Governments Move Away From Legacy Technology

August 13, 2015 7:00 am PDT | Open Data

A new survey by Socrata and EMC Research makes it clear that governments of all sizes are moving away from their legacy technology in favor of more citizen-friendly digital solutions as a way of preparing for an anticipated data onslaught between 2015 and 2020.

“The enterprise database has an important role in government,” explains Kevin Merritt, Founder and CEO of Socrata. “It’s very good at transactional data processing, which is why technology decision-makers in the public sector bought it in the first place, and why their line-of-business system still relies on it. Unfortunately, as government data access needs grew over time — with reports, analysis, information products, and external stakeholders, for example — database vendors sold the public sector more of these expensive, complicated transactional databases to access government’s own data.”

The Burden of Legacy Technologies

A recent analysis from Gartner — Legacy technologies burden government CIOs — reinforces this point. “The burden of legacy technologies in government puts innovation on a path of incremental improvement when agility and quick solution delivery is expected,” explains Rick Howard, Research Director at Gartner, in the analysis. “To demonstrate ‘digital now, digital first’ leadership in government, CIOs must flip their approach to managing IT from the inside-out perspective of legacy constraints to the outside-in view of citizen experience. It’s all about starting with the digital world and what is possible — thinking cloud, mobile and situational context first — and then considering, ‘How do we get there from here?’ using information and technology.”

Unfortunately, many public sector CIOs are financially chained to the past. In a recent study commissioned by the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) and Infosys Public Services, a U.S.-based subsidiary of Infosys, nearly half (45 percent) of the state CIOs surveyed indicated that they are spending more than 80 percent of their budgets maintaining existing systems. As a result, they are having trouble freeing up funds to invest in innovative digital solutions.

The Momentum of Cloud Technology 

A move to the cloud is gaining currency among technology leaders in the public sector. “Government has a reputation of lagging commercial industry in terms of technology,” says Michael Mattmiller, Chief Technology Officer for the City of Seattle. “And the public sector also has unique challenges in developing and maintaining systems to serve a diverse set of stakeholders. But we need to overcome these challenges and deliver solutions worthy of the innovative communities we serve. One of the main ways we can change this perception is by developing and deploying consumer-friendly digital solutions that mirror what established and cutting-edge companies like Amazon, Google, and Microsoft are doing.”

Adds Bob Micielli, Technology Director for King County, Washington: “The way our citizens and workforce access data has changed significantly in the past decade, so we need to leverage technologies that complement these new modalities. Our county is taking a cloud-first approach as a way to leapfrog legacy technologies. With the maturity of cloud services providers like Socrata and Amazon Web Services, we have never been more enabled to modernize our infrastructure with highly available, scalable and secure solutions that set our government and its citizens for the future.” 

And, finally, from Beth Niblock, CIO of Detroit: “When making decisions about what software and technology we’re going to use, I have to think about what is going to be nimble and sustainable. It’s not about just catching up to the technology of today, it’s about having a foundation to support the data and technology of tomorrow.”

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