As someone who started her career as a civil servant in 1986 and who retired from government service in 2017 to work in the private sector, I concur with the commonly held perception that the current crisis we’re experiencing due to the coronavirus outbreak has created challenges to our country unlike most of us have previously experienced. But despite the unavoidable difficulties and personal tragedies that we are facing, my perception recently has slightly changed in one respect: I believe the government technology community, due to the critical role we have historically played in providing truly essential services to the country, is actively adjusting, learning, and moving toward a boost in productivity and innovation due to this crisis. The fact is we simply have no choice.
The country’s ability to recover from this crisis and maintain its productivity as a nation will depend on work performed by the U.S. government and the civilian and defense industrial base. As a community, we support business-critical processes at the state, local, and federal levels ranging from medical support to DoD satellites and national security. In short, we support the nation’s ability to function.
Our present situation presents the challenge of maintaining our productivity while protecting the health and well-being of our workforce. While crisis is a hard disciplinarian and change taskmaster, we have seen many early examples in which innovation, creativity, and government/industry collaboration are not just helping but are changing the character of how we are productive. Here are a few:
- Within a matter of days, a public-facing national security agency procured, tested, and evaluated an innovative, new “touchless” capability that would prevent workers there from having to touch ID cards and other documents from the citizens they serve.
- A federal health care agency quickly rolled out remote-delivered training using collaboration tools to instruct agency workers on critical functions they must continue to perform from home due to the pandemic. This is just one of many examples we have seen across government in which government agencies and industry partners have moved quickly to switch to telework scenarios for employees.
- In less than a week, a state government agency developed, designed, and implemented a proof-of-concept and successful end user testing of a new cloud-based platform to allow state workers to log into a remote workspace and connect to agency applications securely and without the need for VPN.
- A federal civilian government agency worked with us to develop and deploy a new incident tracking tool to raise awareness of potential or confirmed exposure to the coronavirus to help mitigate its spread. Anyone in the agency who even thinks that they have been exposed will use this important tracking tool to confidentially self-report their status.