John Goodman, CEO of Accenture Federal Services and three-time Wash100 Award recipient, and Ira Entis, managing director of growth and strategy at AFS, discussed how the ongoing COVID-19 crisis drives public sector innovation as the world continues to adapt to the pandemic in an opinion piece published by the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
As the U.S. government steps in to address the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, “solutions can and should be designed that realize long-term benefits and capture the full potential of technology innovation in the years to come,” Goodman and Entis noted.
The report noted that as the government addresses the impacts of COVID-19, solutions should be designed for long-term benefits and capture the full potential of technology innovation that continue to advance. Goodman and Entis noted that government leaders should leverage data-derived insights and advanced technology tools to enable rapid and collaborative mission-focused workloads.
Companies have deployed artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and advanced data analytics to research potential COVID-19 vaccines and anticipate where the pandemic is likely to spread. Within the government, the Army has worked to develop a cloud-based health information management system to create “virtual critical care wards” at field hospitals.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have employed advanced data analytics capabilities to synthesize sets of disparate health data to understand how the novel coronavirus is spreading.
While the federal government has made notable progress, the report stated that outdated technology and business processes still hinder innovation. Many federal agencies still rely on legacy IT systems and business processes to run day-to-day operations and businesses.
As a reaction, commercial tech companies have improved the security, portability, scale, simplicity, and interoperability of their offerings to cater to innovation within the government. Virtualization, containerization, open source software, API connectivity, advanced encryption, advanced data visualization, robotic process automation (RPA) and machine learning have evolved to support government needs and use cases.
Some agencies have focused on cloud integration, while others, such as the departments of Education, Treasury, State, and Agriculture, have begun the implementation of enterprise-wide IT modernization.
As the government advances, the agencies have spent billions of dollars on cloud-enabled digital services, AI and other capabilities that can help agencies translate data into mission-advancing insights and operational efficiencies.
In addition, Goodman and Entis noted that with the expedited innovation, the government has modernized citizen-facing digital experiences. While there has been notable progress, government agencies will need to continue innovation in fundamentally different ways going forward.
“Cloud, AI, and automation cannot be thought of as a one and done modernization project or even as a series of projects. Technologies will constantly advance, so agencies need a different mindset that views innovation as a non-stop journey of continuous evolution and adaptation. This means government agencies need to re-orient their strategic planning, budgeting, and cultures to think and plan in those terms,” Goodman and Entis stated.
They stated that as modernization efforts advance, technology will remove much of the repetitive, manual work now done by government employees, enabling higher-impact work where they will be more empowered with access to data and modern tools.
With the innovation, federal agencies will contribute more independently and directly to performance. Government workplaces will need to build cultures that prioritize continuous, dynamic reskilling and training to sustain the progress.
“We should see the government begin to prioritize continuous innovation and use private sector best practices to produce a steady stream of future-focused pilot projects that can be iterated further and eventually scaled to wider applications. This can involve creating sandboxes and field labs that run innovation trials and pilot new technologies and approaches.”
About Accenture Federal Services
Accenture Federal Services, a subsidiary of Accenture (NYSE: ACN), is a U.S. company with offices in Arlington, Virginia. Accenture’s federal business has served every cabinet-level department and 30 of the largest federal organizations. Accenture Federal Services transforms bold ideas into breakthrough outcomes for clients at defense, intelligence, public safety, civilian and military health organizations.