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With the election of the most technology-savvy president in history, the
government sector has quickly become one of the most exciting places to work if
you’re a solution provider.
Traditionally, the government sector was hampered by conflicting policies that
made it a difficult place for a solution provider to thrive. Worse yet,
government agencies are often perceived as being backwaters in terms of
acquiring new technology and, from the perspective of many vendors and solution
providers, a tough place to make a profit given the constraints of General
Services Administration (GSA) contracts.

But with massive suns of economic stimulus money available, a huge number of IT
projects that leverage modern technologies are putting governments,
particularly the federal government, at the leading edge of enterprise
computing.

According to INPUT, a market research firm in Reston,
Va., federal government IT spending will
increase to $83.4 billion in 2009, up from $80.8 billion in 2008. Unfortunately,
IT spending in the government is tied to tax revenues that could easily decline
unless the economy substantially recovers. Spending increases in the Federal IT
market are expected
to slow down in the next several years
—to just under 4 percent
annually—after experiencing an average of 7 percent growth a year for the last
two decades.

But executives at solution providers that focus exclusively on government
agencies report that the opportunity for those of them that are chasing government
accounts is not about the number of products sold or the size of the overall
budget. Rather the federal government is getting smarter about the money it
does spend on IT.

Aquilent, for example, is a solution provider based in Laurel,
Md., that is working with hosting provider
Terremark and content delivery network provider Akamai to deploy USA.gov on a
cloud infrastructure. The movement of USA.gov to a set of cloud services
managed by Terremark will save the government millions of dollars on IT
infrastructure spending while creating a more streamlined infrastructure
environment for Aquilent to deliver additional services.

Aquilent has been focusing for years on delivering on systems that help automate
the acquisition process for the government and creating systems that help
agencies manage content. Most recently, the company contracted with the
Veteran’s
Administration to integrate its Epic acquisition management system, which is
based on Microsoft .Net technologies, with a Microsoft SharePoint portal system
the VA developed for contractors.

According to Aquilent CEO David Fout, the federal
government is in the process of lining up IT initiatives around three core
themes set by the president: transparency, collaboration and participation. To
that end, spending attached to stimulus spending now has a lot more compliance
requirements attached to it and there is a lot more interest these days in
cross-agency IT projects that foster collaboration. Finally, the USA.gov portal
is being upgraded with a variety of Web 2.0 technologies designed to make it
easier for citizens to share information and opinions with government entities.

The end result of all these efforts, says Aquilent CTO
Mark Pietrasanta, is that it makes it a whole lot easier for Aquilent to sell its
solutions because the company doesn’t have to first sell government officials
on the concepts. Instead, he says the government officials are now already
committed.

The hope is that this new appreciation for the value of technology at the federal
level will eventually make its way of to state and local governments. Once that
happens, solution providers may very well see the government sector transformed
into a showcase for new and emerging technologies that previously would not
have even been considered an option.