At a cloud-related event GSA’s Dave McClure – commenting on the fact that the expected funding levels for eGov activities for 2012 appear to be below what was requested – said
“When anyone gets less money than they requested, something’s got to give. Our challenge is trying to use this fund to fuel innovation and to do crossagency, governmentwide work . . . If we reduce funding down to those levels, what you’ll have, essentially, is [operations and maintenance] work going on for existing projects rather than fueling new, creative ways to save money for the government.”
While I do understand Dave’s frustration, which comes after eGov funding is cut for the second year in a row, it is important to remember that this is the new normal. It will become harder and harder to spend on IT purely on the promise that it will save money later on. In the new normal, government organizations must aim at affordable innovation that delivers sustainable results.
Let’s take cloud computing. People say that less funding by the US federal government will slow down adoption. But if it is true that cloud computing saves money and there are plenty of compelling business cases that vendors, consultants and evangelists refer to, why should an abundance rather than shortage of money lead people to adoption?
In a hearing to the House Technology and Innovation Subcommittee, Dave highlighted that “the average cost savings for agencies migrating to cloud-based email are expected to be $1 million in annual savings for every 7,500 users, or approximately 44% over existing on-premise email solutions”. Shouldn’t this be enough for agencies to use cloud?
Of course I know what Dave means: one needs to fuel innovation and use resources to carry on initiatives, such as FedRAMP or the new pre-procurement platform, that no single agency has the mandate or interest to develop.
But the future is one where innovation needs to be more focused, and driven by clear needs. While this may prevent the most extraordinary innovations from taking place (such as those where government spending fuels innovation in other sectors), it will force governments to become smarter at innovating not because innovation is cool, but because innovation is indispensible.