In a memo just released, President Obama announced a new one-year strategy for government agencies to harness the power and potential of digital technology platforms to better serve the American people, save taxpayer dollars, and make government more efficient. Driving the strategy, titled “Digital Government: Building a 21st Century Platform to Better Serve the American People,” will be Steven VanRoekel, the administration’s well-respected new Chief Information Officer. He and the thousands of dedicated technologists who help manage and maintain our government’s vast IT resources have quite a task ahead of them. The U.S. government is by far the world’s largest customer of technology. Streamlining these vital digital tools and resources — and making them more cutting edge and consumer friendly — is no easy feat. But with the president’s direct and clear marching orders issued today as top-cover, CIO VanRoekel and team, we hope, will be able to succeed in achieving the plan’s ambitious goals while ensuring our government can keep pace with the technology innovation and services to which our citizens have become accustomed.
The good news is the CIO and his government technology team will not be alone in their task. Working shoulder to shoulder alongside them will be the millions of Americans who work in innovation companies large and small who equally are dedicated to ensuring our citizens — and our government — can have the world’s most advanced technologies, fastest and most reliable broadband communications networks, and secure and scalable digital resources.
The White House has rightfully honed in on the increasingly vital role technology plays in our everyday lives. For its part, the mobile innovation community invests billions each year to upgrade networks, bring new services online, and reach consumers across the nation.
But upgrading government digital tech services — though important — is only part of the solution. There is still more vital work to be done. For at the end of the day, having the world’s most bleeding-edge digital technologies and most brilliantly managed technology departments won’t improve government services for our citizens if we don’t have sufficient and sustainable access to the mobile broadband spectrum in the years to come that will make these bright and shiny digital tools and services actually work.
That is why, in addition to streamlining services, the White House must also in parallel play an equally forward-leaning and assertive role in making sure government agencies find underutilized spectrum that can be reallocated to the kind of new and innovative services our government wants and our citizens need. The government holds spectrum badly needed by American citizens and consumers. There are more wireless subscriptions than people in the U.S., data traffic has doubled in the past year, and connected devices are driving an explosion of groundbreaking uses of mobile across all sectors of our economy. Without more spectrum, wireless networks already running at 85 percent capacity will be stretched even further.
We cannot delay. Americans — and now also our government workers — are adopting smartphones, tablets and ereaders at an astounding pace. Without more spectrum, we all will encounter more sluggish services, stalled apps, and congested networks that bring slower connection speeds to the very digital government services the president is seeking to unleash. And ironically, without more spectrum, the kind of bold digital innovation and improved technology services the president has called for today in his memorandum — and which we all support and encourage the CIO to achieve — could end up in the delete bin.
This article was originally published on Huffington Post.