May 26, 2010 By Russell Nichols
A huge majority of voters believe technology can deliver governments from their stifling deficits and also boost efficiency, according to a new study conducted by Google and Clarus Research Group.
From a representative, nationwide sample of 1,000 U.S. registered voters via live telephone interviews, the study found that 92 percent of voters believe "public agencies should make better use of new technologies to cut government spending and improve efficiency."
The survey echoes some of the latest hopes for cloud computing, which proponents say could streamline government services and cut costs by storing data through a private vendor. While the economic recession has forced state and local officials to balance budgets with less money, the public opinion poll backs the idea of technology as a cost-saving tool.
"Voters don't like government waste," said Ron Faucheux, president of Clarus, a nonpartisan survey research firm based in Washington, D.C. "There's nothing new about that. But in the survey, we found that voters really believe that the technology can help cut costs and make governments more productive and more efficient."
Commissioned by Google Enterprise, the survey results underscore the recent interest in cloud computing as seen with Google Apps deployments in cities such as Orlando, Fla., and Los Angeles, and state agencies in Kansas and New Mexico, wrote Dan Israel, public-sector marketing manager for Google Enterprise, in a blog post.
"We were curious to find out what people across the country think about their local government's adoption of new technologies," he wrote. "We're glad that a clear majority of polled voters also appreciate the need to invest in 21st-century technology in the public sector."
Other findings of the Clarus survey:
But government agencies wooed by potential cost savings should be cautious about jumping blindly into the cloud computing pool, warned Dave Rogers, state and local government strategic adviser for Microsoft, at the recent Government Technology Conference West.
"Business requirements will dictate what makes sense as far as SaaS [software as a service]," he said. "Don't get in your head that this is all or nothing. It's the best of both worlds; you want to find the balance."
The survey, however, shows that the public wants to make the transition. According to Google, Los Angeles saved more than $1 million a year after the city contracted out the hosting and management of its e-mail system to Google. In the poll, 72 percent of the voters want their state and local governments to consider the same solution.
"Clearly voters see the use of technology as a way to reduce government spending," Faucheux said. "If you can actually cut out expenses that are not necessary, that tends to be a win-win for everybody, especially the taxpayer."