Ontario CIOs eye wireless, IM and

Governments need to be diligent in tracking technology trends in order to provide the right applications and services to citizens at the right time, Ontario’s chief technology officer told delegates at a recent roundtable meeting.

“When we look at technology, the focus is on the next two years,” Dave Wallace told more than 400 delegates at the Toronto meeting hosted by the province’s Management Board Secretariat and the Ontario branch of the Information Technology Association of Canada (ITAC).

“We’re balancing the concept of benefits against the maturity of the technology.”

Wallace said over the next two years the Province of Ontario and its CIOs will “act on” trends including the movement of advanced mobile applications into the mainstream, the increased security of wireless communications, and the maturation of Web services and business instant messaging. As these trends unfold in the coming months, the province will be able to re-engineer the way it does business in order to use these technologies to further its own IT agenda and provide better access to information and services both internally and to its clients.

“This is not technology for technology’s sake,” Wallace stressed. “It’s about opportunities for the business. We’re widening the horizons for the business based on the right technologies at the right time.”

The province is also planning to act on technology standards. Wallace said governments are looking toward a standards-based approach to providing IT solutions to projects such as the secure electronic exchange of personal health information among health care providers.

As for short-term trends that the province is currently monitoring, the convergence of identity management technologies and next generation portal technology top the list. Wallace stressed that portal technology is of particular interest to the province as it is critical for making government accessible to clients.

Looking even further into the future – to 2008 and beyond – provincial CIOs will be keeping an eye on grid computing and nanotechnology.

“That is kind of way out there,” Wallace said of nanotechnology, which is an engineering discipline that focuses on the design and manufacture of extremely small electronic circuits and mechanical devices built at the molecular level of matter. “But it is very exciting.”

South of the border

Meanwhile, stimulated by the war in Iraq, increased threats of terrorist attacks and the formation of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the U.S. federal IT market could top US$68 billion by 2008, a new study predicts.

While the anticipated recovery of commercial IT markets never quite materialized in 2002, “the federal government remains an attractive marketplace based on its sheer size and consistent spending patterns,” according to the Federal IT Market Forecast released last month by Chantilly, Va.-based Input.

Homeland security and e-government initiatives remain the highest IT priorities for federal agencies, said Payton Smith, manager of federal market analysis at Input. These two areas are driving significant near-term increases in spending, he said.

According to Input, government spending on IT products and services will increase at a compound annual growth rate of 8.5 per cent, from $45.4 billion in fiscal 2003 to $68.2 billion in fiscal 2008.

Driving much of that estimated growth is the recent formation of the DHS. The size of the DHS IT budget is second only to that of the Department of Health and Human Services among U.S. civilian government agencies, according to a market forecast by McLean, Va.-based Federal Sources Inc. For fiscal 2003, the DHS commanded a $3 billion IT budget.

Federal Sources projects that figure will increase to $4 billion next year.

Input’s forecast concluded that the growth in federal IT spending will be greatest for outsourcing services, as opposed to spending on hardware, software and telecommunications. In addition, outsourcing of government IT is expected to reach a high of nearly 87 percent in 2008.