Survey: Federal CIOs Push Transparency, Struggle with Cyber-Security

Balancing privacy versus open information plays out across federal agencies and departments, according to the 20th Annual Survey of Federal CIOs.

by / March 23, 2010

Federal CIOs have increased efforts to publish data sets and utilize social media tools as part of the Obama administration's push for transparency, but federal agencies and departments continue to struggle with cyber-security, IT infrastructure and work force issues, according to the 20th Annual Survey of Federal CIOs released Tuesday, March 23, by TechAmerica and the Grant Thornton accounting organization.

The survey, titled "Transparency and Transformation Through Technology," reveals that the shift toward a more open government has created opportunities and barriers for federal CIOs. Opportunities include improving access, collaboration and accountability; barriers include investment costs, lack of governance and a less-than-solid idea of what citizens want.

But those challenges haven't stopped CIOs from taking action. Projects such as,, and the Federal IT Dashboard represent the latest drive to provide the public with access to information.

"An important focus of the new administration has been to create a more open government, one is that is more transparent, participatory and collaborative," said TechAmerica President and CEO Phil Bond. "Federal CIOs are excited about playing a key role in fundamentally changing how the federal government and its constituents interact through the use of information technology."

And more and more, agencies have been collaborating and networking online through Government 2.0, blogs, wikis, Twitter and Facebook. According to the survey, almost 30 percent of the respondents reported that they provide access to social media capabilities to employees and encourage their use in interacting with people both internally and externally; just fewer than 40 percent are developing a social media policy.

"The CIOs think that broadening public participation and involvement in government will create greater trust in government, increase the value that citizens receive from government and unleash innovation with respect to governing and government services," said Paul Wohlleben, a partner in the global public-sector practice at Grant Thornton.

But cyber-security continues to pose a threat to federal agencies and departments. Several CIOs, according to the survey, see "millions of malicious attempts per day to access their networks" -- from recreational hackers to sophisticated cyber-criminals.

The survey highlights trends to consolidate infrastructure, architecture, certain application systems and IT management components bolstered by a centralized security program. In addition to the issue of privacy versus data access, and older technology, the survey noted, "a high percentage of security breaches occur because internal users are careless or fail to follow procedures."

Other areas of interest among CIOs include virtualization, cloud computing and green IT. Most CIOs, according to the survey, reported that the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009 has had no impact on their IT budgets, even though some funds are set aside for management and administrative purposes.

For the survey, TechAmerica interviewed "more than 40 CIOs, information resources management officials and representatives from the White House Office of Management and Budget, and congressional oversight committee staff."