Kent: Pandemic Performance is ‘Proof Point’ for Future of Fed IT

Federal CIO Suzette Kent said today the rapid IT transformations that have taken place over the last two months of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic should serve as a proof point for what the Federal government is capable of going forward.

As technology has been a vital factor in supporting agency missions, operations, and services, Kent suggested that it may be time for government offices to reconsider their physical needs. Productivity largely hasn’t dropped during the shift to telework, and she said that’s a “proof point we should celebrate and significantly leverage.”

“Federal teams can now reconsider what their physical footprint needs to look like,” Kent said at the May 21 Adobe Digital Government Symposium. “But more importantly for all of us, what continued investments we need in our technical infrastructure and what our future roadmap looks like with digital capabilities.”

She explained that Federal agencies have executed numerous tech investments and improvements in stride. Updates to government websites to include COVID-19 information, cross-agency data sharing, expansion of collaboration tools, and the implementation of digital signatures are all examples she gave of ways agencies have successfully adopted new tech and strategies amid the pandemic.

“The national response to COVID-19 required that agencies continue to support mission continuity, but also be incredibly nimble and aggressive in how they responded,” Kent explained. “Digital capabilities was one of the key tools in being able to do that. It helped to maintain our national operational posture while aggressively responding to this new challenge.”

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The changes have not only been important to pandemic response, but will also enable continued mission operations and support, she continued. Specifically, Kent said the demand for solutions that cross agency boundaries for general collaboration and rapid document management are two important tools that the Federal government will need to continue to rely on.

“Not everything can be agency specific, so aggressive development and deployment of digital services, enhancing data and functionality, and advancing our secure identity management protocols are also things that we’ve observed in this situation that we will continue to work on on our roadmap going forward,” she said.

Looking ahead, Kent said that the government must also prepare to engage a new type of workforce that has been transformed by the last two months of telework. It will be mandatory, she said, to have a technology-enabled, constantly connected workforce where human interactions can occur even without in-person contact.

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