By Colin Wood

Technology could make things a lot better for everyone -- that's the message delivered to the newly reappointed Obama administration on Nov. 13.

The American Council for Technology and Industry Advisory Council's (ACT-IAC) Institute for Innovation announced recommendations that could save the nation $220 billion annually, and improve the bodies and minds of the populace. ACT-IAC summarized its findings during the 2012 Quadrennial Government Technology Review (QGTR) held at the organization's headquarters in Fairfax, Va.

About 100 government and industry volunteers contributed to the papers outlined during the press conference -- papers that addressed issues such as healthcare, education, economy, citizen engagement, efficiency and national security. The content focuses on high-level issues, said QGTR co-chair Molly O'Neill, rather than specific technologies such as cloud computing or mobile devices.

“We really wanted to focus on the fact that technology plays a very big role in lending itself to help on some of the nation's biggest challenges,” she said.

And while technology is not the entire solution, she added, there's hope that the White House will embrace the recommendations made, for the nation's sake.

But the recommendations could also be useful to state and local, O'Neill said. “A lot of government services are at the state and local level, so those same principles can be applied.”

Making greater use of data analytics in healthcare, for instance, was a recommendation made by the council that applies to multiple levels of government. While the recommendations made during the press conference are primarily aimed at the federal government, she said, “in many cases, the state side is the provider of a lot of those services.”

Also, O'Neill noted, the recommendations were not necessarily new concepts, but encouragement for the federal government to expand successful programs of the past. The papers presented during the press conference can be summarized in five main points:

  • The federal government can reduce the budget deficit by up to $220 billion. Increased data analytics solutions should be used to identify inefficiencies and maintain accountability, while investments in commercial best practices and fraud, waste and abuse tools should be adopted for billions in savings, the council said.
  • The nation's health can be improved through an increased focus on healthcare and wellness. The council pointed out that seven chronic diseases consume 80 percent of U.S. healthcare expenses, and five of those diseases are preventable. Technology should be used as a vehicle to promote ideas about healthy living, the council said.
  • The government should encourage education in science and technology fields. The country is falling behind in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), the council said, and the nation's world economic standing and national security are put at risk by such a decline. According to the council, leadership is needed to improve STEM education, a “comprehensive campaign” is needed to promote the importance of such education, education and training need to be monitored and benchmarked, and infrastructure needs to be developed so the country has the tools it needs to succeed.
  • Citizens should be empowered by their governments and be encouraged to collaborate. Citizens want to communicate with their governments, the council said, and government should use technology to provide increased two-way communication channels. Increasing civic engagement creates improvement of “citizen confidence in and perceived value of government,” the council said.
  • Business plans must be aligned with technology for programs to be successful. “The federal government invests in technology -- but often in a way that is not strategic or designed to realize optimal fiscal benefits to advance its mission,” the council stated in a press release. By aligning management with investments in technology and increasing the role of the CIO, the greatest degree of benefit can be gained, the council said. This is an area, O'Neill said, where all levels of government are involved. In order for a federal program to reach citizens, state and local governments must have the appropriate programs in place to utilize the federal government's investment.

“And we're at a point now, from a technology standpoint, that all of those things are possible,” O'Neill said. “Our hope is that there's a recognition that technology is really part of the solution.”