Investing wisely in IT

While estimates differ, experts agree that new technology-driven initiatives can help recognize significant cost savings. The United Nations estimates that e-government initiatives can result in cost savings of 10-50 percent over previous systems. The U.S. Department of Commerce, meanwhile, focusing only on savings in procurements, has estimated that the federal government is saving $49 billion annually thanks to new technologies and state and local governments are experiencing $58 billion in annual savings. The state of Illinois, for example, saw a $10 million return on investment by virtualizing its 900 servers.

These savings aside, CompTIA's research found that there is more to the story than resource constraints. Seventy percent of respondents cite challenges with bureaucracy and implementing change, while 46 percent express concern over outdated IT systems and an equal number cite challenges with interoperability within government agencies.

One strategy to address these issues entails the adoption of the cloud computing model. While the research suggests current use of cloud computing among governments is on the low side, especially at the local level, we can expect an uptick as this model has the potential to reduce total cost of ownership, decrease capital expenditures and deliver additional capabilities and benefits. The Federal government has been a role model on this front, with, among other things, its e-government initiative. 

Yet a key obstacle to greater data consolidation, particularly through cloud applications, is concern about network security.  This means investing in technologies to address security concerns, but also making sure IT staff is properly trained on cybersecurity policies and procedures. 

Despite many of the budget cuts federal, state and local governments are experiencing, our survey found that just under half (44 percent) plan to implement staff and end user training in the next 12 months, while others plan to purchase data backup and recovery systems and security applications. As a leading force in IT workforce training and certification, CompTIA believes that this is a very important trend – that despite budget shortfalls we need well trained men and women to ensure that the reliability and efficiency of IT in government is realized. At all levels, agencies should recognize the importance of a well-trained, efficient workforce and equip them with the necessary tools to maintain and secure these systems.

The current spending we are seeing in training, new technologies and network security underscores the importance of spending wisely as more programs vie for fewer federal dollars. As Congress, the White House and state houses across the country debate budgets for 2012, we strongly urge that they take the long view toward IT investment. Gutting federal e-government initiatives, for example, may be the wrong direction. Equipping our government with modern technology tools now will pay dividends down the road. 

Todd Thibodeaux is president and CEO of CompTIA, the voice of the information technology industry.