Rather than allow their IT budgets to be consumed by efforts to maintain and modernize legacy systems, government chief information officers (CIOs) should refocus their energies on new, digital-first projects.

This is according to Gartner research director Rick Howard, who made the comments in light of the analyst group's 2015 CIO Agenda survey.

A total of 2,810 IT leaders were polled as part of the research, representing 84 countries around the world and almost $400 billion in spending.

Gartner found that compared to other industries, local and national governments and defense agencies are less innovative on account of their views on the relationship between legacy technology and new, digitally enabled disciplines such as cloud, mobile and big data analytics.

"The burden of legacy technologies in government puts innovation on a path of incremental improvement when agility and quick solution delivery is expected," Mr Howard explained.

"To demonstrate 'digital now, digital first' leadership in government, CIOs must flip their approach to managing IT from the inside-out perspective of legacy constraints to the outside-in view of citizen experience."

According to the results of the Gartner CIO Agenda survey, the use of business intelligence and analytics currently ranks as the number one IT spending priority for organizations in the private sector. By contrast, among federal and national governments, it plays second fiddle to infrastructure and data center investment.

For state, local and regional authorities, analytics programmes are only the third-highest IT spending priority, and among defense and intelligence agencies, they rank fifth. In both instances, investing in existing infrastructure takes the top spot.

Gartner suggested that despite their stated intentions, securing the funds required to maintain and modernize legacy systems "may be a stretch" for governments at federal and national level, 30 per cent of whom anticipate decreasing IT budgets in the year ahead.

Mr Howard recommended that government CIOs "lead by example" and deprioritize this area of investment, shifting the management and provisioning of infrastructure to viable commercial vendors and adopting the "design-for-change mindset that is essential in the digital age".

With regard to big data analytics in particular, Gartner's press release said: "Rather than attempt to optimize based on past data, government CIOs need to develop the capabilities to generate forward-looking predictive analytics and combine this information with data-led experimentation to create the future."

This comes a month after the firm issued a new forecast stating that by 2020, 80 per cent of business processes that were standard in 2010 will have been reinvented, digitized or eliminated as a result of improved access to unprecedented quantities of data.

Writing for Forbes, research vice president Doug Laney warned that organizations may find their existing data warehouses insufficient for this purpose, coming to rely on third-party intermediaries to help them extract value from these and other sources of information.

He estimated that by as early as 2017, some 30 per cent of enterprise access to big data will be conducted via broker services.