Government agencies are often slowed down by the bureaucracy, creating challenges for pushing forward new ideas that could improve IT operations.

In a keynote speech presented at Defining the Cloud for Government, a conference held Wednesday, Jan. 30, in Sacramento, Calif., Brian David Johnson (pictured above), Intel’s futurist and director of future casting and experience research, said it’s crucial for government agencies to think well into the future when planning technology implementations. According to Johnson, cloud computing and big data will figure prominently into that future.

During opening remarks, Carlos Ramos, secretary of the California Technology Agency, said the agency plans to move some applications into a private cloud because he believes cloud computing is the future. He added that government is so reliant on technology that policies and programs “don’t have a prayer” without the use of the cloud.

But how can governments look a decade or more into the future?

Johnson is responsible for looking 10 to 15 years ahead to figure out how people will interact with technology. Similarly, he said that government agencies must prepare for the future of tech by having a vision, and contemplating what humans will be like down the road.

Future casting -- a combination of social science research and technical research, can help organizations determine how to improve people’s lives using technology. But to better prepare for the future of technology, Johnson urged policy-makers to consider a major trend happening in the technology space.

Around 2020, Johnson predicted, the size of meaningful computational power will approach zero. Since the intelligence inside a platform is getting smaller, traditional computers will no longer be the only vessels for computing. Other objects will also have the ability to serve as computers.

While computing power shrinks, the proliferation of big data and the use of cloud computing will continue to grow.

“We humans are like fire hydrants of data,” Johnson said.

Whether we create data from financial information, health records or social media, more and more data will be generated and collected, which will be stored in a cloud environment.

Johnson said that in 20 years, we will start to see mobile devices diminish since computational power will live in the cloud. Living in the future will mean living in a “smart” environment – a time period where we are no longer dependent on laptops, PCs or mobile devices for computing.

Like any major technology shift, Johnson said the future will pose some challenges for governments looking to prepare. He said fear can be a driving force behind stifled innovation – particularly fears about security threats.

“You don’t come up with innovative ideas when you’re in fear,” he said.

To prevent fear from holding an agency back, Johnson suggested communication to help increase government workers' understanding about technology implementations like cloud computing. While there will always be those who are wary of shifting to a cloud environment, Johnson feels that constant communication can help dispel some of that fear. When there is uncertainty, he concluded, public-sector organizations should embrace it as an area of opportunity to build and innovate in a more robust way.

Main photo of Brian David Johnson ©2013 William Foster Photography

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.