CIOs emerging as government transformation drivers

Organisations the world over are not only under pressure to do more with less, but to run operations with less friction than ever before. This is especially true for governments – both local and national, as they aim to ensure public service resilience and democratic process continuity in times of crisis – and for those in positions, such as CIO, who are increasingly becoming responsible for change.

Constituents are wanting the kind of access, response, and service from public institutions that they get from private enterprises and the public sector is answering this call to arms. Integrating cutting-edge technology isn’t always easy with departments beset by entrenched legacy systems, constrained budgets, archaic IT procurement policies and shifting political winds but there is innovation and a drive to improve right at the heart of government. For example, it has been less than a year since the UK government published its Technology Innovation Strategy, which outlines the approach to people, processes, technology and data within government to create an environment that facilitates innovation and experimentation. More recently, the Covid-19 pandemic catapulted the world from “digital first” to “digital only” almost overnight.

This combination of a long-term innovation strategy with the need to spin-up solutions and services to cater for unexpected situations means government departments are being driven to develop applications, managing deployments and communicating services at an unprecedented scale and speed.

Spotlight on the CIO

This is shining a spotlight on the role at the centre of it all – the government Chief Information Officer (CIO). It is the subject of our latest report, The Government CIO of 2025, which was compiled in partnership with a global Forbes Insight survey of 150 CIOs from government organizations around the world.

It found that government CIOs are shouldering tremendous responsibilities at a time when many (77%), already see themselves as the primary drivers of innovation within their organisations. But the challenge of adopting emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and edge computing to help steer their organisations through uncertain technological, cultural, and political waters, is not only a major part of their roles today, but one that will fundamentally shape communities and individuals around the world for decades to come.

This drive for technology also needs balancing with the fact that the CIO is also a manager. Someone who needs to increase the productivity and the happiness of their team is critical, particularly with the scarcity of properly skilled IT resources. While pursuing technological excellence, it is a position that must not neglect the balance, productivity and happiness of the wider IT team.

Three technologies to accelerate innovation 

Technology is continually transforming virtually all aspects of government – from creating entire smart cities that are economically and environmentally sustainable to the more granular jobs of paperless application forms and data driven bin collection. All of which is generating tens of thousands of gigabytes of data.

For the CIO, this is driving the adoption of both AI and ML right to the top of their agenda – according to our report, these are the top emerging tech priorities today. ML can empower governments to analyse this vast data set to identify trends and make improvements from everything from public health plans to transportation and the socio-economic well-being of constituents, while AI is being harnessed for data-driven decision-making.

In fact, AI is already being used to help curb fraud and waste and improve transport flow. This is freeing up workers to focus on more complex cases by automating rote tasks and eliminating manual data input and paperwork. But its use is only expected to increase as adoption, understanding and the technology improves. Our report found that, by 2025, 97% of government agencies will depend on AI as an important, even mission-critical, capability to support their objectives.

By 2025 edge computing, which brings compute and data storage closer to the location where it is needed to speed up response times, is expected to dominate government organisations. It’s actually a trend we’re already seeing with embedded sensors being used in the creation of smart operations, such as, smart meters for public utilities, smart parking spaces and traffic lights moderating traffic in urban city centers, and smart buildings designed to reduce carbon footprints. Although many of these sensors simply gather data today, the rise of edge computing means the decision-making will occur in buildings, parking lots, cars, and on other government properties rather than in central IT data centers or the cloud.

Vendors to help realise the 2025 vision

Despite the massive advantages of these emerging technologies, the route to adoption will not be without challenge.

Government CIOs have an opportunity to forge long-term technology strategies robust and visionary enough to span multiple budget cycles and political administrations. AI, ML, edge computing, and other new technologies are poised to significantly change the way public employees work and interact with each other and with the people they protect and serve. Intelligent software robots (commonly known as bots) will join the workforce, teaming with humans to complete complex tasks. This will require training, collaboration, hand holding—and patience. In fact, our report found that more than one-third (35 percent) of government CIOs surveyed expect that AI will be the most challenging technology to implement for talent reasons.

Significantly, the CIO 2025 survey revealed that government CIOs believe the single most important aspect of managing a successful technology implementation is utilising partners’ or vendors’ professional services. Third-party partnerships can quickly boost experience in emerging tech and help to fill skills gaps at a time when few, if any, off- the-shelf AI, ML, or edge computing applications exist. Today, each system must be custom built to meet the specific needs of a particular agency. Vendors that offer quality solutions and possess deep technical expertise can be the answer. Almost half (42 percent) of government CIOs believe that using partners’ professional services is the most important driver of technological success, and approximately four in ten government CIOs (37 percent) surveyed believe that a quality solution and strong vendor support are critical.

Ultimately, the CIOs decision will be driven by the smooth migration of the legacy software stack and its ability to change cloud providers. If either of these are problematic or inflexible it presents a major barrier to progress and this is where the vendor role can truly be transformational.

The Government CIO of 2025

To become a government CIO of 2025 requires taking bold steps toward emerging tech while navigating and championing institutional and personal change. These leaders have to roll out digital transformation visions evolving legacy, merging existing, and implementing new technologies to achieve mission goals. They also must continue to thwart cyber attackers and protect the privacy and security of public data and systems – all while helping drive social responsibility.

However, done correctly by supporting this all with the right support network of stakeholders in the short-term, and a digital foundation that can help government CIOs adapt – keeping operations running smoothly will allowing new technologies to thrive – it is the CIO that will ensure that emerging technologies are embraced to deliver improved lives for us all for years to come.

To find out more about how VMware can help deploy emerging technology adoption in your department, or to download a copy of the report, please visit this page.


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