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Sustainability Is Great: Could I Have the Light Version, Please?

by Andrea Di Maio  |  June 29, 2010  |  1 Comment

I had an interesting conversation with a vendor earlier today, where he confirmed that a term that is becoming quite popular among government elected leaders  is “sustainability”. The meaning is no longer the one we were used to just two years ago, i.e. related to environmental issues, energy and non-renewable resources. It is now mostly used it in the broader sense of economic and financial sustainability.

He stated that elected leaders now realize the need for investments that guarantee – indeed – the longer term sustainability of their jurisdiction, and technology investments are no different.

This may be true, but I remain skeptical. Look at stimulus spending in several countries: most money has gone into sustaining troubled industries with a dubious long term viability, and to create jobs now, even if used for 20th or even 19th century infrastructure work (buildings, roads, and the likes). On the other the longer term cost (and debt) are likely to be paid by the next generation of elected leaders.

At the end of the day, democracy is about running for office while one is in office. I doubt elected leaders can afford to pay the price of tough choices to benefit their successors, which – in a democracy – often are their opponents.

Therefore when it comes to sustainability, I suspect that most are looking for the light version. Look for the small prints in any grandiose plan for transformation: I’m pretty sure there is a shorter-term pay-back which happens to be in sync with the term.

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Category: e-government  

Tags: cost-cutting  environmental-sustainability  

Andrea Di Maio
Managing VP
19 years at Gartner
33 years IT industry

Andrea Di Maio is a managing vice president for public sector in Gartner Research, covering government and education. His personal research focus is on digital government strategies, open government, the business value of IT, smart cities, and the impact of technology on the future of government Read Full Bio

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