Rethinking Procurement in a Cloud-Based World

Also, Michigan, Utah and Missouri top the Digital States Survey, and research points to growing popularity of crowdfunding to pay for civic projects.

Growing tension between innovation and rigid government purchasing rules triggered a series of interesting moves in 2014, including the September release of model contracting language designed to help agencies buy hosted software, infrastructure and platform services.

The technology industry has shifted rapidly toward cloud-based solutions, but governments have struggled to acquire these new offerings because their procurement rules and processes often are designed to buy products instead of services. Led by New Jersey CIO Steve Emanuel and e.Republic’s Center for Digital Government, a dozen state and local governments worked with 14 of the technology industry’s biggest service providers to release model contract terms designed to put buyers and sellers on the same page.

“If this guide is embraced nationally by state and local government entities, as well as our industry providers, we will see government solutions begin to keep pace with what our citizens expect,” Emanuel said.

Other jurisdictions launched programs aimed at helping departments work more closely with civic technology startups.

As the year began, 10 startup companies were participating in the launch of Philadelphia’s FastFWD initiative, an attempt to rethink how the city purchases technology and pull innovative new suppliers into the system. The first class of companies worked with the city for 12 weeks on a set of public safety challenges. Three of the companies ultimately earned city contracts ranging from $30,000 to $35,000.

Similar efforts were under way in San Francisco. In July, Mayor Ed Lee unveiled the results of his city’s four-month collaboration with six startup companies through a program called Entrepreneurs in Residence. The companies teamed with city departments to develop solutions that might be valuable to San Francisco and other municipalities. The collaboration produced everything from smartphone apps and notification systems to advanced platforms for predictive analysis.

Initiatives like these helped reduce frustration for buyers and sellers, and perhaps charted a course that makes it easier for governments to put innovative technologies to work.

Back to the Year in Review: Making Sense of 2014


Miriam Jones is a former chief copy editor of Government Technology, Governing, Public CIO and Emergency Management magazines.
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