Article | May 26, 2021
The General Services Administration plans to run an artificial-intelligence-based pilot program to help speed up how agencies procure innovative and commercial solutions. The pilot will use a combination of artificial intelligence, machine learning and robotic process automation to help GSA learn how to streamline the acquisition process, fast-track vendor selection timelines, simplify contract administration for innovative commercial items. FEDSIM is working with GSA’s Technology Transformation Service and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the sponsoring customer, to find a software-as-a-service solution that CMS regulatory staff can use to modernize regulatory workflows.
Article | July 11, 2022
Unless America and China assume joint leadership for global economic recovery, reconstruction of the post-coronavirus world could take years, with unimaginable consequences for the world’s 7.8 billion inhabitants, including unprecedented levels of global unemployment, famine, and even war.
In the pre-coronavirus world, suggestions for a partnership between the world’s two superpowers would have been met with gales of laughter. But now, despite the two leaders’ daggers drawn posture, hundreds of doctors and scientists in the U.S. and China are already working together on clinical trials of potential coronavirus drugs; and one of China’s biggest property developers has funded a five-year $115 million project between Harvard University and the Guangzhou Institute for Respiratory Health.
But the window of opportunity for acting together is short. The Covid-19 pandemic continues to decimate the world’s economies. Unemployment in the U.S. now tops 22 million, a level not seen since the great-depression of the nineteen-thirties; while China’s economy stopped growing for the first time in four decades as half a million small and mid-size businesses, the backbone of China’s economy closed; and Italy, the second largest manufacturing economy in the EU watches helplessly as the pandemic axe dismembers its economy. Were India and Africa were unable to control the coronavirus the results could be catastrophic.
So, are there issues of such import and mutual benefit that they would convince President’s Trump and Xi Jinping to work together? I believe there are. My two cents worth below.
The two superpowers could leverage China’s vast, trillion-dollar global infrastructure project—the Belt and Road Initiative or BRI, that aims to build infrastructure in over 120 countries of Asia, Europe, and Africa. The BRI is designed to act as a conveyer belt to transmit Chinese investment and technology into these countries to improve their economies, and to link them to China. But now Covid-19 has crimped China’s ability to sustain BRI’s trillion-dollar underwriting tab and President Xi Jinping’s grandiose vision is at risk.
On the other hand, the United States, which has been searching for a counter to BRI, has settled on an initiative called the Blue Dot Network or BDN. The idea behind the BDN is the U.S. would rigorously vet infrastructure project applications in developing countries to ensure high levels of transparency, sustainability, and economic viability before seeding them with startup funds from the U.S. Government. The BDN hallmark would then inspire confidence in the projects to attract private U.S. funding.
But the relatively paltry BDN budget of $60 billion (versus China’s 1000 billion or trillion-dollar BRI budget) and developing countries’ skepticism of Western (read U.S.) dominated standards for infrastructure construction have hobbled the BDN.
If the U.S. and China could find a way to combine BRI and the BDN it would ensure a stream of dollars from private U.S. companies into BRI and ensure its projects remain on track to create jobs and raise living standards around the world. The compromises required by America and China to weld BRI and BDN together would ensure the U.S. gets a seat at the table to influence the adoption of standards for starting and executing BRI projects.
Here’s another idea: The U.S. military is especially qualified to help fight natural disasters. In 2004, for instance, 3,000 U.S. military personnel were deployed to West Africa to help combat a deadly Ebola epidemic. Their work included constructing 17 hospitals, field training, and deploying assistance by air to remote villages. Today the U.S. military is being used to rapidly set up hospitals in U.S. cities to handle the burgeoning coronavirus caseload. The People’s Liberation Army meanwhile seems determined to play a more active global role in peace-keeping projects around the world.
Coronavirus-aid projects delivered to less-off countries through joint U.S.-China military teams would double what the U.S. and China could do on their own. And help establish the military to military connections that the U.S. has tried to foster with China for some time. A working relationship between the two nations’ militaries might even lead to a more stable geopolitical balance of power.
The Chinese word for crisis contains two characters. One signals danger, the other opportunity. Presidents Trump and Xi Jinping should boldly find a way to join forces to convert the deadly Covid-19 crisis into an opportunity that would supercharge global economic recovery and might well change the course of the 21st Century. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity that ought not to be squandered.
Article | July 14, 2022
Cities, counties, and states are being forced to upgrade or purchase new technology. The old legacy systems are now inadequate, inefficient, and somewhat dangerous because of their vulnerability to hacking. Many of the old systems are almost completely obsolete. They are unable to accommodate new applications.
In today’s data driven world, technology modernization leads to less cost, increases in efficiency, fewer requirements for human resources, and huge increases in convenience for citizens. Research on numerous capital improvement plans for cities, counties, and states reveals that funding is being allocated for major technology purchases and upgrades throughout the country.
In a bill just signed by the governor, the Act Financing the General Governmental Infrastructure of the Commonwealth, $660 million has been allocated for information technology (IT) needs. Community colleges are scheduled to receive $140 million for cybersecurity, software, hardware, and infrastructure upgrades. Public schools will be eligible for competitive matching grants from a program that received $50 million. Much of the education funding will be used for access to broadband and other digital learning curricula. The IT funding includes $10 million for a statewide data sharing system for all criminal justice agencies and $10 million for the state’s Department of Health.
Cities and counties in Massachusetts also will receive funding. Sommerville’s need to acquire modern backup IT appliances and disaster and cybersecurity projects will get funding. The county of Berkshire is granted funding for a study to determine the cost of constructing a municipal broadband network. Avon will receive funding to move the township’s financial software to the cloud for increased security, and Easton will get funding for an e-permitting geographic information system and some technology-based service delivery software.
City leaders in Houston plan to spend millions to upgrade some outdated technology. The current computer-aided dispatch (CAD) system is more than 13 years old and has limited functionalities. The city's public safety department is in need of a new system to efficiently respond to police, fire, and medical calls for services. Funding allocations are outlined in the city’s 2021-2025 Capital Improvement Plan. The public safety CAD replacement is scheduled to receive $1 million, and the city has allocated $2.2 million for new budgeting software.
The Las Vegas Public Works Department plans to procure a software solution for the city’s capital improvement project program management system (CPMS). The department is challenged with aging IT infrastructure, reduced resources, and currently, each phase of the CPMS uses separate software applications. This is labor intensive and ineffective. The plan is to have one software solution that tracks and manages all phases of the CPMS, including concept, planning, design, permitting, construction, and closeout. The city has budgeted $350,000 each year from 2021-2025 to complete this project.
The city of Norfolk plans to upgrade its Department of Utilities’ billing system at a cost of $2 million. Over two years, city leaders plan to spend $4 million per year to purchase IT infrastructure. Purchases will include public safety radios, courthouse equipment, an electronic health record system, security appliances, a cybersecurity assessment, and upgrades to e-services platform.
The city of Portsmouth will upgrade its financial software beginning in 2021 with full implementation by 2024. The project will include software and hardware upgrades and the streamlining of third-party software. Beginning in 2022, the city will purchase record retention software to house permanent, and eventually all, citywide digital records. Plans also call for updating the city’s public safety records management/computer aided dispatch system at a cost of $900,000. New software will improve mobile computing and analysis tools, management dashboards, and multijurisdictional expandable capabilities for future potential collaborations with surrounding communities.
The city of Philadelphia’s Office of Innovation and Technology has a total of $153.6 million in city tax-supported funding programmed over its six-year FY21-FY26 capital program. Of the $22.5 million recommended, $8.67 million is for major upgrades for network infrastructure stabilization and enhancement. Another $13.83 million will support citywide departmental applications. This funding will be used for replacement of an old tax legacy system, a new personnel accountability system for the fire department, an integrated jail management system, and an enterprise resource platform modernization effort for procurement, accounting, and logistics. In 2021, the city also will design and implement a new fare collection system at a cost of $1.54 million to replace or enhance the current revenue collection equipment.
The Forsyth County Board of County Commissioners has approved a 2020-2021 annual budget which includes a $6.2 million enterprise resource planning system. The county’s budget, finance, and human resources software programs are in critical need of replacement. In Chatham County, there are plans to replace the current tax office software at a cost of $1 million, and the current software is being evaluated for new purchases.
The city of Salem’s Information Technology Department has announced plans to update its financial system at a cost of $650,000. This upgrade is needed to maintain support of the application and increase functionality. The city also plans to update its enterprise storage array at a cost of $250,000. This equipment is primarily used for enterprise applications including financial services, cash handling, parking, utility billing, police records, and other city records flagged for retention purchases.
There is absolutely no doubt – 2021 will be a good year for companies that have new technology to sell to public officials.
Mary Scott Nabers is president and CEO of Strategic Partnerships Inc., a business development company specializing in government contracting and procurement consulting throughout the U.S. Her recently released book, Inside the Infrastructure Revolution: A Roadmap for Building America, is a handbook for contractors, investors and the public at large seeking to explore how public-private partnerships or joint ventures can help finance their infrastructure projects.
Article | April 13, 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic touches every aspect of business, technology, and society. And stable and effective government is at the heart of managing through this crisis. What we do now will have longer-term implications for the health and safety of our families, our citizens, the economy, and even global stability. In the past few weeks, IBM has collaborated with many of our government clients and is driving action across three critical phases of response.