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The 3rd Platform: How Will It Impact State, Local Governments in 2016? (Industry Perspective)

The innovative powerhouse of cloud computing, mobile, big data and social media has been deemed by IDC as the "3rd Platform." Here’s a look at each component and the potential it brings for public sector.

The 3rd Platform, a term coined by IDC, refers to the innovative powerhouse of cloud computing, mobile, big data and social, and consists of millions of apps, billions of users and trillions of things, according to the intelligence firm. And in 2016, this plaform will offer constituent-serving benefits leading to big payoffs for state and local governments.

It's been predicted that all IT investment will shift to 3rd Platform technologies by 2020 — a  shift that's seen as a way to help improve reliability, innovation, delivery of services and how we work with our customers and citizens. The 3rd Platform is the evolution of IT from mainframe (1st Platform), client/server (2nd Platform), to the emerging technologies of cloud computing, mobility, big data, and analytics and social business.

While the 3rd Platform's full benefit likely won’t be realized this year, it will certainly be the year it begins to make its mark. State and local government CIOs would be wise to use this year as an opportunity to begin the transformation of their current infrastructure to provide the springboard foundation to move to the 3rd Platform. Transformation will also lead to exciting new efficiencies on-premise that will lead to reducing operating expenses and capital expenditures, and helping to unburden the full-time equivalents in administration. Let’s look at each component and the potential it brings for public sector.

Cloud Computing

With governments tasked to consider cloud first in their procurement decisions, the market is rife with examples of how the rush to the cloud perhaps resulted in applications being positioned within the cloud in an ad hoc manner. State and local governments will need to use the benefit of their experience with the cloud to re-examine these decisions with a practiced eye to reap the most benefit from their cloud computing solution.

While security has been seen as the main roadblock to cloud execution, many public-sector agencies have discovered the benefit of using a hybrid cloud model, which allows them to determine which applications need to be on a private cloud, which need to be on a public cloud and which need to remain within a data center.

I expect to see hybrid cloud as the standard cloud model moving forward. As state and local governments continue to fine-tune their cloud computing strategies in 2016, benefits of moving to the 3rd Platform, such as reduced costs and shifting demands on IT staff, will lead to increased innovation. Innovation will be realized as teams are encouraged to experiment with new ways to better serve constituents without the fear of large, upfront investments.


As more and more constituent services move online, citizens are empowered with the ability to interact with their governments — city, county, state and federal — from anywhere at anytime. Through intelligent cloud and on-premises computing decisions, public-sector agencies are working to ensure that these online interactions are seamless and user experience is positive. While the early days of digital citizenship saw a narrow offering of online constituent services, 2016 will continue to see an increase in mobile services. Mobility will also drive personally identifiable information and security policy changes, and continue to drive “open government.”

While mobility conversations have typically been geared toward the citizen, I also expect mobility to benefit full-time administrators by providing more flexibility and the untethering of daily management duties.

Big Data Analytics

The growth of data analytics within the public sector has been staggering as agencies unlock valuable information to help them make better governing decisions and determine budgetary priorities. Projects run the gamut from traffic light sensors and snow plow distribution to identifying trends in infant mortality.

Gathering the data is only the beginning. While structured data, which can reside in clear fields within a database, has been well managed for some time, there has been considerable growth in unstructured data, which is information that doesn’t fit into a traditional database format, and semi-structured data, which has components of both.

Unstructured and semi-structured data, such as video or social media, are where the data explosion is really taking place. Video is being captured at an incredible rate from video surveillance cameras positioned on buildings, to red-light cameras, to body cameras on law enforcement officers. State and local governments will continue to find ways to collect valuable data from the citizenry they serve, store and manage that data through the most cost-effective and efficient channels, and find exciting new ways to apply that knowledge to better serve their constituents. When it comes to data analytics, the possibilities truly are endless.

Whether or not all of this data gets moved to the cloud is reliant on many factors, such as security, storage costs and personally identifiable information. And as new deep-archive, low-cost storage solutions come into the market that are targeted at very few reads and almost all writes, whether to store long-term data in the cloud will continue our CAPEX/OPEX conversation. The key takeaway goes back to the hybrid cloud model. Whether agencies store data in the cloud or in their own or shared data center, state governments need to make sure their environment supports the unencumbered ability to move data anywhere.


From connecting with supporters during an election cycle to rallying community members around a cause, the rise of social media within government has completely transformed a government’s ability to communicate with their citizens and encourage engagement. In light of last year’s high-profile police controversies, many municipalities are turning to social media to share stories of positive interactions between their police officers and the citizens they serve. Where these stories may have remained between the citizen and officer involved before, sharing these stories through social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook allows the police force to build long-term engagement with their community and trust for their police department.

Other state governments use their Twitter or Facebook accounts to share tax information, helping ease the stress of tax filing season for their community, or to provide logistical information on events and activities. And these examples are really just the tip of the iceberg — the benefits of providing a path to constituent involvement, the ability to tap into the thinking of every community member and being able to data mine this information with analytics will shift the way public policy is made at the state and local level.

The rise of the 3rd Platform will have a great impact across the technological board, and state and local governments are no exception. Their ability to harness the powers of cloud, mobile, big data analytics and social will continue to transform citizen service and engagement in 2016 and well beyond.

Bob Burwell is NetAppl's CTO of State and Local Government and Education.