A 2000 article from Wired magazine aimed to propel us 20 years into the future for a glimpse at what 2020 would hold. The jumping-off point was a gathering of futurists in San Francisco at an installment of the Next Twenty Years discussion series. Stanley Williams, director of the quantum structures research initiative at HP Labs, predicted that “our electronics will be 10,000 times as capable as they are today” in 2020. I won’t attempt to quibble the multiplier. It was a valid point.
One of the benefits of having a more than 30-year history as a print magazine is that there are decades of archived copies of this magazine to page through when the decades pass into history. The May 2000 issue featured the cover story Portals in the House, envisioning a future in which states would offer up personalized, service-packed websites packed with capabilities for consumers that would keep them from having to visit government offices. Yes, the desire to conduct business online rather than stand in line was gaining traction even then. The story also predicted a privacy crisis triggered by all the data sharing that would need to happen for government portals to be truly effective.
In 2000 vs. 2020: How Far Has Gov Tech Come in Two Decades?, we consider the state of our digital lives in the year 2000, as well as how we thought they would evolve by 2020. Self-driving cars are not, in fact, ubiquitous on city streets and highways, despite the predictions, though advances in the past two decades have gotten us much closer to that reality. Likewise, casting a vote in a U.S. election is not something everyone does online from the comfort of their living room, which some forecasters pegged would be the case as early as 2008. And the reason for the delay — the explosion of cybersecurity vulnerabilities in recent years — gets to an issue almost no one fully anticipated as the millennium turned, despite the panic surrounding Y2K.
And the final milestone I’ll note is the newest one. Five years ago, this publication launched its inaugural GovTech 100 — a list of government-facing tech companies that jumped into an emerging market that is working its way toward the mainstream. This year, we’ve added a short list of international companies to the GT100, a recognition of how global this market segment has really become. But the bulk of the list is made up of U.S.-based businesses that earn more than half of their revenue from their work with the public sector.
Many companies on the 2020 list were formed within the last several years, and the most successful have done more than take a product built for the private sector and offer it to government. They’re embedding themselves in city halls and agency offices and drawing upon the expertise of public servants to solve problems that improve how government does its important work. These are good ideas gaining traction: This year’s companies have raised a total of $4.8 billion from more than 500 unique investors. That’s more than enough reason to be, as one investor said, “gov-curious.”