Embracing the Digital Wave: How Government is Transforming with Technology

The Technology Modernization Fund (TMF) has invested $800 million in technology initiatives to upgrade and modernize high-priority systems such as cybersecurity, public-facing digital services, and cross-government collaborations.

March 21, 2024

5 Min Read
Embracing the Digital Wave: How Government is Transforming with Technology
(Credit: JIRAROJ PRADITCHAROENKUL / Alamy Stock Photo)

There is no argument - everyone agrees technology is changing our world! Technological evolution and innovation trends are rampant. Changes are happening so fast that it’s simply not possible to keep up with everything. However, because taxpayer dollars fund much of what is happening in the government marketplace, the innovation is interesting to note.

The Technology Modernization Fund (TMF) has invested $800 million in technology initiatives to upgrade and modernize high-priority systems such as cybersecurity, public-facing digital services, and cross-government collaborations. The funding was allocated to agencies at the federal level of government, but most of the innovation will impact citizens and other public entities. Cities throughout America are also launching large initiatives to install new and innovative technology that will modernize old systems, increase efficiency, improve citizen services, and reduce costs. Some of the federal technology-modernization funding flows to state agencies. Still, many government officials at local levels are supplying their own funding for new technology innovations because of cost reductions and the need to meet citizens' needs more efficiently.

Earlier this year, state officials in Pennsylvania purchased 50 enterprise ChatGPT licenses for the state’s Office of Administration employees as part of a pilot program that breaks new ground in government as artificial intelligence is incorporated into operations. ChatGPT is an artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot that can be taught to handle many administrative tasks. In addition to the 50 licenses purchased for the pilot program, the state plans to eventually make another 100 licenses available to other agency employees. Officials stressed that the AI bot would not be public-facing and would only accomplish internal administrative tasks such as processing text, updating employee policy language, and drafting job descriptions. The overall goal of the initiative is efficiency.

This initiative resulted from an executive order by the governor, and state agencies were encouraged to find ways to make use of the new technology. An AI governing board has been named to recommend and approve ChatGPT initiatives.

A sampling of the new techology efforts

In Texas, the Department of Transportation received a $1 million grant from the Federal Highway Administration to study and implement newly developed sensors that monitor concrete conditions. The sensors are designed to collect data about the structural conditions of concrete without the need to stop traffic or collect pavement samples for testing. The technology is attached to rebar or other formwork, and then concrete is poured on top. Once the sensors begin transmitting data on pavement conditions, the information is also logged in real-time for future reference. Sensor alerts are sent to engineers via smartphone apps when maintenance is needed. This technology innovation quickens construction timelines, provides data for maintenance needs, reduces costs and increases the useful lifetime of highways. Other states that are preparing to test this type of technology include Missouri, North Dakota, Kansas, California, Tennessee, Colorado, and Utah.

New York’s transportation department launched a street activity sensor program focused on enhancing street safety as part of the city’s $900 million Vision Zero program. Advanced sensors are installed to analyze transportation patterns across various corridors in the city. The sensors, which include cameras, are attached to streetlight poles. Once installed, they begin to classify and count different modes of transportation, capturing travel paths, speeds, and potential near-miss events. Privacy is ensured because the video frames are deleted instantly, and only anonymized features are captured.

Prior to this, traffic data collection was manually conducted, which was time-consuming and limited in scope. The new technology provides extensive and accurate data collection about street usage patterns, safety needs, and how to redesign streets. The goal of the data gathering is also to provide a much-needed resource for city planning and resource allocation.

Waste collection is problematic for most large cities, and efficiency is challenging when collection schedules are the same in all areas. Workers often check empty canisters instead of emptying overflowing trash bins. Some cities are addressing the problem using technology that detects the fill level of individual garbage receptacles so they can be emptied when needed.

City officials in San Francisco recently invested in a three-year effort to install, monitor and maintain garbage can sensor technology on 1,000 cans. Sensors installed under the lid of waste bins, reducing overflowing cans by 80%. The University of Idaho also had success implementing smart garbage can technology. After installing sensors on 58 trash cans, the university cut both labor hours spent collecting garbage and the fuel required by 50%.

The Philadelphia Energy Authority issued a $90 million bond to fund a streetlight improvement project. With funding in hand, the city will connect 140,000 streetlights to a single network of remotely controlled light-emitting diodes (LED). It will reduce streetlight energy costs significantly while providing better lighting from bulbs that will last much longer. The city’s lighting network will be controlled by a management system that automatically generates repair tickets when work is required. This effort will also provide a communications network for the future of Smart City technology applications while improving visibility to aid their Vision-Zero traffic collision initiative.

There are dozens of examples of how technology is being used today, and the advantages of these applications are clear. And while some people have concerns about the changes brought by technology, these concerns usually fade away as more information becomes available about how technology is being implemented. Two things are essential to remember – the government is moving carefully, and almost every type of project in the future will use some technology. That's our future, and without technological modernization, America’s global competitiveness will soon be challenged. Very wise government contractors will seek new and innovative ways to use technology to cut costs and resources, add benefits, and increase efficiency in all their offerings.

Mary Scott Nabers is the President and CEO of Strategic Partnerships, Inc.

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