Thursday, July 21, 2011

Where does all the computer power go? A lot goes to the federal government!

There is an article in the New York Times today about the planned consolidation of U.S. Government computer data centers, apparently going to cloud computing in some cases to substitute for single-user centers. Summarizing some of the information from the article:
The U.S. federal government is the largest buyer of information technology in the world, spending about $80 billion a year. The population of federal data centers has swelled from 432 in 1998 to more than 2,000 by last year.
The U.S. federal government now plans to close some 800 of its data centers. One facility run by the Department of Homeland Security in Alabama covers 195,000 square feet; other data centers to be eliminated are less than 1,000 square feet in size. The cost savings from running fewer data centers is estimated at more than $3 billion a year. Analysts estimated that tens of thousands of jobs will most likely be eliminated by the consolidation.

Across the federal government hundreds of different software programs are used for financial accounting and hundreds of different ones for human resources management. The government is shifting to cloud computing, which could save the government an additional $5 billion a year by reducing the need for individual government agencies to buy their own software and hardware. 
The data consolidation is part of a larger reworking of information technology by the government in which the goal is more responsive and efficient government services.”
According to Wikipedia, more than two-thirds of the nations of the world have GDPs under $80 billion, that is less than the U.S. government spends of computers and computer services. I have often noted that many of the discussions of the "Digital Divide" focus on per capita measures of access to personal computers, the Internet or even telephones. The massive U.S. federal government expenditures on information technology suggests that there may other indicators of the Digital Divide, such as the magnitude of intensive use of high end information technology that would be useful for international comparisons.

I note also that the kind of consolidation being planned by the U.S. federal government may make information technology services more cost effective than would be possible for governments serving smaller, poorer countries.

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