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Keeping up with the Technological Change
By Jamie Holcombe, Chief Information Officer, USPTO
As the technological space is flourishing at a frantic pace and brimming with opportunities, the government sector is doing its best not to fall behind. The government has struggled to keep up with technological changes, especially protecting against breaches, safeguarding its networks from attacks to patents and trademarks. Protecting patents and trademarks, especially new inventions andinnovative branding, has a direct and positive effect on our country’s economy. There is a strategic need for an active IP policy, protection, and enforcement around the world to ensure the sector does not incur significant damage. Prevailing challenges in this cyber security space are constantly being addressed.
In the course of technological trends that have been impacting the government sector, would you give us a brief understanding?
Among the recent trends taking place, modernizing information technology systems from legacy into the cloud is probably on every government sector's CIO's agenda. Most CIOs are faced with balancing issues between refactoring the old code to containerizingthe legacy systems for transition and execution in the cloud. CIOs around the world are trying to determine the cost-benefit of modernizing their legacy systems. They are also trying to learn about their cloud investments made over the last five years, to understand if these investments were cheaper and faster or more costly and slower.
"The idea is to use RPA to our advantage and make mundane and redundant processes more efficient, along with using artificial intelligence and machine learning at strategic points in the work flow"
Securing ourlegacy systems and our cloudenvironments from bad actors is among one of my top three priorities. Tracking the extrusion of data when one employee leaves the organization to join another government or commercial entity is highly imperative. This does not imply that one should not trust their employees. However, a concrete definition of what is government / corporate data and what is personal data needs to be defined up front and enforced during out-processing.
Could you kindly describe some of the challenges that the government sector might be undergoing?
Among many, the biggest one is to get the right technical competence at the right price, at the right time, and the right place. Some of our skills gap is due to our thorough but arduous recruiting process. It's challenging to attract new talent into the government sector because most university graduates are attracted to the higher paying technical positions in the corporate world. We have found recruiting success by appealing to a recruit’s sense of challenge and our national mission. Trying to keep the current workforce certified with new technologies is another concern that creates a significant skills gap as well. Government organizations need to actively and strategically focus on hiring workers with sound technical skills and measurable technical experience.
In terms of technology, what would be your prediction for the next 12-18 months that might take place among the government sector?
Robotic Process Automation or RPA is taking every sector by storm, and it is undoubtedly ‘the thing.’ It automates specific, repetitive taskswhich then freesworkers to indulge in more meaningful and thoughtful activities. It relieves employees from administrative and clerical duties.At present, USPTO is conducting pilot projects where we are automating in-processing and out-processing, and we are also trying to automate the repetitive tasks in the Authority to Operate (ATO) process. There will always be a “man in the loop” to keep it secure, but the aim is to fully automate and decrease the time of the ATO process. The idea is to use RPA to our advantage and make mundane and redundant processes more efficient, along with using artificial intelligence and machine learning at strategic points in the work flow. Here at PTO, we have conducted an extensive search for an AI / ML expert to run our data intelligenceoperations to verify and validate our golden data sets and our supervised learning model algorithms. Our staff teaches, categorizes, and classifies specific images and words to enhance our predictive models and quicken the patent and trademark work flow. The overall goal in automating is to eventually provide more citizen services online. If the USPTO can getour applications out in the cloud, it only makes sense that citizen satisfaction will increase. As an example, many citizens complain of waiting in lines at the DMV when most of the submission and processing of forms can be done online over a smart phone. That convenience and efficiency should be the goal of many government services.
What would be your advice for your fellow CIOs and colleagues?
Most CIOs have to evaluate whether or not their cloud investments are panning out as they thought. If not, they should learn to adapt to the new trends or take notes from the lessons learned to make their government agency more efficient. The most significant piece of advice would be not to accept the status quo.Just because you’re a government agency does not mean that you must accept bureaucracy.The walls of bureaucracy can collapse through technology – specifically Robotic Process Automation.
Another problem that I witnessed is people believe it takes a minimum of four to six months to bring a change. However, if a procurement action is required, it is wise to buck bureaucracy and get things completed within 90 days. The process should follow a time frame of 30, 60, and 90 days where everything should be expedited. After working years in the government as well as within commercial organizations, I can sayall that you need is a competent and efficient contracting officer who is motivated by the agency’s mission to, “Make it happen!”