America’s leaders face a daunting array of challenges on a scale that has become a challenge in itself. But to tackle them, national leaders need to make technology part of the solution and a catalyst to transform government and restore public confidence, says a leading public-private partnership group.

In a series of reports released Tuesday, the ACT-IAC Institute for Innovation examines how technology practices can play a critical role in addressing some of the nation’s most challenging issues – and makes specific recommendations for consideration by current and incoming leaders as the Obama administration begins its second term. The recommendations, contained in six policy briefing papers (with a seventh due out soon) were issued by the American Council of Technology and the Industry Advisory Council.

In its overview report, the Institute for Innovation highlighted how information technology – most notably advances in data analytics, mobility, cloud computing, social media, and cyber security – can be better harnessed to tackle some of the nation’s most pressing issues.

The institute recognized the existence of many challenges, but focused primarily on the nation’s fiscal crises, health care, education, national security and citizen engagement.

The report outlined how government agencies can use technology to provide services in new and innovative ways to benefit government through:

  • Improved government performance – in part through the application of big data analytics.
  • Improved communication across government and with citizens – and greater coordination and collaboration between government and the private sector.
  • Improved use of service as a catalyst for change – particular in dealing with uncontrolled growth in medical costs and improving US healthcare .

The report also recommended that government leaders need to:

Align the business with technology. Technology is now a significant underpinning of government’s mission. Satellite technology supports troop deployments, provides minute-to- minute predictions on potential natural disasters such as hurricanes or tornadoes, and supports commercial aviation. Automated federal systems process huge volumes of transactions and distribute billions of dollars in annual benefits to various groups, including veterans, social security recipients, and others.

Improve and leverage quality data. Traditionally, the federal government has spent hundreds of millions of dollars collecting data – only to be stored forever and used once. However, over the past several years, it has been demonstrated that government and industry can harness those data for new purposes.

The report cites how the financial industry applies data analytics to credit card charges that trigger alerts when a “suspected” theft has occurred and how retailers apply data analytics to individual purchasing habits to target marketing campaigns and maximize store locations and interior organization. These and similar efforts have produced huge payoffs, saving money and bringing focus to core business or mission activities, the report argues.

Invest in new technology. Smart investments in technology can be a catalyst for driving cost savings, fostering innovations and establishing new markets. The federal government stands to reap significant benefits by investing in:

  • Cloud Technologymigrating more data to remote virtualized environments not only can reduce costs, but move agencies closer to the day when employees and citizens can access data from anywhere and at anytime, increasing productivity significantly.
  • Mobility: Mobile computing is in its infancy in government but is becoming the norm in the private sector where employees have the ability to work almost anywhere and at anytime. Employers benefit from lower facilities cost, more productive workers. Government would also benefit by adapting mobile applications for the public, improving citizen engagement.
  • Cybersecurity. Protection of the nation’s infrastructure, government applications and data are paramount to a growing economy. That requires trusted environments in cyberspace, new technology development and clearer rules of cyber-governance via policy, legislation and enforcement.

The reports were prepared by a group of more than 100 volunteers from government and industry to address some of the nation’s most pressing challenges, as part the ACT-IAC Institute for Innovation’s Quadrennial Government Technology Review. (Breaking Gov is a sponsoring member of the Institute for Innovation.)