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Being Open to Emerging Tech Is Key to Government’s Growth

While governments have traditionally been risk-averse as they strive to do the people’s work responsibly, embracing new technologies and being open to how they can change and even improve the public sector is essential.

Digital yellow squares around people walking on a sidewalk.
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As summer begins to roll in, we are feeling energized by how governments will navigate this next season of work. Summer has, on occasion, been a sort of time for reflection, and a time where everyone in government used to be able to take a relaxing breath. What will this summer bring for government technology leaders across the country? Will you all be able to take that relaxing breath?

Recently, we were discussing what’s next on the agenda for government IT. Modernization, data, the cloud and shared services entered the discussion, as they always do. Plus, emerging technologies are on the horizon that could play an integral role for government’s success. One of us (we’ll let you guess who) received virtual reality technology for Father’s Day. The interface is simple, the equipment is compact and affordable, and the graphics are amazing. Almost falling down in the living room when playing was inevitable. Oh, how this technology has matured!

Immediately we began to think about how so many innovations like artificial intelligence, virtual reality or serverless technologies have come on the scene and matured right before our eyes. Are governments ready to embrace these technologies? Are you ready to work with smaller startups to get you immersed in these new technologies?

For years, governments have struggled to find the right fit for cutting-edge technologies or the startup companies that specialize in them. The risk of failure was always too high as governments worked to safeguard the public’s money and limit risk. Some would say that governments were risk-averse — and they would be correct. We at the Center for Digital Government believe this perception of risk is also changing before our eyes. Smaller startups are, at times, more agile to work with, especially when trying newer technologies. Emerging technologies are also more “built in” to larger platforms, which makes them more mainstream than before. A good example is how AI is often baked into into cybersecurity tools, allowing governments to manage instances of attacks in more real time.

Here are some pieces of advice that will help you work with these new companies and deploy emerging technologies in a managed risk portfolio.

First, take off your traditional technology hat and imagine a scenario where these new technologies can benefit you now. Find the right resources and partners that can give you the information and education you need to demystify emerging technologies. Ask these same resources for practical applications that relate directly to your mission and goals. It is time to try something new.

Second, make your existing team the drivers for new technologies. Seek out those individuals at all levels in your organization who are willing to try new things and push the innovation envelope; let them be ambassadors for those that fear the change. By involving and empowering your current workforce, you will find talents and skills that you didn’t know were there, you will drive the cultural change that can often stifle innovation, and you will create an organization that embraces innovation rather than fears it. That means educating everyone from leadership to technical experts on what it means to be open to the innovations and be willing to try something new.

Third, bend your risk perceptions a bit and allow those startup companies to present what they have. Use startups’ agility to your advantage and create a partnership where everyone has a stake in the game. If the technology fits and the company can pull off a proof of concept, you just may have an innovation to work with. The win may just be there waiting for you.

Fourth, emerging technologies are becoming part of major applications and platforms that are provided by the many partners you trust. Make sure you are working with those partners to fully explain the role the emerging technologies play in the success of their technology. Understanding these roles will also demystify the new technology to a point where you can manage the risk of a mainstream technology project. Remember when the cloud was a mystery or when big data was an unknown? Knowledge on how technologies add to solving your problems raises the awareness which leads to greater adoption.

The world has been changing around and through you for many years. The exponential changes of this last year and a half have put stress on your teams and leadership. Opening your mind to new innovations and accepting more risk just may be the recipe you need. Don’t worry about falling down — it happens to everyone at one time or another. What matters is what you do when you get up again. As always, we are here to help.
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