ACROSS THE DIGITAL NATION

Post Attack: New Priorities

Rishi Sood

Public-sector organizations are responding to the tragic events of Sept. 11 by offering an array of services, from emergency response and logistical support to medical attention and investigative services. Moreover, these agencies are working on new strategies and priorities to ensure this type of catastrophe does not occur again.

The attack will affect the information technology priorities of state and local governments. In this environment, governors, agency directors and chief information officers will chart a new course of technology development.

Public-sector organizations will need to refresh existing strategies and create new procedures for handling these types of events. In particular, five major areas will likely see greater visibility during the next three years.

Increased collaboration between federal and state and local agencies. As the power and timeliness of information becomes increasingly vital, public-sector agencies need to truly work together and focus on technology development that provides seamless interaction across levels of government. There will be new focus on eliminating stovepiped and siloed technology development in favor of open-systems based solutions among similar agencies.

Re-emergence of public safety and justice. Public safety agencies have always received significant funding because of the highly politicized nature of crime. But the focus on public safety has declined in recent years, being eclipsed by issues such as education and health care. Moving forward, however, public safety will once again become a central focus of technology development.

Clearly, IT resources will increasingly be shifted toward projects that will facilitate data sharing, collaboration and interaction across law enforcement and justice agencies. These projects will help track potential and suspected terrorist networks and provide more robust databases for all law enforcement agencies to use.

Focus on emergency services. The rapid response to the attack by emergency services organizations underscores the importance of these agencies during times of crisis. However, most of these agencies are primarily organized to respond to natural disasters, not the scourge of terrorism. New priorities will involve creating strategies specific to terrorist attacks, greater attention to biological and chemical outbreaks and the use of more mobile and wireless services.

Security. The attack has brought a greater awareness to physical security issues as well as the security of public-sector technology implementation. There is concern about the havoc computer hackers from foreign nations may wreak if technology development does not have proper security measures.

Government agencies will likely increase the priority of security protocols and tools for information systems. There will be new standards in place and a greater amount of spending on new security implementation. In particular, there will be a need for new process re-engineering for security processes and perhaps a greater focus on encryption services.

Redundant systems. Given the attack on the Pentagon and the proximity to federal agencies, public-sector organizations across the nation will likely evaluate IT development methods, hosting and redundancy. Government agencies cannot afford to have an attack purge the technology infrastructure and shut down delivery of public-sector services, particularly during times of crisis. New priorities will focus on redundant systems and disaster recovery services.

Given these new areas of prioritization, other areas of technology development will be pushed back over the short term. In particular, e-government initiatives may be temporarily tabled for the increased focus on these areas. In particular, certain e-government solutions may be more susceptible than others. For example, the e-licensing and e-permitting solutions may require a greater amount of scrutiny for sensitive areas such as pilot licenses, hazardous waste permits and the like.

Similarly, these economic and political issues may take the focus of public-sector executive leadership off of technology. Many of these leaders have been key champions of e-government transformation.

Rishi Sood is a principal analyst with Gartner Dataquest in Mountain View, Calif. His e-mail address is rishi.sood@gartner.com.

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