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Digital Government Policies

The President has just signed a memorandum on "Digital Government: Building a 21st Century Platform to Better Serve the American People". It provides agencies with a twelve-month roadmap that focuses on priority areas. The strategy require agencies to establish goals for delivering digital services; encourage delivery of information in new ways and utilize mobile and web-based methods for delivery of information services. The new strategy requires agencies to establish consolidated online resources and to adopt new standards for making Government information machine-accessible.

We have now the first memorandum on IT directions that has ever originated directly from the Executive Office of the President. [1] It is guidance that warrants full attention.

The President as well as the Federal Chief Information Officer published a roadmap how federal agencies shall adopt and then prioritize digital technologies. Agencies were directed to take the following actions:
(1) Implement the requirements of the Strategy within 12 months; and
(2) Within 90 days, create an agency website to publicly report progress in meeting the requirements of the strategy.

Agencies will follow the established commercial conceptual model based on the following components:
1. The information layer contains structured information (e.g., the most common concept of “data”) such as census and employment data. It will also include unstructured information (e.g., content), such as fact sheets, press releases, and compliance guidance.
2. The platform layer includes all the systems and processes used to manage the information extracted from the information layers. Examples include systems for con¬tent management, web APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) and application development that supports IT customers as well as the hardware that is used to access and then deliver infor¬mation.
3. The presentation layer defines the manner in which information is organized and then pro¬vided to customers. It represents the ways to deliver gov¬ernment information (e.g., data or content) digitally, whether through websites, mobile applications, or other modes of delivery. These services will be delivered regardless of the user’s device, e.g. the technology that views it.

Applications are constructed in three layers that separate information creation from information presentation. This allow¬s the creation of content and data only once, to be reused for the presentation of results in different ways. It is a model that represents a fundamental shift from the way the government manages digital services at present, where the $74.1 Billons of total Federal IT spending is subdivided into 6,810 investment silos, implemented by means of 3,924 separate contracts, which each integrate data, platforms and application presentations in stand-alone vertical constructs.

Instead, the new strategy proposes that the total IT spending will be divided into a limited number of separated structured data layers. These will be then processed by means of a limited number of separate platform organizations, such as data centers. A very large number of presentation layers will be then extracted, on demand, for the delivery of information services to the users.

 The Federal silos would be ultimately subdivided into a horizontal structure of hundreds of data layers that would be processed by dozens of information platform “utilities”. These utilities would offer shared services on demand by customers.

The foundation of digital government policies will be built on data tagged by a Federally mandated metadata process, which describes all attributes of digital information needed to support the retrieval of original data before it can be disseminated in formats that meet user needs.

The new strategy outlines a completely new Federal model how to manage the creation and distribution of information technologies to citizen and employees. The new model is a radical innovation in the Federal business. It will affect how the Department of Defense will be guided in its future architecture, because all Agencies in the federal government must ultimately be able to interoperate.

The most important departure from current methods is the separation if data into a layer that is managed on technical platforms that are devoted to the processing of all data. In this way application (the presentation layer) are separated from from the data as well as from the platform layers.

Instead of the Federal IT being cut vertically into 6,810 separately funded silos, it will be subdivided horizontally into layers so that the management of databases and of the processing platforms can be reduced. The existing duplications of effort in each of the thousands of silos will be eliminated. Large savings will be realized.

The greatest gains will accrue from a streamlining how security is deployed. The consolidation of data will enable the placement of improved countermeasures against malware. Consolidation of platforms will concentrate security methods to a limited number of points of exposure and reduce the vulnerability to attacks.


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