Paul Christman is VP of Public Sector at Dell, and Jamie Manuel is Product Marketing Manager, at Dell.

Tech luminaries and investors agree that Silicon Valley is going through an identity crisis.

Very often, in the race against insolvency, businesses have to perform a difficult balancing act between realizing a long-term strategic vision and capitalizing on short-term market gains. Startups and small businesses that aren’t yielding incremental revenue are faced with dwindling options to access financing and provide returns for current investors. Although today’s tech industry is wide and deep, one thing is clear — a company’s ability to capture the potential of data presents enormous potential for business growth.

Enter the Federal Government.

The Obama Administration, in an effort to promote interoperability, efficient governance, and economic growth, has taken decisive steps to foster public-private partnerships that benefit the small business and startup communities. Through a series of executive orders, the federal government is mandating that agencies embrace open data by using open and machine-readable formats, encouraging information sharing and collaboration with the private sector.

Since 2009, the federal government has developed a series of repositories to provide the private sector access to government data sets. Data.gov currently has 184,251 data sets available for use from geo-spatial, health, financial and other sources, and Project Open Data provides tools and resources that allow developers to share and improve government source code and programming languages.

In the US, the benefits of the government sharing its abundance of information have been well documented in the areas of healthcare, climate modeling, and critical infrastructure. With the Open Data Initiative, the Obama Administration has stressed its keen commitment to “make it easier for people to find the data and use it, so that entrepreneurs can build products and services we haven’t even imagined yet.”

On its surface, the initiative presents a clear opportunity for the tech industry, opening the door for technologies and tools that collect, manage, classify, and analyze this growing pool of open data. However, looking beyond the surface there is another, less obvious but just as promising business opportunity that underpins the very business of government – ensuring the security of open data.

If history is any indicator, it should come as no surprise that government agencies can’t just flip a switch and begin to securely share data sets and information. Securing the complex ecosystem of networks, devices, systems, and end-users is of one the biggest challenges that the government faces today.

To that end, government agencies are looking to the private sector for best practices, innovative approaches, and technologies that offer viable solutions to addressing security pain points and vulnerabilities. Data security infrastructures in government agencies are multi-layered and require a holistic approach that enables a wider security vision. Companies that are poised to charge ahead with comprehensive portfolios and tools around automation, identity and access management, data classification, analytics, and predictive intelligence can earn a permanent seat on the government’s short list of long-term partners. Security can only be viable if it accounts for the full lifecycle of data and provides protection for every endpoint — from the device to the cloud to the end-user.

For companies that are serious about doing business with the government in an effort to grow, it will take more than just assembling the right technology pieces. In the public sector, technology solutions are not just another line item on budget sheets. Public sector leaders are looking for long-term partners that are able to connect the dots in an unconventional and strategic way to advance the next generation of government priorities. This often means helping them leapfrog current limitations and finding new ways to solve old challenges.

In this case, Project Open Data opens the door to numerous material opportunities that are up for grabs.

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