What will be the next hot IT trend in 2009 for state and local government? Government Technology informally polled prominent CIOs and security experts about their best guesses. Predictably no consensus emerged, but the majority opinion was that government will turn to technologies that are easy on budgets -- much like U.S. consumers are cutting back their spending amid Wall Street struggles and turmoil in the credit and housing markets.

States were forced to close a $48 billion gap in their fiscal 2009 budgets, and the economic pain also has stretched into municipal government because of tax revenue shortfalls.

"Whatever gets measured will get funded," South Dakota CIO Otto Doll said. "Under fiscal duress, governors will seek accountability through statistics to ensure cost effectiveness."

While that posture could signal that unproven, big-budget IT projects will be delayed until the economy recovers, others believe downsized spending will necessitate innovation. One possibility that some government CIOs mentioned is a focus in 2009 on cloud computing.

Cloud computing is a concept in which data and processing power is stored in a shared "cloud" of Internet servers, and users -- such as government -- draw on this instead of their own internal resources. Most governments have been reluctant to embrace the cloud because of concerns about securing Americans' sensitive and personal data. Technologists say it will save money because of the economy of scale: The Internet is omnipresent, so it provides services as cheaply as possible. "Cloud computing may bring the price point to a level that everyone has to take note," said P.K. Agarwal, CTO of the California Department of Technology Services.

Tight budgets could force governments to ramp up green IT, and server and storage virtualization, said David Fletcher, CTO of Utah. He also predicts that more attention will given to the IT needs of mobile workers and citizens, including more utilization of software as a service for improved execution, and the deployment of an expanded suite of business productivity applications "Web 2.0 will continue to evolve and more governments will interact with citizens on a personal level via the Internet," he said.

Alabama CIO Jim Burns agrees that e-government could develop further. "Enabling technologies -- involving middleware and Web-based applications -- are already readily available, and citizens are now asking, even demanding, that government provide more services that are available 24 hours a day. In short, they want to spend less time in line and more time online," he said.

 

Matt Williams  |  Associate Editor