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In order to capitalize on their powerful position in the IT market, federal government leaders must aggressively execute a strategic plan for technology innovation within their own agencies and externally to the citizens. Here’s why: The federal government budgets more than 70 billion dollars annually on IT. That’s 10 percent of the entire U.S. IT market, translating into employment for one million technology workers. As the largest buyer of IT in America, the government holds the future success of this critical segment of the economy in the balance. Likewise, how it uses IT will either advance or limit the success of government. To use its 70 billion dollar spending to accelerate the IT industry, the federal government must change its approach to planning, managing, and acquiring its IT systems and services. The federal government must take responsibility for creating a new, partnering relationship with its IT supplier base to encourage innovation and growth in the IT industry to ensure the U.S. maintains its global competitive advantage.
Although teleworking provides an opportunity for government workers to save time and gasoline, decrease their carbon footprint, and reduce traffic congestion and infrastructure impact in urban areas, it presents an even greater opportunity for government agencies.
True, it is foundational to continuity of operations (COOP) needs for a distributed workforce.
But the biggest opportunity is how progressive government telecommuting policies will help attract new workers at both ends of the age spectrum: the millenniums as well as retired workers looking to supplement their retirement benefits and continue public service.
Federal, state, and local government workforce skills are shrinking thanks to the first substantial wave in baby boomer retirements. As they begin to experience skills shortages, government organizations need to broaden the use of telework and flexible work schedules to attract younger workers in the face of competing and more financially attractive private sector employment opportunities.
The next generation of workers has grown up with technology that allows them to be connected anytime, anywhere. Future employers must harness this generation's networking skills and propensity to share information into a meaningful teaming experience that allows them to use technology to their advantage, whether to avoid rush hour traffic, work remotely, or team across agencies and levels of government to implement initiatives.
Teleworking can also attract workers at the other end of their careers, older workers including those who have retired from the private sector. Many of these workers, especially former road warriors, have used technology throughout their careers to work anywhere and anytime. Unlike many of their government peers, private sector retirees looking to supplement less generous retirement incomes may want to serve in government roles, but many may not want to work at a job that requires regular commuting.
Just as integrated information sharing and interaction create new opportunities for improved government services, these technologies also should push government to rethink policies regarding worker mobility
Any telework program must start with security.
Unauthorized access to privileged information remains a substantial threat to functional telework and government efforts to use information more effectively. The spate of stolen or missing laptops — including the theft of a laptop containing more than 26 million records of personal information stolen from the home of a Department of Veterans Affairs data analyst — underscores the problem of secure telework, especially in the context of mobile devices. Following the VA disappearance, government officials scrambled to assert their leadership and assess their own vulnerabilities in the telework environment.
Security continues as a major concern for many managers of government information systems. To comply with policies from the Federal Information Security Management Act and Homeland Security Presidential Directive-12, federal agencies must implement security controls for data-at-rest and data-in-motion. As governments more freely share information and make it available to improve service delivery, the risks of data compromises, unwelcome traffic, and network attacks present challenges to IT staff.
Workforce mobility and citizens' needs for readily accessible information create an inherent conflict with security, and devices and solutions that securely improve information mobility will take center stage. Government networks must be protected with comprehensive solutions that control access, ensure user identity, prohibit data leaks, reduce spam, prevent virus outbreaks, scrub traffic for unwanted usage to protect employee and citizen information, and secure access to government programs.
Governments need to examine processes, tools and organizational behaviors as they prepare for security breaches and attacks. Holistic approaches to information security include protection of devices, infrastructure, applications, and policies and practices for worker and citizen access.
Telework and secure data are vital to successful government IT strategies, worker retention, and attracting new workers to government. Government policy regarding teleworking has evolved, but is not uniformly implemented and enforced. Leadership for telework is fragmented among at least 86 departments and agencies responsible for its implementation. Umbrella guidance comes from the Office of Personnel Management, General Services Administration, National Institute of Science and Technology, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The lack of consistent policies and effective security measures are significant barriers to government-wide telework.
Telework strategies require strong leadership, sustained management commitment and effort, disciplined processes, and consistent oversight. An effective governance mechanism organized along end-to-end government lines of business can provide the leadership required for the future of secure telework, and to attract future government workers. In the meantime, the price of gas isn't likely to go down.