This year, cloud computing will reach critical mass in the public sector, while mobile devices will reach a tipping point, according to a predictions report from IDC Government Insights.

The consultancy’s U.S. Government 2011 Top 10 Predictions report foretells the year’s top drivers that will influence government IT investment, management and evaluation.

Government agencies will start to create additional services based on more open communication and collaboration with citizens, according to Thom Rubel, IDC’s vice president of research. Whether it be in health information or public safety, citizens will interact more often with their government through blogs, widgets or other technology.

“Once that interaction starts to take place, you have more citizen self-service, so they’re not looking at traditional channels of going, ‘Hey, I have a question.’ But going, ‘Hey, I have information, and here’s my question based on that information,’” Rubel said.

Some state and local governments have promoted open government by making more information available to citizens so that they can decide how they want to interact with government based on that information, he said. But through clearer communication channels and citizen involvement, government agencies will be able to prioritize which services are provided while keeping budget constraints in mind.

Another prediction for 2011 is that Web app competitions will continue to broaden as government agencies realize that these competitions will help them achieve their mission, Rubel said. With citizen-contributed applications, government employees’ workloads should be reduced because citizens are providing the legwork.

“What the agency really discovers is they don’t have to change the way they do business. They just have to deliver information to that app,” Rubel said.

The top 10 predictions for 2011 are as follows:

1. The federal government will reduce the number of federal contact centers by 25 percent by 2015.

2. Cloud computing — private and public — will reach critical mass, achieving penetration across applications, services, storage and systems management in 25 percent of government organizations by the end of 2011.

3. Open government initiatives will begin to visibly impact collaboration among agencies, programs and processes, leading to visible and measurable improvements in the quality of citizen experiences and interaction with government.

4. Citizens will begin to design, build and deploy their own government services based on government mash-ups and the integration of government service components.

5. “Smart governments” will begin to evolve by rationalizing available “smart” technologies and creating strategic frameworks for integrating them across priority services to meet specific policy goals.

6. Mobile devices and technologies will create a tipping point in how and where government employees work and begin to allow government organizations to take advantage of emerging skill sets.

7. Operating expenses will overtake capital expenses as the prime funding source for IT in government.

8. Line of business and program owners will take charge of guiding the strategic selection of IT, handing government IT and procurement organizations an advisory and implementation role.

9. Skyrocketing information management and open records challenges will begin to negatively impact agency operations to the extent that they prevent access to critical operational information required for decision-making and mission deployment.

10. Consolidation in the IT industry serving government will begin to change government operational and IT procurement and implementation behavior as vendors consolidate around data and content management.

Sarah Rich, Staff Writer Sarah Rich  |  Staff Writer

In 2008, Sarah Rich graduated from California State University, Chico, where she majored in news-editorial journalism and minored in sociology. Since 2010, Sarah has written for Government Technology magazine and covers a spectrum of public-sector IT topics, including cloud computing, transparency, broadband, and other innovative projects and trends. She currently lives in Sacramento, Calif.