5 highlights from the OpenText Government Summit

Key learnings we took away from this year’s 2024 OpenText Government Summit

Keith Nelson profile picture
Keith Nelson

March 21, 20247 minute read

The 2024 OpenText Government Summit is in the books, and there were some key takeaways from 14 sessions during the day-long event.

Here are some of the highlights:

#1 AI is ubiquitous in government

The amount of interest in the public sector around the desire to use AI across the hybrid IT landscape is significant. Regardless of where government employees sit – whether in OCIO leadership roles, the developer community, cyber security, IT operations, or within mission bureaus – hunger for AI is absolutely everywhere.

At the OpenText Government Summit, Mark Schaan, the Senior Assistant Deputy Minister for Strategy and Innovation Policy from the Government of Canada, and Dr. William Stephens, Acting Dean of Applied Technology of the Foreign Service Institute, Department of State, discussed the importance of allied nations creating a common framework of what AI is (and what it isn’t). Canada has drafted the Artificial Intelligence Data Act (AIDA), which proposes a skeletal regulatory framework that would allow growth and innovation while curbing bad actors. “We need to find the sweet spot,” Schaan said at the summit.

Stephens discussed his role in helping to draft the U.S. Executive Order on the Safe, Secure and Trustworthy Development and Use of AI, which was signed by President Biden in October. “It’s important that we include a focus around education and training,” Stephens said. “Where we are going is an AI society.”

OpenText SVP for Engineering John Radko shared a story with summit attendees about the R&D team at OpenText experimenting with a generative AI model using a text database full of contracts. The generative AI tool was able to generate accurate summaries and trends analysis of the contracts, but when the R&D team added a single movie review to the database, the GenAI tool slowly began incorporating movie characters and plot points into the summary of the contracts terms and conditions. “AI is not there yet,” Radko said. “but the promise is undeniable.”

The other aspect of AI to remember, according to Radko, is that “AI doesn’t lie,” because AI doesn’t have intent to deceive. It simply guesses when it doesn’t know the answer.

Radko shared a series of recommendations for government agencies exploring generative AI. A balance must be struck between security and findability. According to Radko, the solution for government is to limit the amount of information to search. The more you can restrict and tailor the information, the better the GenAI will be. In order to have successful AI, it is critical to have information management, privacy, governance and compliance all in place.

David McKeown, Deputy CIO for Cybersecurity for the Department of Defense, said it’s important to treat AI like a human. “It could pose an insider threat, or it could draw the wrong inferences,” McKeown said. He stressed the need to “crawl, walk, run” on the journey toward a fully-automated AI cybersecurity posture, and even then making sure the right checks are in place. He said AI-driven cybersecurity uses are lagging behind other uses in the Defense Department. “I’ve witnessed more of the operational uses of AI and how it’s jump-started mission sets,” he said. “We are looking forward to having AI help in cyber.”

#2 FedRAMP is ready for its closeup

A panel made up of public sector and private sector speakers discussed the state of FedRAMP. Dave Hinchman, Director of IT and Cybersecurity at the Government Accountability Office, said that no one truly understands how much a FedRAMP authorization costs. Hinchman said if the costs were better understood, both government and the cloud vendor community could budget and plan more effectively for deployments.

Sandy Federick of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission OCIO expressed a desire for more scientific tools listed in the FedRAMP marketplace.

The entire panel expressed frustrations around the lack of resources in the FedRAMP program management office. As a response, the Defense Department has announced a FedRAMP equivalency program. “With 10 to 12 accreditations a year, the FedRAMP pipeline can’t keep up,” McKeown said. “We will consider cloud solutions from the FedRAMP marketplace or those certified by a third-party assessor.”

Federick said in order to fully realize the benefits of moving to the cloud, there is a need for change management within government agencies. “Everyone wants to continue operating the way they did in the data center, but you can’t afford to move the same operations to the cloud.”

She also said she would like to see better documentation from vendors, which would help offset a gap in agency skillsets.

#3 DoD is leaping forward in its goals to achieve Zero Trust by 2025 and meet the mandates of M 23-07

The Summit’s morning keynote speaker, David McKeown, highlighted four areas that the Department of Defense cyber security team is currently focusing on: 1) Getting governance straight and interfacing with the interagency, particularly around critical infrastructure; 2) Improving cyber security of the defense industrial base by checking compliance levels; 3) Keeping production pipelines up and increasing resiliency; and 4) Increasing collaboration with the defense industrial base – moving beyond coffee and donuts toward more impactful partnerships.

Mark Patrick, Chief Records Officer from DoD, says he looks at records management like a garden: the goal is to create a fertile environment where flowers can grow in the service of a knowledge worker picking the perfect flower to make a decision. “All information, structured or unstructured, has a lifecycle. You want to make sure it’s discoverable and want to make sure it’s the final version signed by the authorizing official.” Patrick called this the decision advantage the Defense Department is seeking by making information available to the knowledge workers who need it, when and where they need it.

As DoD evolves its records management, the plan is to achieve zero-click compliance, Patrick said, letting AI automatically categorize and set up a records retention schedule.

#4 Citizens are seeing a positive impact from government investments in CX tools

Niki French, who leads customer service at the Transportation Security Agency, described how a nationwide survey of travelers asking about their experiences with security agents resulted in positive scores in the 90th percentile. “That was a great day sharing those results with the TSA Administrator,” she said.

French mentioned one year where TSA mapped the customer satisfaction survey data against the Office of Personnel Management’s Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey scores – and there was a meaningful correlation between citizen satisfaction and employee satisfaction. This correlation supported the critical need to look at citizen experience as an end-to-end system, she said.

French also mentioned that publishing individual TSA scores by airport has served to produce a healthy level of competition, with each team trying to move up the rankings.

#5 OpenText public sector customers are making great strides

Adrian Carter, Chief Enterprise Architect Director, USDA OCFO, and ClearInfo President Chris Robins shared insights around the OCFO’s journey to modernize USDA’s financial systems. The benefits of improving employee productivity and compliance were important to stress to generate employee buy-in, Carter said. Another factor was the language used. When the word “purge” was mentioned as part of the data cleanup stage, some stakeholders protested until they were reassured that their information would be retained in an archive system.

Patricia Wada of the Massachusetts Department of Health, shared lessons learned about installing a system that sends millions of personalized, tailored member notices each year. MassHealth provides health benefits to 1.8 million qualifying children, families, seniors, and people with disabilities. MassHealth must communicate daily among members and providers with a high volume, customizable notification system, building toward an estimated 10 million notifications over the course of a year.

And that’s not all… 

Other sessions discussed IoT and the role of identify management; the importance of providing identity governance to control information chaos; information sharing and the Executive Order on Improving the Nation’s cyber security; transforming IT operations management; and OSINT as an intelligence discipline. 

Our customers and partners all seemed to find value from attending the OpenText Government Summit, and we encourage those who joined us – and those who might have missed it – to check out our public sector solutions, or simply contact us for more information. 

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Keith Nelson

Keith Nelson is Senior Industry Strategist for Global Public Sector at OpenText. He has more than 20 years experience working in public sector high-tech and management consulting and as a government appointee. His roles in government include serving as Assistant Secretary for Administration, Chief Financial Officer, and Deputy Chief Information Officer at multiple U.S. Federal Cabinet Agencies.

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