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3 ways government can move from quantum hype to quantum reality

Technology connects our world, and the development of critical technologies such as artificial intelligence and quantum computing is essential for protecting the U.S. against foreign adversaries.

Quantum computers may be the next decade’s super computers, holding the potential to significantly transform our daily lives. For these technologies to graduate to their full potential, they will require effective government investment and meaningful safeguards, just like today’s computers needed government support in the 1950’s and 1960’s.

Revolutionary technologies from past eras — including the internet, GPS and touch screens — came to life with the support of robust federal funding and thoughtful regulations. For quantum technologies to mature in a way that drives tangible, safe and positive change for the American people, they will need the same kind of government support and regulation that benefitted other technologies.

This support can take a variety of forms — including establishing partnerships with private-sector organizations that are pioneering quantum computing advancements, helping key stakeholders better understand the potential positive impacts of the technology and identifying ways to accelerate adoption and scale across sectors.

Quantum’s public sector potential

Unlike classical computing, quantum technology uses the wonky behavior of atoms and subatomic particles to perform complex calculations. Quantum technologies can solve incredibly sticky problems and discover correct answers amid billions of possible scenarios in a matter of seconds. And within the public sector, quantum will accomplish more than solving day-to-day problems — it will improve, and often times save, citizens’ lives.

For government agencies, quantum computing presents enormous opportunities to recognize solutions to complex public-sector challenges and to optimize resources. Technology available today can help calculate more efficient trash and recycling collection routes for local public works departments, which can improve workforce productivity and potentially reduce carbon emissions. Tomorrow’s technology will help defense agencies search large volumes of unsorted data to expeditiously uncover hidden kinetic or cyber threats.

Importantly, quantum computers could transform the way we design chemicals and chemical reactions. Advances ranging from the next generation of batteries to green energy technology to safer pharmaceuticals and drugs might be in our quantum-enabled future. And those are only the beginning.

Lastly, quantum technology may aid government agencies with data encryption. Between the future ability to communicate more securely with entangled particles or today’s ability to quickly generate random, transient numbers, quantum could help improve the security of digital communications and safeguard critical national security interests.

How government can lead the quantum transformation

While the application of quantum technology appears tremendously promising, we cannot fully reap the technology’s full suite of benefits without public sector support. To that end, government agencies can play three critical roles to successfully usher in the quantum era:

  • The Regulator Role. By setting baseline standards and safeguards — and by regularly convening appropriate stakeholders — government agencies can help speed up the development of safe and accessible quantum tools and guard against potential threats by implementing post-quantum encryption protocols.
  • The Buyer Role. Government can minimize market risk and create a strong foundation for the quantum technology market by offering guaranteed purchases. Sending sustained and stable signals from the government about its interest and investment in quantum can help stimulate natural market growth.
  • The Talent Role. Agencies can help academic institutions establish new courses and set academic standards to help nurture the nascent quantum workforce. Because quantum technology combines elements of engineering, physics and computer science, leaders should promote quantum as its own distinct discipline — exposing young students to quantum concepts and designing dedicated quantum programs in primary, secondary and higher education. These programs can serve as a foundation to build a specialized, highly skilled quantum workforce.

To pave the way for a quantum future, agencies can take a number of steps. First, government leaders should align their quantum strategy with current national priorities. Second, agencies should embrace external collaboration efforts and establish information-sharing programs — such as councils, partnerships and talent swaps — to uncover vital use cases for quantum and help reduce overall risks. Third, the government must remain agile and flexible as it implements this constantly evolving technology.

Fully understanding the short- and long-term impacts of quantum computing and quantum technologies can be an extensive endeavor. Although the specific future of quantum remains uncertain, the government can play a critical part in ensuring that we realize its full potential and use this transformational technology in a safe, equitable and effective manner.

By mitigating risks, eliminating market barriers, and catalyzing a new generation of talent, government agencies can help America lead the world in quantum adoption.

Scott Buchholz serves as chief technology officer for Deloitte’s Government and Public Services practice.

Tags Computing computing speed Emerging technologies government funding Quantum computing Quantum cryptography Quantum information Quantum technology supercomputers supercomputing Technology

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