The New Social Enterprise Requires a New Social Contract #socialenterprise
I am thrilled to be a part of a true revolution in technology. Not just a promised revolution, or a politically motivated talking point, but a real shift in how we perform computational tasks. It presents us with an opportunity to not only build great new loosely coupled systems to solve increasingly complex problems, but also an opportunity to build a whole new set of structures and partnerships designed to support the stability of this new set of systems for the next few decades. In short, we have the desire to build an entirely new set of social interactions and personal empowerment for citizens, employees and partners.
I want to be clear that I have little interest in building individual systems that last (that is how we continue to have 30 year old legacy systems crippling business processes). What I want to be a part of is embracing a global infrastructure that will allow for agile development (and the responsibility to kill systems quickly) of solutions that solve business problems. This new infrastructure is more than the often overused idea of a superhighway for information. What I am talking about is more like the transformation at the world’s ports when they stopped using manual labor to load and unload ships in transit. To accomplish this switch there was an amazing amount of structural change that needed to happen.
But without a new paradigm, social contract or partnership, this change would never have successfully increased the flow of global commerce. We needed a public commitment to the goal of global efficiency and a private sector commitment to embrace the new change. We needed to make sure that each of the ports adopted an open standard so that the new machinery wasn’t different in each port requiring costly one-off adaptation or constant change.
NOTE: Two major assumptions that the world seems to have accepted: The cloud is how we will deploy infrastructure, software, databases and platforms. I will leave it to legacy companies to continue to argue for our customers to build and operate their own datacenters so that these vendors can continue to extort their pound of flesh. The conversation is over and these are merely death throws. They may continue for another 5 or so years, but ultimately they are scheduled to die. The second assumption is that our dominant paradigm will be social computing as the accepted UI. Just as Xerox, Apple and Microsoft brought us the revolution of multitasking and windows as a way to interact with computational power, now Facebook, Salesforce, Google, LinkedIn and Twitter have brought a new UI to us all. The difference is that this paradigm has been brought to us as an open paradigm and not a proprietary one that will be used to concentrate power and profit but will rather unleash the power of computing on the masses. Profit will, and should, drive the development of these technologies but we will not be locked into terrible technology due to propriety. We will rather be engaged in an open standard conversation, occurring globally and in the open. Progress will happen as a result of advancing the paradigm through providing value, not lock-in.
There are several things that need to happen in terms of structural improvements. Network Ubiquity and Openness is required. Much as we demanded universal delivery of things like the postal service and telephone service in many countries, we need to ensure that there is universal availability of broadband. The dominance of broadband in cities is great, but we need to empower economic growth everywhere. The existence of that pipe will bring economic development. It will spur the advancement of the Social UI. Without it, we will be dependent on the thinking and innovation in cities, which may not be bad, but we may be missing out on incredible thinking and productivity that lies dormant in other areas. We can build better. Their is unlocked growth potential in the more difficult to cover regions of the world, unlocked simply because no pipe yet reaches them. The success of a child in rural India should not depend on their distance from Mumbai, it should only be limited by their aspiration, ability and drive.
Open Sourced Hardware. As we look at a device driven society, we need to enable innovation through massively available hardware platforms as we did with software. The Internet of Things will be driven by masses of people innovating sensors, displays, robotics, cameras and more. Arduino is a great start, and Raspberry Pi promises to be incredible, but we need to have more organizations embracing the idea of open hardware platforms. As IBM helped to validate Open Source we need large corporate entities realizing the value that will come from embracing hardware as a new frontier in future computing.
Inexpensive, Open, Public Touch Interfaces. Massive investment, both public and private, in the development and quick deployment of public touch interfaces (and non-touch gesture interfaces) will drive the new computing world. They must be public so that the market created for them is massive and drives adoption. If it remains open from the beginning we will have much more innovation and will avoid the proprietary tax that had developed in the past and locked down the true productivity promised. By enabling this, we will embrace fully, in a public way, the cloud as the answer to true ubiquitous computing. As we provide public interfaces in ways that folks have embraced (touch) we will drive rapid and massive adoption, which in turn will drive the costs of such initiatives down while continuing to provide the needed margins to the private sector companies that will arise to build them.
The new thinking that would go along with a shift to a new paradigm gives us the opportunity to create new and stronger bonds in society. A few things are needed to form those bonds. A Vibrant Public Sector is a necessary precedent for success. The debate about the existence of a public sector and its validity needs to end. Inside public sector organizations they have been understanding their criticisms deeply. They believe transparency in operations will be the most effective way to accomplish the needed changes. With a transparent and efficient public sector (with a deep understanding of the term efficient in a public sector context) the focus can be on what citizens want most from their government. It will result in a refocusing of resources on growth oriented ideas. First, government should effort to create platforms for service delivery as opposed to direct delivery whenever possible. When that is not possible, direct delivery of services should be accomplished with as low a cost structure as possible to accomplish the public good. This balancing act will require wide spread and crowdsourced engagement to be successful. This refocusing of resources will allow for the development of needed technological infrastructure whenever needed to accomplish the public good. So, resources for ubiquitous broadband deployment can be achieved at a mill rate that is accessible to the average taxpayer. Public touch screens would allow for efficient public transportation increasing regional productivity in the same fashion while allowing the private sector to deliver the actual applications that enable it. Government as a platform will allow us to achieve greater and more rapid growth and will allow us to repair our public sector trust issues.
The refocusing of resources in the public sector will allow for a more efficient capital structure for private sector firms. An Efficient and Growing Private Sector is also a necessary precondition of success. Removing infrastructure barriers that can now be funded in the public sphere, the private sector will have a platform to deploy on, which is open, allowing for growth in both domestic product as well as in public goods. A virtuous cycle is created allowing public investment to drive instead of frustrate private sector growth and that private sector growth will similarly drive the unity and progress of the public sphere. The growth in the private sector will also result in extensible product lines that benefit from public investment but no longer require it to flourish. The development of efficient public transportation routing, for instance, can easily be adapted to private logistic company needs generating a multiplier effect in the market.
Global and Local Crowdsourced Governance will allow the public to stay engaged in growth initiatives. Decisions will need to be made regarding what items are platform related or intended for direct service delivery. Local decisions can be driven locally and the open processes will allow the input to be gathered and shared globally. The aggregation of multitudes of local decisions and systems will allow for an elimination of duplication waste in multiple governments while the ongoing agile development cycles will renew opportunities for the private sector, freeing them from making profits reselling existing solutions and instead put their capital to work on new and never ending issues to place into the public platforms or private initiatives.
New Social Contract (Public/Private Agreement) – An end to the war between the public and private sectors is the only way for us to have renewed and sustainable economic and social growth. We must sit down and discuss and decide on a New Social Contract. Citizens must control and drive the discussions. The best part: we now have all the tools needed to make this happen. We have strong representatives on the side of the public sector and the private sector. We have tools that enable broad based and open and transparent collaboration by public crowds. This may drive wide ranging changes, from entitlements to tax shelters, from the nature of local government to different taxation structures. It may preserve an awful lot of what we have. But the one thing that will be certain is that we will all engage in a conversation about what we want, what we need and the future we want to build. By driving this discussion to surround economic and social growth at the same time, we will be building a future we have consensus around and which will build a world our children can be proud to inherit.