ibm framework logoIt has become a cliche that government technology tends to be stodgy and out-of-date — President Barack Obama’s chief technology officer has even complained about the software in the White House. IBM said today that it wants to make things better, with a new software platform called the Government Industry Framework.

Specifically, IBM wants to make it easier for technology from different government agencies to work together, and with applications built by outside companies. The framework includes a lot of IBM’s existing software, such as WebSphere, Rational, Tivoli, Lotus and Information Management, while bringing in a new, more open architecture.

The demo video below is based on a real customer story, the Alameda County Social Services Agency (that’s in the San Francisco Bay Area), where IBM allows case workers to pull together all of a person’s data from different departments into a single dashboard.

Drew Clark, director of strategy for IBM’s Venture Capital Group, emphasized the potential this creates for startups who want to build applications for government. It’s now easier for them to access the data and extend the features of IBM’s government software, which could make their tools a much easier sell to a government agency, which is more likely to buy something that works with existing software than something completely different.

“There are two different views of this,” Clark said. “An agency sees it as this transformational play, a developer sees it as a really efficient on-ramp [to sell into these agencies].”

There’s IBM’s view, too, where a broad ecosystem of applications that extend its software would make it a more compelling purchase for government customers. The framework includes tools that fall into five broad categories:

  • Tax revenue and management
  • Safety and security
  • Social services and social security
  • Integrated urban infrastructure
  • Municipal transportation and roads

Safety, infrastructure, and transportation may be the areas that provide the most opportunity for new tools from startups, Clark said.

IBM announced a similar smart grid program last month.