The GovDataDownload editorial team recently published this terrific piece focusing on how federal CIOs, like Maria Roat are hard at work breaking down the silos that federal agencies operate in to build an interconnected government. For Roat as much as this is a technology shift, it’s also a cultural shift. You can learn more by reading the story below.
While many businesses closed their doors during the COVID-19 pandemic, operations at the federal government had to go on. Federal agencies, for the most part, have stayed open, accelerating long overdue upgrades in technology to deliver more services digitally. According to a recent FedTalk’s presentation with Maria Roat, Deputy Federal CIO at OMB, CIOs in the federal space have been investing in technology long before the pandemic, but they previously focused on back-office operations. Now, federal CIOs have moved to the forefront, facing increasing pressure to continuously experiment and evaluate so they can lead agencies with new tech investments. Roat is seeking ways for technology to accelerate a government that is interconnected, where agencies aren’t siloed from each other. “The government is a system of systems,” said Roat. “Not just tech systems, but business systems – how do we bring that together?”
Early endeavors to drive interoperability in federal government focused on cross-agency calendar-sharing and chat features, but these projects didn’t gain much traction. At the time, agencies were yet to undergo the cultural shift needed to fully engage in real-time digital collaboration. However, this past July, another attempt at government-wide calendar-sharing and live chatting found success in a pilot program with SBA, DOE, NSF, and NASA. While the added conveniences of this feature may seem on the small scale, improved interagency communications, according to Roat, “is a foundational project that really can be a game-changer for the federal government.”
Federal CIOs hope that piloting enterprise-wide projects will reduce overhead and ultimately increase quality of services. Presently, initiatives such as the Technology Modernization Fund (TMF) are identifying opportunities for tech investments that will span across the entire government and not just by agency. TMF is seeking to pinpoint digital goals that align across agencies and advise on how to implement them on a collaborative or enterprise-wide level.
Roat described several projects that have already shown opportunities for improved efficiencies across multiple agencies. Recently, TMF funded a visa application transformation project for the Department of Labor (DOL) that required cooperation and integration with the State Department, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Through this project, agencies were able to quickly move from paper to electronic labor certifications. Roat also mentioned a current partnership between mission owners, CIOs, and CDOs to use natural language processing to analyze thousands of documents in an initiative that will standardize paperwork and analysis. Roat sees potential for these data sharing agreements to inform business decisions and policymaking with transparency and evidence-backed analysis. “Using data to enable intragovernmental collaboration is just one more piece to really improve the services we offer from the federal government to the public,” said Roat.
Federal data strategy is a 10-year vision, and Roat believes that taking these steps to build a culture of collaboration across agencies is important to ensuring that the federal government is equipped with the proper foundation that will lead to this vision. “The federal government is an interconnected system of systems,” Road said. “Using interconnected technology can connect business systems.” Ultimately, Roat believes the goal of taking this enterprise-wide look at technological investments is to improve customer service to its citizens.
To learn more, watch the FedTalk Keynote: ‘Building an Interconnected Government’