On November 16, 2021, Red Hat will be sponsoring its annual Red Hat Government Symposium, which promises to bring together, “top IT leaders from federal, state, and local agencies, as well as industry partners and Red Hat experts,” to discuss the ways in which data and new technologies are revolutionizing the government.
This year’s Red Hat Government Symposium – which is one of the most highly-anticipated government technology events of the year – comes at a particularly important time for the government and its trusted private sector partners.
Today’s federal government, state and local governments, and defense organizations find themselves working feverishly on digital transformation initiatives designed to leverage advanced, next-generation technologies to better accomplish their missions and improve their operations. And many of these initiatives were forced into overdrive when the COVID-19 pandemic forced government employees out of offices and made digital services more essential than ever.
To get additional insight into some of the top application development and technology trends that we’re seeing in the federal government today, we sat down with David Egts, the Chief Technologist for North America Public Sector at Red Hat.
During our discussion, we asked David about why digital transformation initiatives are so prevalent in the government, the impact of increasingly sophisticated cyber threats on our more data-dependent government, and why he’s excited for this year’s Red Hat Government Symposium.
Here is what he had to tell us:
GovDevSecOpsHub (GDSOH): On November 16, 2021, Red Hat will be hosting the Red Hat Government Symposium, an event that’s being billed as a deep dive into all things data. Why is this such a pivotal and important time to talk about data and digital transformation in government?
David Egts: Regarding data, the government is awash with data. They need to, “leverage data as a strategic asset.” And that’s precisely the tagline of the Federal Data Strategy. If you open up the Federal Data Strategy Framework document “sharing” is mentioned in one form or another exactly 12 times.
Data sets are more valuable the more you share them, and at the Red Hat Government Symposium, we’ll be hearing from government leaders as to how they have built their organizations around a culture of sharing their data.
Regarding digital transformation, we’ve seen agencies accelerate their roadmaps to accelerate the delivery of digital services. I’m really looking forward to government leaders at the Red Hat Government Symposium sharing what worked for them over the past year and where they plan to take their organizations in the future.
GDSOH: What are some of the ways we see data and modern applications reshaping and impacting how the government operates?
David Egts: Data-driven decision-making improves not only agency service delivery but public policy. The insights gained from data help agency leaders objectively prioritize and focus on what’s most important to their stakeholders and deliver impactful outcomes. These outcomes are used to build coalitions and buy-in from their leadership to take on even more complex problems and the cycle repeats.
GDSOH: Is this a trend that we’re only seeing in some sectors or levels of government, or is this something that is widespread across the government – at the state level, municipal level, federal level, and across the defense and intelligence communities?
David Egts: I’ve seen these trends throughout federal, state, and local agencies around the world.
Prior to COVID, everyone was at a different level of maturity on their transformation journeys. During COVID, agencies were forced out of their comfort zones which led them to challenge the status quo. “That’s the way we’ve always done it” was no longer acceptable.
Fast forward to today and many agencies are years ahead in their roadmaps thanks to realizing that they were applying self-imposed barriers and breaking past them.
GDSOH: As we see applications, connected devices, and network-enabled platforms making their way into the daily operations of government agencies and military organizations, we’re also seeing a rise in the frequency and sophistication of cyber threats. How does the current threat landscape impact or shape digital transformation initiatives? How can government agencies embrace new technologies and move at the speed of innovation, but do it more securely?
David Egts: One thing I always say is that “innovation does you no good if you can’t secure it.” Security needs to be baked in during development and not an afterthought.
Like everyone else, developers are busy people. They get their applications to work as expected and then move on to the next project. The problem is that bad actors look for ways to exploit applications in unexpected ways that were never considered by the developer.
In addition to developing unit tests for functional correctness, developers need to automate security testing. This can include fuzz testing, ensuring third-party code libraries and software are digitally signed by the authors, are being actively supported, and don’t have known flaws, and ensuring that data access isn’t unnecessarily overly permissive.
GDSOH: Software vulnerabilities are among the most exploited vectors for hackers. As government agencies accelerate application development, how can they ensure the applications they’re developing are more secure? What technologies can and should they embrace to ensure that their haste to develop and deploy applications doesn’t come at the sacrifice of security?
David Egts: One way is to not go it alone. If you assemble all the components yourself, it’s up to you to ensure they’re not only up to date but ensure the integration of the components doesn’t introduce security vulnerabilities.
By using commercially supported open source software, the vendors will do the integration testing of their components. When vulnerabilities are discovered, they will also provide you with alerts, authoritative guidance, and fixes that have been pretested for regressions.
GDSOH: What role can DevSecOps play in ensuring these applications are more secure? How can Red Hat technologies help enable development teams to embrace DevSecOps?
David Egts: DevSecOps ensures that security is factored into innovation throughout development and operations instead of it being seen as an afterthought or as an inhibitor of innovation. By including and automating security in the development process, code is more secure and the developers that write the code improve their secure development practices.
“Data sets are more valuable the more you share them, and at the Red Hat Government Symposium, we’ll be hearing from government leaders as to how they have built their organizations around a culture of sharing their data.” – David Egts
At Red Hat, we provide automation tools, container platforms, training, and integration services that help make DevSecOps happen faster and more successfully at agencies.
GDSOH: Tell us a little bit about the Red Hat Government Symposium? Are there any particular speakers or topics that you’re particularly excited about at this year’s event?
David Egts: The Red Hat Government Symposium is our annual showcase that features some of the most compelling, collaborative, and transformational projects in government. The theme of this year’s event is on all things data and how the public sector can use it to fuel transformation.
Pre-COVID, we’d have it in person in Washington, DC. This year, we’ll be holding it virtually and the speakers and attendees will be hailing from all over the United States where they specialize across the gamut of federal, state, and local government, healthcare, cybersecurity, and so much more.
GDSOH: Who from the government should attend the Red Hat Government Symposium, and what can they expect to get out of it?
David Egts: The Red Hat Government Symposium will have something for everyone, including IT leaders and staff from federal, state, and local governments as well as the integrators that support them.
The thing I love the most about the Red Hat Government Symposium is that it not only shares government technology successes but it also highlights leadership lessons learned to provide the environment and culture to unleash government innovation.