Where Will Federal IT Be When the Next World Cup Kicks Off?

It’s the Monday after a six-goal barnburner in the World Cup final, a torrential downpour trophy ceremony, and we’ve now entered the era of existential dread for the world’s soccer fans. Reality sets in. It’s four years until the world’s biggest sporting event comes back around.

A lot can change in four years. World powers can fall. 2014 champion, FIFA world-ranking No. 1 Germany fell in the group stages. Others can rise. Though modestly successful in the past, Croatia had failed to advance past the group stage since 1998 but stunned the world to finish runner-up on Sunday.

It wouldn’t be crazy to expect monumental Federal IT changes in the next four years too, given all of the noise, excitement, and fervor that we’re seeing in the space. It’s not filling stadiums per se, but there are more commonalities that you might imagine. Ardent supporters of IT modernization might soon have as much to cheer about as the French.

Let’s take a look at some of the major developments that could occur in Federal IT before the next biggest installment in world sports rolls around, alongside similar developments across the footballing landscape.

New Stars Could Be Shining

Kylian Mbappé–the teenage French phenom whose winning smile and blistering on-field pace took the world by storm this past month–is poised to be a global superstar in world soccer for years to come. Others, like France’s Pavard and Mexico’s Lozano, were standouts who will no doubt be back in the spotlight soon.

These youngsters could be on top of the world in four years’ time and the ones to watch at the next tournament. So where will Federal IT’s new darlings be when that time comes?

The Technology Modernization Fund is just getting off the ground, but could be a winning concept that brings Federal IT savings into a whole new era. The winning projects are already laying out their plans for cost-savings, and in four years the newly-gained efficiencies could be hitting mid-season form.

The Department of Veterans’ Affairs just made a blockbuster signing several times larger than soccer’s world record transfer fees, betting big on its Electronic Health Record (EHR) modernization. There’s a whole lot of investment and gov-wide interest in this ten-year effort. Will it be paying dividends in four years?

They’re still grooming this one for the big time. The Defense Department (DoD) is still readying the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) contract, to be competed for by all the biggest cloud providers in the market. This DoD-wide enterprise cloud contract, according the CIO Dana Deasy, “will lay the foundation for so many future warfighting capabilities.” JEDI is one Golden Boy that has a big billing to live up to.

The Old Guard Is on Its Way Out

The press did not treat one of the greats kindly. Lionel Messi, perhaps the best soccer player of this generation, was maligned for his inability to get it done this year in Russia. Despite his many accolades and domestic league accomplishments, some questioned his leadership and asked if he’d lost a step.

The other Galactico, Cristiano Ronaldo, got off to a blistering start before his nation’s team faded in the tournament. Then he sent shockwaves across the world by announcing his transfer from long-time club Real Madrid to Italian giant Juventus. Nothing is sacred. Everything is subject to change. That’s the word from world soccer.

So, too, with Federal IT. We’ve gotten a lot of great use out of our legacy IT systems, but their time has come and gone. IT modernization brings with it an acknowledgement that the things of the past must indeed pass on. Messi’s history with the Argentina squad casts doubts for 2022. Ronaldo will be 37 years old next time.

And like the push to close enterprise data centers in the Federal government, we know that the things that have once served us faithfully must one day make way for change. In four years, Federal IT modernization could see us bid adieu to many of those things.

Is the Field Expanding, and Is It Ethical?

Thirty-two nations represent a sizeable tally for a world tournament, but the number still leaves some out in the cold–Americans are still licking their wounds. FIFA has been hinting at the possibility of expanding the tournament to 48 teams in 2022, and it’s sounding like a distinct possibility.

The Federal government continues to expand the playing field as well. DoD has opened a Joint Artificial Intelligence Center to expand on technologies the warfighter can use to defend the country.

There’s backlash on both ends. Critics argue that Qatar, set to host the World Cup in 2022, doesn’t have the logistical capability to support a larger tournament. FIFA’s president suggested that other Middle Eastern nations could step in to jointly host. But that’s treading in murky political waters, the LA Times writes. And that’s on top of the allegations of rampant human rights violations against workers building massive stadiums just for the tournament.

Military use of AI is murky as well, as technology companies weigh the real-world ramifications of partnering with DoD on AI ventures. Many feel that the use of AI technology could save innocent lives. But the use of AI in weaponized systems also flashes a caution sign for others. Appropriate collaboration on these things seems paramount.

Like VAR, a New Type of Oversight in Federal IT

A new element in this year’s World Cup was the implementation of video assistant referee (VAR) technology–essentially video replay to ensure the right calls were made. The merits and efficacy of the new technology can be debated, but there’s no doubt that VAR has changed the game, awarded some big decisions, and sets a new precedent in the sport.

New entrants into the Federal IT landscape will have similar opportunity to do so. Suzette Kent became Federal Chief Information Officer in January of this year, following a year-long vacancy in the permanent role. Sitting at the head of the CIO Council and the TMF board, she will no doubt be a major figure in shaping the future of the government arena. Kent has said that we need to rethink innovation in America and focus on citizens and service in order to succeed. These could be positive changes indeed.

And as far as how we track those changes, the administration wants to play a big role. The President’s Management Agenda (PMA) lists IT Modernization as its No. 1 goal in order to accomplish everything that that government should be striving toward. The PMA will track its progress on that and other goals every quarter.

So, it’s shaping up to be a pivotal four-year-cycle, and Federal IT modernization will no doubt remain in sharp focus during that time. 2022 will be here before we know it. Here’s hoping we all have reason to come together and celebrate again when we get there.

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