Greek Monks and Open Government #gov20 #opengov

Did the Greek Monks Destroy the Country or was it Lack of Government Transparency?

Did the Greek Monks Destroy the Country or was it Lack of Government Transparency?

Reviewing some of the older pieces on the true greek tragedy (in economic terms) and finally read through the whole of the great Vanity Fair article by Michael Lewis (“Beware of Greek s Bearing Bonds“).  The detail in the article is great and Lewis, as always, is an incredible writer.

But the important insight is how this could be fixed.  How we could move from rebel to revolutionary, and start to solve the problem?  Open Government, writ large, is the answer.

The article is about the details that led to the fall of the previous government in Greece and the challenges that resulted when the new government dug into the reasons behind it.  While the immediate cause was certainly the incredibly odd deal that the Greek Monks made to overvalue and trade on the “value” of their land.  The real answer is, as Lewis details, the degradation of civil society in Greece.

Lewis details the challenge:

It’s simply assumed, for instance, that anyone who is working for the government is meant to be bribed. People who go to public health clinics assume they will need to bribe doctors to actually take care of them. Government ministers who have spent their lives in public service emerge from office able to afford multi-million-dollar mansions and two or three country homes.

Apparently tax payments are also an optional exercise in Greece.  There simply is no enforcement mechanism and bribery of tax officials has run rampant allegedly.  The challenge is what to do about it.

Transparency, like sunlight, disinfects the distasteful debris.  Open Government, deployed broadly and enabled through structures that tie the open data to enforcement mechanisms create some interesting outputs.  Stability and Fairness.  Stability that economic growth can be built upon and Fairness that allows for the once vibrant civil discourse to take up arms again.  These two outcomes are worth the pain of enabling transparency in Greece and everywhere else in the world where I have heard story about bribery, corruption and skimming off the top of the government.

I was asked by a friend in one of India’s largest Pradesh what the largest expenditure was in the economic development efforts throughout India.  The answer wasnt land development, infrastructure, education or public health.  Without flinching he told me “corruption”.  That easily 80% of the economic development funds in India never reached individual areas in need of help.  Most of the public money targeted at poverty reduction was the same.

From the monks in Greece to the poor in India, the world deserves more focus on Open Government as a way to build more Stable and Growing nations.  Lets work to make that happen.  What are the SPECIFIC deployments we could push to the governments of the world to free up precious resources and stabilize the world?

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India: 8.8% GDP Growth – A Model for Government as a Platform?

India Economic Summit - Is Their Growth an Indication of a Good Government Platform?

India Economic Summit - Is Their Growth an Indication of a Good Government Platform?

Bloomberg coveredthe release of India’s quarterly GDP growth.  And at 8.8% it is impressive.  Quite healthy internals and an interesting point for us to consider from a platform perspective.

While the mass of the remaining world economies continue to struggle, the question is why is India so successful?  While an argument can clearly be made that lower wage rates continue to drive production in India, what is interesting if you dig into the GDP numbers and take a look at their monetary policy it is clear that they are looking closely at RISING wage rates throughout the country.  In addition the access that folks have to cash from those rising wages is having a positive impact on domestic consumption.

So while our main arguments for treating Government as a Platform for change surround open government data and precepts around technology, it extends into vital areas like the economy.  In general I am a laissez-faire type of economic thinker, but the crisis and those growing their way out of it strongly suggest that active participation is far healthier than governments slow to interject their power into the economy.  Again, our belief on this blog that platforms are far better than direct service provision is illustrative here.

Economy watchers that manage inflation actively and without fear will create a platform safe for growth in the private sector while dominance in terms of market control may unneccessarily restrain or spook capital.  The platform approach appears to be a good balance between the two in economic terms, as well as technological terms.

This leads to an interesting output.  In a conversation with a colleague yesterday about the IMF and the WorldBank, the question arose about whether we could affect the austerity programs inside these organizations to include precepts about open government and open data in particular.  It is not an easy question, but one that is vital.  If we look at the WorldBank alone in terms of cash flows, we could see an awful lot of impact simply by placing a requirement inside of their granting programs that mirror some of the admittedly controversial austerity programs in the IMF programs.

Let me be clear, I am not sure our definitions in this space are clear and fair enough yet for us to push for austerity inclusion right now, but I do think we should have the conversation.  I think we have an opportunity and an obligation to engage in a conversation that would enable some of our lesser developed nations to develop into more effective organizations based upon Government as a Platform thinking as opposed to the world funding more governmental vending machines.

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India: Rahul Gandhi a Popular Facebook Player

Rahul with Gauri Khan at a Kolkata Knight Riders match in IPL

Rahul with Gauri Khan at a Kolkata Knight Riders match in IPL

India is an incredible country, with many challenges.  While I will write many things on this blog about the challenges facing India, from traffic to economic growth, social media is important to Government 2.0 efforts there.

Rahul Gandhi is an important player in Indian politics.  As an MP and the General Secretary of the Indian National Congress, he is being asked to join the national political fray on a regular basis.  His famous mother, and of course, his grandmother, Indira Gandhi, have all had great influence on his upbringing and potential passion for politics.

And he may be well suited to work to bring Government 2.0 and its commitment to transparency to the world’s largest democracy.

India Today writes about RG’s following on Facebook.  Apparently he may not have set up the page, but he is garnering fans rapidly.  Certainly that is not enough to show whether he will be committed to open government, open data initiatives or accountability, transparency and engagement, but hey, it certainly can’t hurt.

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India: Facebook takes on traffic

Government 2.0 and Indian Traffic:  Can Facebook Save Us?

Government 2.0 and Indian Traffic: Can Facebook Save Us?

The New York Times reports that the Delhi Traffic Police have started using Facebook to go after New Delhi traffic scofflaws.  They have enlisted the help of the teaming masses in New Delhi to upload photos and go after the offenders.  Uptake has been impressive, if not a bit scary (given that many of the photos must have been taken while other drivers were driving :) )

This is a return to the civil service (and police service) proud long standing tradition of crowd sourcing.  9-9-9 (or 9-1-1- in the USA) were efforts born of a public safety need and a realization that the only way large cities could survive, especially in tough economic times, was to leverage the power of the crowd.  This simply adds the technical layer of mobile phones with cameras and a platform like Facebook.

By the way, their page is here.

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