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4 Govtech Trends to Watch in 2016

OpenGov Co-founder Zac Bookman identifies key drivers in government tech, including open data and local services.

In 2015 the financial transparency startup OpenGov set a trajectory that designated it a company to watch in the government-technology marketplace. It took home $25 million in a Series B funding round led by Andreessen Horowitz and added dozens of new governments to its platform, including the entire state of Ohio. Total government clients now number well above 500. For 2016, Co-founder and CEO Zac Bookman reached out to Government Technology to share his predictions on trends to expect in the space in 2016. Among his estimations, he envisions open data and transparency becoming norms with deeper collaboration between governments as a direct result. Here are his four predictions:

1. Govtech Matures

“GovTech” will become even more important: From health care to e-commerce, innovation has transformed the private sector with new technologies refashioning antiquated processes and business models. Governments have been swept up in the wave, and that wave will grow. Technologists and entrepreneurs will revolutionize, or at least improve, all forms of government service and operation. Technologists have already started reimagining urban planning (mySidewalk), municipal debt investing (Neighborly), capital equipment sharing (Munirent), and open data (Ontodia and ThinkData). These companies will grow in 2016 and new companies will emerge to tackle new problems, making change in this industry feel downright normal.

2. Open Data Expands

Intelligence applications will derive value from public data: Governments have published data online for years, but in 2016 they will release more data sets at little cost through open source solutions like CKAN and DKAN, powered by declining data storage costs from Amazon and IBM. Plummeting costs per dataset will incentivize governments to share increasing amounts of data and place a premium on applications that can glean insights from that data. These applications will form enterprise solutions that enable governments to leverage their data internally across departments and between governments, then share the data with the public.     

3. Collaborative Finance

Agency budgeting will become collaborative: Stories describing how government budgets reflect political priorities are becoming more commonplace. The budget process drives organizations and involves loads of stakeholders. But governments craft budgets largely in spreadsheets. Sharing complex spreadsheets is cumbersome, and benchmarking against other governments is nearly impossible. In 2016, the clerical work required in the budgeting process will be as easy as posting a status to Facebook. With modern cloud-based technology, the budget process will be streamlined and governments will save hundreds or thousands of hours -- time that can add value in research, benchmarking, and strategic planning. And, it will eliminate unnecessary information barriers within and between governments, empowering budget teams to engage staff, learn from other organizations, and then inform citizens and get their input.

4.  Regional Service Growth

State and local governments will grow more important: Washington, D.C., dominates the news, but services from city halls and state capitals touch citizens’ lives far more than federal services. These include clean water, power grids, police services, fire and emergency response, and K-12 and university education. In September 2015, the Obama administration unveiled a $160 million initiative to fuel innovation in areas as diverse as traffic congestion, climate preparedness and energy efficiency. This initiative, combined with private-sector efforts, will increase the attention on and importance of local governments at the forefront of public-sector innovation. These governments will also gain new powers given that, for example, Congress devolved significant control and oversight of K-12 education to state and local governments in the recent Every Student Succeeds Act.

Jason Shueh is a former staff writer for Government Technology magazine.
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