Government IT Trends to Watch in 2013

Budget uncertainty and constraints will have a big impact on government IT in 2013.

By Darryl F. Britt

The recent presidential election has dominated the thoughts of most in the government IT community this past year as the results would have a dramatic impact on the direction of federal IT spending in 2013 and beyond.

Although the election was the main concern for government IT in 2012, other trends have come to the forefront that will drive the sector in 2013. The impact of potential budget cuts will hit home though new technologies will keep driving the industry as agencies look for new ways to perform their missions with less funding.

Prominent among these 2013 trends are sequestration, cybersecurity, and distance learning.

Trend #1: Budget uncertainty, belt tightening impacts IT's workforce

Given the budget impasse and the threat of sequestration, government IT could well enter a period of stasis in 2013. Sequestration generates automatic budget cuts from 2013 through 2021, totaling over $1.2 trillion. Without government action to prevent this, the first round of cuts will take place in January. The 2013 cuts are divided between reductions to defense ($500 billion) and non-defense ($700 billion), so no area of government IT is likely to be spared.

With no new hiring and questions about future funding levels, the industry will have to deal with the threat of serious reductions across the board. This will lead to a standstill or overall contraction of the government IT sector that could flow well beyond 2013.

Of course, this could all be avoided by quick government action on the issue. If sequestration is avoided, it will be a huge step forward for government IT next year.

Trend #2: Cybersecurity becomes hotter than ever

Although the government IT sector as a whole could remain static or contract, the demand for cybersecurity remains very high and should be a technology to watch for in 2013 and beyond. Market Research Media predicts that the U.S. cybersecurity market will be worth $65.5 billion from 2013-2018 and will grow at over six percent per year.

In fact, cybersecurity is one of the few areas where federal funding has actually increased in 2012. Protecting the government from cyber attacks is vital to national security and there is some disagreement about how best to do that. The fact that we now have an official cybersecurity month (October) shows that this is perhaps the major technology trend for 2013.

In the world of government IT, cyber networks are critical to everyday transactions. The use of mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets will only grow next year, causing new threats for potential cyber attacks.

Other potential threats include "hacktivism" -- attacks carried out as cyber protests for a politically motivated purpose. Cybercriminals will also use search engine optimization (SEO) poisoning to infect users via sites designed to look like legitimate news services, Twitter feeds, Facebook posts, LinkedIn updates, and YouTube videos. The potential for fraud and misinformation is massive.

For these reasons, cybersecurity will be a hot topic in 2013.

Trend #3: Distance learning becomes more popular

Next year will certainly be a time of tight budgets. Government agencies will look for creative ways to reduce costs while still maintaining the best possible workforce possible. They will need to identify both areas of unnecessary spending and opportunities for greater efficiency.

Chief among these expenses are travel, hotel, and rental car/taxi costs for meetings and educational training events. According to reports, the FY 2013 budget will contain cuts of 30 percent to the travel budgets of each federal agency.

Distance learning offers a way to meet and train without the costs of actual in-person events. It has actually existed in the government sector since the 1990s. New technology offers live virtual training solutions that reduce the need to travel to meetings and training. Virtual classrooms will appeal to agencies as they look for ways to cut costs while still maintaining an educated workforce.

Final Thoughts

If there is a common thread among these three trends for 2013, it is that government will have less money to perform its duties, but the mission still needs to get done and new challenges -- such as cybersecurity -- must be addressed.

These challenges will open up many opportunities for government IT. New technologies will be needed to help government agencies do more with less -- all while keeping the nation safe. So while budget restrictions may limit growth in the sector, dynamic IT solutions will be hotter than ever in 2013.

Darryl Britt is the founder and president of Apprio, a provider of specialized technology solutions, particularly for the health, defense, and homeland security markets. You can contact the author at dbritt@apprioinc.com.
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