Federal Chief Information Officer Suzette Kent said Thursday at IBM’s Think Gov event in Washington that the Federal government must reframe its thinking on emerging technology to remain a world leader in technology innovation.

“I wish I could stand here and talk only about innovation and cutting-edge technology,” Kent said. “That’s important, but we still have many things to do just to be current in the 21st century.”

Kent said it is a promising time in Federal IT, but that agencies must rethink the conversation on innovative technologies–not as the end-all and be-all of success–but as part of a broader strategy to improve service delivery.

“That’s the discussion that’s being driven at the CIO level,” Kent said, pointing to a diagram of various emerging technology initiatives. “It’s not to think of these things in isolation, but think of them as multiple capabilities that you bring together to best serve the unique mission of that agency.”

The framework for that innovation is the President’s Management Agenda issued earlier this year. Kent said that emerging technology shouldn’t be considered in a vacuum, but rather should be aimed at spurring the agenda’s cross-agency priority (CAP) goals.

Among those goals, IT modernization and data, accountability, and transparency are perhaps the most prominent, and hold particular relevance to agency missions and service to the ultimate end-user–the citizen.

“We want to reposition with innovation as a force multiplier,” Kent said. “When we talk about the CAP goals and the goals of IT modernization, we will be demonstrating results based on citizen impact.”

Kent said that when effective citizen solutions are targeted and identified, they must be leveraged to solve problems across agencies.

“For us to be efficient stewards with taxpayer money, the ability to leverage common solutions for common things is going to be very important,” Kent said. “Large-scale transformation takes many years. It takes a vision, and it takes multiple years. So, the funding that we have has to support that same process, so that we can be visionary and tactical at the same time.”

Kent echoed a previous address during which she outlined user-centered design and diversity as key drivers of the administration’s goals. She said they are part of a still-nascent, holistic strategy of transformation–through innovation, through technology, and ultimately through people–that’s still getting its legs.

“The most exciting thing is starting to rebuild the foundation of the government to be a technology leader again,” she said.

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Joe Franco
Joe Franco
Joe Franco is a Program Manager, covering IT modernization, cyber, and government IT policy for MeriTalk.com.