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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How to Help: Government 2.0 is too important to stop the fight #gov20 #opengov

Wisconsin Public sector Workers Fight for their collective bargaining rights

Wisconsin Public sector Workers Fight for their collective bargaining rights

I have been through some very interesting times as of late, the kind of things that make you think about who you are, what you fight for and your position in the order of things.  I have absolutely incredible friends and family that help me look at these things and have created a calm in me that is unparalleled.  I thank all of you for your kind words.  But while these things were spinning around, the proof was all around me that this fight is worth it, and it has nothing to do with me.  In fact, my challenges right now amount to nothing compared to the fights erupting throughout the world.

Over the past few weeks the world has exploded in terms of activism and citizens demanding something new.  Something different.  From Egypt to Bahrain, to Libya, from Tunisia as a spark, citizens have stood up.  Not just in court in Seattle, where things are very safe, but in public squares, looking at guns, staring at tanks, fleeing from helicopters.  In my teapot of troubles, these brave souls have made it very clear that there are far more important things going on in the world and a focus on helping the world emerge as a more peaceful, just and progressive globe is far more vital for our joint efforts.

At the very same time my friends and family in Wisconsin, where I was born, bred, raised and educated, became ground zero for the public sector employees battle throughout the United States.  I don’t equate the level of danger to that faced by citizens in the middle east, but the shots fired at them are intended to end significant rights that were won many years ago through very risky endeavors (the beginning of the labor movement in the United States was often violent and bloody).  The challenge is fundamental and either way the nature of what civil servants do will change (either because Governors will cut their ranks through layoff or the budget crisis will demand change in other ways).

Both of these challenges have thrust technology both to the front of these battles, but at the same time, as a silent possibility that has not been driven forward….yet.

The challenge relates to my thoughts on rebels versus revolutionaries a few months back.  The basics are that rebels burst through the dominant paradigm thru aggressive and public challenges.  The challenge is that they are not particularly well suited to run the paradigm that results.  That requires revolutionaries who can take the new paradigm and build new structures, new systems and a new dominant paradigm for us all to embrace for the next paradigm period.  The rebels have done their part.  Now the revolutionaries need to stand up and bring government 2.0 to the fore as one of the ways to build this brave new world.

Alex has been writing about what has already happened to support, but the answers are far deeper than simple ideation (dont get me wrong, great site and great way to help, the world simply needs more).

I have done some significant work in the middle east and know that in places like Egypt and Bahrain, civil servants are ready to think outside the box to help build a new world.  I would ask that the folks who care about these things worldwide begin an initiative to accomplish some basic goals.  Enable transparency in fledgling democracies.  Enable Government as a Platform.  Drive cloud computing.

And to my friends in Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania and everywhere else that State’s in the US face significant budget pressures, threats to civil service or massive protests, lets similarly focus on leveraging those same goals.  Government as a Platform would revolutionize how civil servants enable government service delivery in such a way that the cost of government would be controlled and services protected.  Cloud computing itself would radically reduce the cost of computing in government.  Even if you started in small workloads you would bridge the deficits you face today in significant ways.

Many of you have asked how you can help me right now.  The answer is to fight for these principles.  Wherever you are, in whatever role, demand that your government leverage the technologies available today to build a more open, more free, more effective and more affordable government for the next century.

Thank you.

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Simplicity Must Permeate #gov20 Efforts

Simplicity is not the Hallmark of Government, Yet...

Simplicity is not the Hallmark of Government, Yet...

The fine folks over at the Telegraph continue to have great mashups based upon the UK Gov’s open data work.  This image made me laugh a bit.  It shows the overly complex nature of HMG and one is left to wonder why.

I am not as cynical as Gerry McGovern over at Giraffe Forum, but his post on bureaucracy and complexity does give some insight into, at least, the historical reasons such complexity existed.  In many parts of the world the overt corruption that used to drive such complexity has gone (although I am fully aware that such detrimental practices continue to exist in many parts of the world).  But the lack of the overt corruption has resulted in an even more difficult set of challenges in many cases.

When corruption was actively present, it was obvious to those involved why the complexity existed.  As it was eradicated, and as civil servants took over who had no need for it, the positioning became difficult to move.  You see, these civil servants aren’t corrupt, are driven by mission and therefore, defend their organizations as protectors of that mission.  They see attacks on it as thwarting objectively good outcomes and fight against the threat.  And when folks mention that corruption may result, or indeed may have been the cause of the complexity, they resist with righteous indignation, because, in fact, they are not engaged in it.  Therefore they defend the complexity as part of the mission, since they cannot buy into the argument that the structure inculcates bad things, in their mind, it does not.

So, we need to be careful what arguments we use to advocate for governmental reform.  Instead of labeling civil servants as corrupt protectors of a corrupt system, which is not true, we need to take a different tack.

This is where Gerry has it right on.  And it is incredibly prescient given the industrial shift right now to the cloud.  He argues eloquently that:

Bad complexity creates dependence. Good complexity creates independence. One of the things the Web reflects is a movement away from the production of products to the delivery of services. In a world of production the thing itself often dominates, but in a world of service the satisfaction of the customer dominates. In other words, in a service-driven world, the measure of success is not what you have produced, but rather how satisfied your customer is.

As I engage with customers in Government around cloud topics this statement rings very true.  Not just for us as managers of online services, but to them as managers of government services.  Instead of creating a dependent culture that protects a franchise, we need to make sure that we enable our governments to create unbelievably happy and satisfied customers (a.k.a. citizens).  The shift is vital.  And as some centralized ICT bodies look to provide cloud services for their own Ministries, they need to make the shift as well.  Their customers (internal) must be unbelievably happy with the solutions they are providing.  They must shift from holding a monopoly to holding a franchise based upon the satisfaction of their customers.

As we each, industry and government, make the mind shift to the cloud, the strategic imperative is obvious.  Change your organization structure to reflect the simplicity that your customers demand to be satsified.

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Resilience is Beyond Sustainability, Can #gov20 and #opengov Make Cities Become Resiliant?

Resilient in Chinese - Can Resilient Government 2.0 and Open Government Efforts Exist Beyond Sustainability?

Resilient in Chinese - Can Resilient Government 2.0 and Open Government Efforts Exist Beyond Sustainability?

I preach about sustainability an awful lot, but I just read over at Management Insights an article about resilience in the public sector.

It is an interesting topic.  Beyond the environmental sustainability issues, resiliency is potentially a great goal for governments, period.  The idea embraces the thought that governments should be built as platforms instead of service providers.  Building an adaptable, scalable platform would allow for governments to change as their environment changes and to do so quickly.  A few examples of resilience?

Demographic changes and population shifts often cause long term policy shifts.  Regional increases in human services investments for instance.  But often the infrastructure below that is slow to change.  The slowness of transit is only adapted to once the complaints pile up.  The health solutions may be OK now, but how will folks know when it is feeling the pressure of the increase in population?  Do utilities have the ability to adapt to increased usage with additional population or will it take a failure?

If the government platform includes open data as part of the platform and focus on real-time data provisioning, then the feedback loop is shortened.  Policy makers can make quicker decisions and citizens can be satisfied.

In terms of resiliency, the platform can remain constant but the applications can shift as needs do.  And scale.

The unexpected situation is another one of the most difficult situations that governments face.  I was briefing the CDC in the USA a month or so ago and we got into a great conversation.  It revolved around political responses to crisis like H1N1.  Political folks need to respond visually and energize the government to act in response.  Application needs often surface.  And then the challenge begins.  Setting up a procurement.  An RFI.  An RFP.  Multiple vendor conferences.  Objection handling.  Internal committees to decide.  The decision.  More objections.  The purchase.  The delivery.  Unpacking and rack and stack.  Burning images.  Hopefully concurrent development.  UAT.  Provisioning.  Pilot.  Launch.  Best time estimate: 6 months.  Very unhappy politicians.  Very unhappy citizens.

But if the platform exists, the data is available and usable (like OGDI) and citizens and developers know how to use it (API), then response can be as quick as the demand that generated the need.  Like Miami 3-1-1 or Hey Gov in San Francisco.  A few weeks.  Maybe days.  And if the need is great enough, hours.

That is the goal in terms of resilient government.

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China: Jinan can Lead the Way in #gov20 and #opengov

China: Municipalities throughout China Could Lead Government 2.0

China: Municipalities throughout China Could Lead Government 2.0

Municipal and Provincial leadership in China is ready to help make government the strategic lever for policy reforms that the world seeks.

I keynoted an event on the cloud in Government in China recently and the governments in China appear poised to embrace the Government as a Platform ideals and help to push Government 2.0 efforts.  My conversation started with an explanation of the need for change in government worldwide.  This explanation was met with enthusiasm throughout the audience and follow-on conversations were supportive.  I was happy to see an embrace of the idea that from now on, government platforms must be designed to scale from the beginning.  And it is important for all of us to get the largest government on the planet to help push that idea.

It is instructive that the discussions were spurred on by conversations around cloud computing.  True scale in these efforts will contemplate the cloud and it is heartening to know that our partners in China will be helping to make that happen.  And that they are willing to help lead the rest of the world toward a common set of outcomes surrounding the Government 2.0 movement.

Of particular interest was my discussion of the millennials and their impact on the conversation as well as the very form of government itself.  The changes this generation will bring is going to be massive as we have seen already on the technology landscape.

I look forward to further conversations with my new found friends in Jinan and throughout China.

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We will win together, or fail individually: The #gov20 challenge

I love great movies (even when they are American Sports references, sorry to ll of our global readers).  I love great speeches.  I love motivation.  And I do so, because of many of the things inside this speech.  And the Government 2.0 movement is at this place, right now.

The founders of the movement toiled through years of being the minority, of gaining little attnetion.  Of margianialization.  And then, the 2008 American Presidential Election.

All of a sudden our points were made eloquent by one of our country’s best orators.  He laid down the open government directive gauntlet as a first step.  He appointed a rebel to CIO.  He embodied the revolutary mantra and ethic, surely this movement had arrived.

But an economic crisis interceded.  A healthcare challenge.  A midterm election disaster.  And questions abound.  About him.  About us.  About the movement.  We are down, a bit.  But we are far from out.

As Pacino says in the clip, the inches are all around us.  We just need to take them.  We need to shoulder on through the current controversy.  We need to ignore the charletans and those who might simply try to profit off of the momentum.  Igonre these market timers of the movement.  We need to have the guts to take what is our destiny, not just despite the odds against us, but becuase that opposition is there.

No gain made in life that is worth the effort happens without trial.  Without unbelievable effort.  And the best occur when we leave every last drop of sweat, every ounce of energy, every last bit of our passion out there on the playing field, and collapse, victorious.

As many of you who follow my blog know, I believe in both the Rebel and the Revolutionary.  This post is way on the Rebel side of the argument, but I am actively involved with the Revolutionary spirit.  I fight to invest, to deploy, to cajole, to plan and to create long term vehicles to help carry your message.  And I believe that our movemnt must embrace the cypherpunk ethic “Gov20′ers write code”.

We need even more of that.  In light of the criticism, deploy a solution.  Write an app.  Form a community.  Join a meetup.  Organize a Social Media group inside your government.  Deploy Citizen based systems that treat citizens like customers.  Drive performance metrics.

But most important, adopt a new point of view.  You see, while revolutions depend on great speeches that move masses of people to take some form of collective action…real revolution only happens inside individual people.  and, it is all that we, in fact, can control.  And the greatest point of all, it is completely within our own control.  Nobody can stop us from taking on a new point of view.  Your boss cant force you not to have it.  Your husband can’t stop you from thinking about it.  Lack of time in a day cant stop it.  Bad community leadership, a questioning press corps, FOIA requests, opposing political parties…none of them can touch it.  And even better, you can recommit to it each and every day, it costs nothing and you need no permission.

Lets start today.  And grab those inches.

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All Politics REMAINS Local: Winter Warning to #gov20 and #opengov Politicians

Seattle 2.0: Can Government Officials Survive Another Winter Storm?

Seattle 2.0: Can Government Officials Survive Another Winter Storm?

I am from a great state in the middle part of the United States, Wisconsin.  It is a cold place.  It snows a lot.  I mean, a lot.  The city services to clear roads is incredible.  And when it is slow, even a little bit, the political repercussions are immediate.  You have to keep the roads clear.

I moved to Seattle.  They are not so familiar with snow here :) .  Last year we had a good sized storm.  Paralyzed the city.  Shut down schools.  Affected public safety.  And, arguably, cost the mayor his job.

We just got hit with another good sized snow storm.  The coverage has been good.  And so far the services have held up.  But as the Times reports, this is a big one and is shutting down schools and services.  So, it is a good time to remind folks that all politics is local and if we cant deliver services that our citizens expect, we can expect to be thrown out of office.

We are kicking off a great GovCamp in Portugal today and fully expect that the incredible speakers and elected officials will covers incredible topics like the economy and the environment, but I challenge them all to keep a close eye on their streets as they pull their way out of this recession.

And in case folks don’t see the connection between snow and open government, see the multiple instances of local councils tweeting their snow plow locations and routes, SMS solutions for weather warnings like the one we stood up in Jamaica to warn of hurricanes and multiple 311 systems including the City of Miami and San Francisco that now allow citizens to track their complaints directly.  These just touch the surface, what else is out there?

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