Holidays are full of traditions. Family. Special meals. And, writers who do “year in review” and “predictions for next year” stories during late December. In case you haven’t figured it out, this is the “year in review” story; we’ll be running the “predictions” story later this week.
Well, to follow the lead of the canonical meta predictions story from Ryan Lawler at TechCrunch, “So what happened in IT this year?” In no particular order:
- Anyone who’s ever had an IT project go south had to have sympathized with the rollout of the Obamacare website. Certainly government projects, rightly or wrongly, have a reputation for failing. Certainly any complicated project, under political attack, with a too-short, hard deadline, would have had trouble succeeding.
- Speaking of failed government IT projects, earlier this year the Veterans Administration came under attack due to delays — months and years — in dealing with appealed health claims. Despite a great deal of media attention and promises that the problem would be fixed, it is reportedly ongoing. And it was just the tip of the iceberg in terms of failed government IT projects; others included $1 billion on enterprise resource planning in the Air Force, a quarter of a million dollars on overlapping security projects at Health & Human Services, and $30 million in four overlapping health applications at the Department of Defense.
- Of course, none of this could really compare to the revelation that the National Security Administration (NSA) was reportedly spying on American citizens through the Internet with its PRISM program. There’s debate as to how extensive this spying is, and to what degree major vendors such as Microsoft and Google are cooperating with the program.
- This revelation, among others, came from Edward Snowden, who disclosed a number of activities that the NSA was doing, including weakening encryption, gaining access to information on smartphones, and surveillance on U.S. allies. Whether you call him a hero or a traitor, you can’t deny that he had a major impact on news this year; he was even a runner-up for Time’s Person of the Year.
- Another person who had a major effect on IT activity was Aaron Swartz, who released as many as 4 million files to make them publically available. Again, you can think of him as a hero or as a villain, but either way, it certainly seems true that the criminal charges with which he was threatened — and which reportedly led to his suicide — seemed excessive.
- Swartz and the repercussions of his acts could also have helped influence governments’ decisions to provide more open data, making hundreds and thousands of government data files available to users and developers. Some criticize the government, particularly the U.S. federal government, as being “too little too late” in this effort, but it’s a start that is expected to kick off a wave of innovation using this data.
- Both government open data and the NSA’s data collection, as well as what companies are doing, made this the year of “big data,” or collecting nearly every possible bit of data to be able to draw insights from it. So far, people are doing better at the collecting part than the insightful part, but again, it’s a start.
- This was also the year that the lid was pulled off of a number of disturbing incidents between male and female developers and other people in the industry. Whether the women are too sensitive or the men aren’t enough so isn’t clear, nor is it clear whether there are more incidents or that women are simply now more willing to speak up. If nothing else, the incidents are raising the visibility of the issue.
- Faced with the embarrassingly small number of women CIOs and other C-suite executives, some companies took steps with a number of high-profile hires, such as Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer and Marjorie Scardino, appointed as the first female Twitter board member. The number of women represented in the C-suite is still embarrassingly small, but it’s growing, sort of.
- Speaking of embarrassing, a number of companies became the victims of various scams and just plain carelessness that exposed financial and personal data from users — up to 40 million of them in the case of Target earlier this month. This brought a lot more attention to security on both the corporate and user level.
- (and 12). Whether you consider it a lost year or a great year for tech, 2013 included at least two areas of technological innovation: “wearable” computing, including products such as Google Glass and smart watches, and 3D printing, which enables people to design and create plastic and even metal devices. While both are in their infancy, and the early efforts are in the stone-knives-and-bearskins phase, it seems clear that we’ll be hearing a lot about them in the years to come.
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