Can DevOps and Agile save the planet? US.gov thinks so

EPA investigates green digital services

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Whacking DevOps on your business card doesn’t make you instantly more valuable. It could also make you a certified guardian of the planet too.

Or at least, certified software supplier to the guardians of the planet.

At least that’s what we think the US’s Environmental Protection Agency is getting at with its latest efforts to corral environmentally conscious suppliers of digital services to create an Environmental Digital Services marketplace.

The sprawling federal agency is looking for “vendors who specialize in modern digital practices such as human-centered design, agile software development, and DevOps. Vendors who qualify for this marketplace will then be able to bid on EPA contracts for digital services.”

Other keywords in the RFI, essentially a market research exercise, including agile architecture, modular development, test-driven development and API-first design.

If that’s getting you overheated, remember this is the Environmental Protection Agency, and so in addition to their coding and delivery chops, applicants will need to demonstrate expertise in “environmental business issues” and to demonstrate sustainability: “e.g. GHC reduction reporting and goal setting, green product purchasing behaviours.”

The EPA’s marketplace will be modelled after the Agile Delivery Services Marketplace developed by 18F, the in-house digital brain trust assembled by the General Services Administration, and which is now working with the EPA. That effort, was part of a recognition that government IT was hung up on technology cycles of one to three years. The marketplace aimed to get delivery of digital services down to more than three months. It puts a premium on dealing with small businesses.

Of course, this would all be somewhat at odds with the sort of drawn out, pork-laden contracts beloved of many major government suppliers.

And it might all sound familiar to UK readers, who’ve seen the work of the UK’s GDS unit and the Cabinet Office’s efforts to simultaneously deliver digital services, streamline contracts and extend the pool of suppliers. The big vendors make the valid point that some sort of godfather figure – them – is still around to bankroll these projects and sit around to catch the flak when they go wrong.

Still, the UK can justifiably point to progress in its efforts to create joined up, digital services citizens will want to use. US citizens, and indeed visitors, could often be forgiven for thinking they’ve blundered into an internet archaeology exhibition rather than an actual live website. If you don’t believe us, just cast an eye back at that EPA site. ®




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