Department of Justice Chief Technology Officer Ron Bewtra stressed the need for modernization and human-centered design to help Federal IT adjust to disruptive technologies while better serving agency missions and those who depend on them.

“One of the big challenges I see is that we’ve got a lot of strong partners … [but] what did it take for them to break down the barriers to do business with government? We’re starting to see a lot of excitement, but we have to figure how to get out to those innovators, and allow them to disrupt our current businesses,” said Bewtra Thursday at an event organized by GovLoop.

Bewtra described how he and agency CIO Joe Klimavicz traveled around the country to listen to technology vendors, partners, and state and local law enforcement agencies to learn more about how different agencies are using technology to further their mission.

“One of the things I think we have worried about is the plenty of decisions about the role of artificial intelligence and machine learning. The problem is that, we talk about what the technology is going to do, but it’s going to be disruptive. It’s a philosophical ‘what-if?’ scenario,” said Bewtra.

He emphasized that AI is likely to result in opportunities that have not yet been thought of, and compared potential AI-driven transformation to the impact of the Industrial Revolution.

One thing that DoJ is addressing today is implementing human-centered design.

“You go out on the industry side, and you build to whatever the requirements are … but you’re not working with [the agency] to fully understand it. What we’re seeing is this idea that we’re going to sit down with the end user and we’re going to ask them, ‘What are the challenges you’re going to have?’ We want to understand what your needs are,” Bewtra said. He described how human-centered design was especially key given the size and complexity of government systems, and noted the success DoJ had working with the General Services Administration’s 18F organization.

“The reality is that it takes that sort of series of successes for people to see that, hey, we brought people in, nothing bad happened, we’ve gotten better requirements, and the end-user work is successful,” said Bewtra.

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