Now that the Obama administration has officially taken over, it's faced with technology problems all too common in today's enterprise. Chief among those, perhaps, is the goal of advancing the government's own IT infrastructure not only to catch up to and keep pace with current technology trends but also to plot a future in which U.S. residents can tap citizen services and in which Internet access becomes truly ubiquitous -- all of which have been cited by the Obama team as goals.
Susie Adams, the CTO of Microsoft's federal arm, spoke with InfoWorld Editor at Large Tom Sullivan about technology challenges the Obama administration faces, how it can give cloud computing a boost, and what enterprise CTOs and CIOs can learn from government IT practices.
[ What should be President Obama's tech strategy? InfoWorld's experts and others offer their recommendations. ]
Q: What are your first impressions of Obama and his technology intentions -- in general but also within the stimulus package specifically?
A: He's obviously very focused on broadband to the masses, which I think is necessary for cloud computing to actually take off in the consumer space, in the large enterprise space, as well as in state and local governments. It's very similar in concept to the telephone of years ago if you think about how the government got involved to provide telephone service and electricity to rural areas. He's taken a fresh look at that, which I think is good for the IT industry as a whole and the general public.
The administration is also talking about how to modernize the federal government. I've been supporting the federal government for Microsoft for over 10 years now. You can walk into agencies today and find lots of legacy remnants in their IT organizations for a variety of different reasons -- budgetary constraints on some ends, fear of the unknown on other ends, people who've been in the business 20 to 25 years just basically allowing the government to run as it has been running. I think we're starting to see that become a problem with some agencies having to spend more money than they should on their IT infrastructure and on their human capital to actually run these systems for basic core missions, not even to provide enhanced citizen services.
When I look at Obama's top-line message, it's "Hey, we really want to provide these enhanced services, we want to get into the 21st century and take advantage of Web 2.0 technologies." And they can't really do that unless their infrastructures get updated.
Obama has lofty goals for government. I think it's a very good thing, and good things will come out of it. We're starting to see trends already. If you make IT accountable for its costs, CIOs understand that's where the cloud can come in. You can start to take advantage of the economies of scale, and they're starting to do things like build their own private cloud, such as through server consolidation into three or four datacenters, and then they provide services internally.
Q: So, bearing that need to update infrastructure in mind, where will the government's IT budget go in, say, the next four years?