A few days ago I read a provocative article published on Federal Computer Week by Michael Daconta, currently CTO at Accelerated Information Management LLC and former Metadata Program Manager for the Department of Homeland Security.
The article singles out six technology trends (or fads) that, in the author’s view, have questionable value for government. I just want to comment on his top two picks.
The first one is cloud computing. The author says
Cloud computing is a red herring. Chasing this fad now, before standards are in place and security concerns are dealt with, is a complete waste of time. Also, it still needs to be sorted out whether cloud computing is primarily a utility-based hosting solution, a new application-development model, or both. Although Web 2.0 start-ups can afford the risk associated with these desired IT cost savings, the government should take a wait-and-see attitude
While caution is certainly needed, Michael seems to lose sight of two important issues. First of all, cloud computing stimulates a necessary process of commoditization, which allows agencies to focus on what is mission-specific to them and rely on common infrastructure or applications, getting rid the “I am unique” attitude used to far. Secondly, for state and local authorities that are under major budgetary constraints, public cloud services may be the only way to continue operating.
Then he gets to Web 2.0, saying:
Web 2.0 is not pixie dust. Anyone who has witnessed a crazed mob of sports fans on an alcohol-induced rampage would agree that crowds are not always wise. In the same way, Web 2.0 technologies are not a panacea nor should they be the No. 1 priority for government IT. Web 2.0 should be relegated to areas that tap its strength, which is primarily nonattributed commentary and workgroup collaboration
This looks like a rather narrow view, as web 2.0 is transforming service delivery and operations already today, let alone what’s going to happen in the future. However, it is one of those uncomfortable technologies for which governments will not be in control (employees and citizens will), so I understand the temptation of ignoring it.
After all, Michael’s resume shows that he has been instrumental in the development of both the Federal Enterprise Architecture Data Reference Model (DRM) and the National Information Exchange Model (NIEM). Not surprisingly he advocates the development of data standards to government and not to the market.
How can he possibly like commoditization of government technology and loss of control? And – by the way – what’s the success rate for whole-of-government enterprise architecture and interoperability endeavors?
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