on the Census Bureau to share plans and specifications as soon as possible, Steel also suggests that agencies should review the numerous tools available to help them gain insight to their current IT assets, automate processes, and ensure better access and usability of data. These tools include IT portfolio management, rapid application development and the emergence of digital business platforms that offer complete connectivity across an agency’s entire IT ecosystem, even at the component level.
At a recent event in Washington, D.C. Bender shared that “you need to have timely quality data to make decisions. This is important because it serves the federal agencies internally in order to be able to deliver quality information… to deliver value.” With such a clear understanding of his bureau’s mission and an understanding of the outcomes he wants to achieve, there’s every possibility that with the right IT infrastructure the 2020 Census will truly be a revolutionary moment, not just for Bender and his team, but for the entire country.
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