Study: What Slows Down Innovation in Government Technology?



Alan Shark: ‘The research project was as much a journey as it was an important study…’

Alan Shark, an associate professor at the Schar School of Policy and Government, has research interests uncommon in political science, but by no means unimportant. Technology leadership in government, IT governance, and cybersecurity policy are some of his key research areas. Shark is also the executive director of the Public Technology Institute, or PTI, a non-profit organization providing outreach and consultancy to technology executives in local governments.

Shark recently completed a research project titled, “Innovation and Emerging Technologies in Government: Keys to Success,” which was published by IBM’s Center for the Business of Government as a special report. Shark interviewed nine government technology executives to reveal how innovations come about in government, and what inhibits that process. New technologies include blockchain, artificial intelligence, and cloud computing, among others.

“The research project was as much a journey as it was an important study,” Shark said. “There were many twists and turns in learning from each subject which led me to others I had never heard of. The most surprising aspect of the research was the absolute dedication towards public service of each of the nine profiles.

“While each was uniquely different, they shared some key common characteristics, such as entrepreneurship, collaborative mindset, adaptive mastery of emerging technologies, and imaginative leadership.” Those characteristics, Shark said, are the true keys to innovative success.

“Despite all the hostility and hyper-partisanship that exists today,” Shark observed, “it is good to know that beneath the political layer there exists a group of highly resourceful and dedicated individuals that focus on serving the public and has spanned many administrations over the years.”

The study will be useful in removing some barriers now that obstructions have been confirmed.

“The obstacles to implementing technological innovation in government often have less to do with hardware and software than people and processes,” wrote Daniel Chenok, executive director of IBM’s Center for the Business of Government, in the study’s forward.

“We hope the interviewees’ stories about using technology in their organizations to improve the lives of Americans provides a useful blueprint, helping innovators and their teams across government to learn about and apply emerging technologies in ways that drive mission success,” Chenok said.