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FCW : January 2016
BILL ROWAN is vice president of VMware Federal. Commentary | BILL ROWAN The decennial census determines where federal tax money will be allocated for roads and schools, among other things. And, of course, the new population totals from the 2020 census will determine how many representatives to the House each state receives. Clearly, the stakes couldn’t be higher, especially because so much about our country has changed since 2010. For many reasons, the 2020 census IT challenge is expo- nentially larger than ever. Think about it this way: No com- pany using off-the-shelf software has ever had to survey 300 million people. The 2020 census requires a bold new IT strategy, beginning with an on-premises cloud and tapping hybrid cloud technology so computing power can surge as needed to support an agile develop- ment environment. Critical to the count’s success is the confidence of the American people in how their data will be handled. If citizens aren’t con- vinced that the information they share will be secure, the promise of increased digital harvesting of census data will fail to material- ize. To earn that confidence, the Census Bureau should adopt the “zero trust” model for its networks and proven endpoint security for devices. Zero trust is achieved by creating micro-segmented network environ- ments, which prevent unauthorized lateral movement by establishing automated governance rules to manage the movement of users and data across the network. When a user or system “breaks the rules,” the potential threat is compartmentalized, and security staff can take any appropriate remediation actions. Although it is a new approach to cybersecurity, zero-trust technology is well prov- en and integrated into the offer- ings of multiple respected federal contractors. The other critical component for protecting census data is end- point security. The key to securely harvesting data via mobile devices is liberating the data from the end device and moving it into the data center. Advances in end-user com- puting help IT teams streamline management, increase control over desktop assets and improve overall service levels. To simplify only slightly, the approach does all that by making the specific end device unimportant. After all, only the data and the applications matter — not the small piece of hardware in the citizen’s (or enumerator’s) hand. And once management of the device moves to the data center, the endpoints become easier to control and secure. Agencies can use existing security investments and add poli- cies for managing mobile devices, applications and content. In addition to security, the appli- cations used for the 2020 census must be Apple-like in their ease of use. For example, the Cen- sus Bureau is expected to enlist 300,000 to 500,000 people to go door to door and contact those who don’t respond to mailed ques- tionnaires. How patient will those visited individuals be if the enu- merator has trouble taking down their information? (The question of whether to provide the devices or let enumerators bring their own is also a major issue.) The challenges are enormous, and Congress is watching carefully. The Census Bureau has publicly committed to reducing costs, using existing resources and maintaining the highest levels of data quality. That won’t be easy, and the deci- sions made now will have enduring ramifications. New technology, however, gives Census officials powerful tools to work with and the ability to move quickly. Used properly, hybrid clouds and zero-trust models can help make the 2020 census a monu- mental success and usher in a new era for federal IT execution. n The monumental IT opportunity of the 2020 census The Census Bureau faces some significant challenges, but recent technology advancements can make its job much easier Critical to the count’s success is the confidence of the American people in how their data will be handled. January 2016 FCW.COM 15 0116fcw_015.indd 15 12/21/15 9:34 AM
November and December 2015