Dragging Government Tech into the 21st Century
WIRED guest editor President Barack Obama confirms public sector tech falls behind private sector, but still believes progress has been made.
Not all rumors are true, but President Barack Obama recently confirmed what many have long speculated: government technology use is far behind that of its counterparts in the private sector.
As part of a video series for the November Frontiers issue of WIRED, Obama discussed what he’d like to see technology solve in government with WIRED editor in chief Scott Dadich and MIT Media Lab director Joi Ito.
“I’ll distinguish between government adapting tech to do a better job, which has been a major focus of mine since I came into office, and frankly, we have just scratched the surface,” Obama said. “There is a huge amount of work to drag the federal government—and state governments and local governments—into the 21st century.”
Obama was sure to clarify that the technology problem in the public sector had little to do with the people working there. “The gap between the talent in the federal government and the private sector is not wide at all,” Obama said. “The technology gap is massive.”
How technology should help the government is diverse, ranging from simplifying filing taxes online to solving climate change and exploring outer space. Technology should make interacting with the government as customer friendly as ordering a pizza or booking a flight, for instance. But analytics technology, for example, should be working on climate change and creating more efficient space travel options, Obama explained.
“We have done a lot of good work, but there is just an enormous amount of work still to be done to deploy analytical tools and computing to crack the code around clean energy,” Obama said. “We’ve made progress, but we have a long way to go.”