Transforming Government is Imperative to the Nation’s Long-term Competitiveness Aug 01, 2017 Marshall Aronow CEO MetTel (Manhattan Telecommunications) Telecommunications has seen its fair share of re-invention, from the early days of smoke signals, telegraphs, Western Union, coaxial cables, satellite, phone lines and the internet to AT&T’s introduction of the T1 Carrier system in 1962. Each decade has built upon the previous one, continuously innovating to bring us to where we are today with a robust infrastructure to handle every aspect of communications. Innovation is the precursor to full-scale disruption and long-term beneficial change and perhaps no other industry is as ripe for such beneficial change as the federal government. According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Information Technology Report for 2016, the United States moved up two spots, to No. 5, in the last year in the list of countries becoming frontrunners for what many are calling the fourth industrial revolution, which looks at a country’s ability to innovate digitally using Information Communications Technology (ICT, which is an evolution of unified communications). Though we’re back in the top five, we still have a lot of work to do to upgrade our network infrastructure to a point where it can help scale our economy rapidly. To take a step back and give some more perspective, when MetTel was founded in 1996, our goal was to help companies navigate the confusing, cluttered market that had become telecommunications. We saw a very real need for a simple solution to a very complex problem – a way to determine the best hardware, connectivity and network/infrastructure for organizations. Every company in the industry touted similar packages, but they all had varying degrees of hidden costs, fees and offerings that could significantly impact a customer’s bottom line. We thought there must be a better way for customers to grow their business with the latest technology where all parties involved are winners. Industry Innovation and the Government’s Need for Digital Transformation From MetTel’s inception, our goal was to help companies navigate the confusing, cluttered telecommunications market and we saw a very real need for a simple solution to a very complex problem – a way to determine the best hardware, connectivity and network/infrastructure for organizations. Every industry has been impacted by advancements in technology and today we hear a lot about the modernizing or ‘digitizing’ of specific industries. What this really means is that less companies are using PBX systems, more have disparate and remote work forces, an increasing international presence and the ultimate need for a more ‘software-defined’ approach to move their business forward. Government is no stranger to these challenges. A timely example of how government agencies are coping with these issues lies with the GSA EIS. Government transformation is more difficult than that of most industries, given strict regulations, compliance mandates, mission-critical information, security, bureaucratic procurement, silos and other factors that play into the IT infrastructure and technology used. In May of this year, spurred by a report that the Federal Government spends 75 percent of its annual budget on maintaining legacy systems, the House passed the Modernizing Government Technology Act (MGT Act) of 2017. This Act was a first step to address some of the growing concerns of costs, lack of incentives to retire legacy systems, and a siloed government that couldn’t operate in a collaborative manner from department-to-department based on various solutions, training, human error, risks, etc. If the MGT Act becomes law, it will allow federal agencies to create IT capital funds in which they could recover savings from IT modernization initiatives, such as migrating systems and data to the cloud, rather than returning the money back to the Treasury. An agency, in theory, that decreases costs by using new technologies or employing cloud services could retain the savings for up to three years if those savings go toward additional IT modernization projects. This measure is set to incentivize agencies toward greater efficiency and productivity. Between this and the Office of American Innovation, I feel that this will steer the government in the right direction to reaffirm our ranking as a global leader of innovation. MetTel’s Approach to Digital Transformation and Harnessing Disruptive Technology Everyone agrees communication technology is absolutely crucial to our country’s near and long-term prosperity. The reason innovations in cloud computing, mobile phones, the Internet of Things (IoT), and automation are in such high-demand is that they bring value in making business (and life) faster, easier, and less costly. If we want to continue moving forward and creating a new paradigm for growth, we need to establish a whole new digital infrastructure that aligns to high paying, high demand careers. The government needs to be in lockstep with businesses and other organizations in playing a significant role to drive investments in digital infrastructure. The business of tomorrow will greatly benefit from ubiquitous smart hubs, dedicated IoT towers and high speed Wi-Fi (amongst other things) that power the Internet of Things, 5G networks and other advancements with things like cybersecurity. Mobile communications with their increased bandwidths and ever-increasing network reach are catapulting advancements from the industry level all the way down to the consumer. Just look at healthcare, insurance, logistics, and retail – nearly every industry is being transformed by the power to remotely monitor and manage business processes and consumer experiences – but ONLY if we have the digital infrastructure and backbone to support it. The rate of that transformation and its economic benefits are dependent on the build-out of digital highways and data transmission and analysis facilities working seamlessly and automatically much as our railroads, airports and commercial shipping lanes. Today, we’re still focused on providing simple solutions for our customers to make their digital transformation as easy and smooth as possible. In the last few weeks, we’ve announced services and solutions to address issues we’ve heard directly from our customers. The deployment of our Customer Innovation Labs ensures that we’re innovating based on these needs and direct feedback. We’ve also rolled out an IoT Single SIM solution, which gives companies an easy way to track shipping, monitor devices like parking meters, energy gauges and get a global health care organization up and running with a Telehealth solution, all through one single chip to solve connectivity issues. GSA EIS – Why it’s a Huge Step in the Right Direction GSA’s decision to award contracts in IT infrastructure to non-traditional companies like MetTel is a major step. The landscape is constantly changing which impacts the solutions and offerings out there and it can seem like taking the first step to digital transformation is confusing and overwhelming. We are proud to say that we already work for several agencies in the Federal government, which includes the largest – the USDA. During the first year of working with the USDA our Portal which allowed the agency to track equipment, budget expenditures on IT equipment, manage other locations and track inventory from one simple to use interface. Working with MetTel helped saved the agency 30 percent on its annual telecommunications expenses in the first year. With other segments of the Federal Government, we’re working on addressing the need for faster, more cost-effective connectivity, including SD-WAN initiatives, deploying IoT Single SIM to solve the issue of BYOD and more. The bottom line is that government agencies need help navigating the confusing technology landscape, especially when dealing with finding the best solution that will be interoperable with existing systems, while addressing the gaps those systems leave. GSA EIS is another major step for the Federal Government, further proof that it’s doing the walking, not just the talking, by ensuring bureaucracy doesn’t leave the Government working with sub-par, costly, ineffective technology that leads to redundancy and chaos. The transformation to the fourth industrial revolution won’t be swift or easy, but it’s in motion and we’re proving yet again that this country has what it takes to reclaim its title as the world leader in technology and innovation. *Mr. Aronow is Chief Executive Officer of MetTel (Manhattan Telecommunications), a leading provider of digital infrastructure, communication solutions and technology services based in New York City.