Login.Berlin puts pressure on US to kick off innovative cities program – #gov20 #opengov

login.berlin is set to challenge the London version of the same

login.berlin is set to challenge the London version of the same

The ongoing war (OK, skirmish) between London and Berlin on which city will be the tech hub of Europe has been rekindled due to the Government’s investment in the city as a new digital hub.  It is great to see competitive juices up among Europe’s great cities to help drag them out of economic crisis.  The focus on technology, supported by government spending to attract and develop jobs, is right on.

The US has had great focus on economic development over the past few years and we have seen creative organizations and some incredible success stories (See Michigans efforts and successes with MEDC and their public scorecard so folks can see their success).  But it would be great for cities in the US to kickoff a competition to help drive urban oriented tech investment and startup support.  Sure San Francisco is a mecca, but there are cities across the US who have invested in broadband, in tech ed, in favorable tax treatments and research clusters.

Lets unleash our competitive spirit to beat out Berlin and London.

 

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Unsustainable Government – #gov20

Time to move past where we were built and into what we could be - #PaaS #Gov20

Time to move past where we were built and into what we could be – #PaaS #Gov20

Queensland in Australia is struggling amidst an unsustainable government technology posture.  It developed over decades.  It must end now.  The problem is highlighted in a discussion over the first round of job cuts that will result from brave new steps the government is looking to take.

The problem is far from unique in QLD.  It is global.  It is local.  It exists in your schools, in your local council, in your regional government, in state departments and inside each of our central governments.  It is not necessary.  It is a challenging problem, but not nearly as intractable as the issues that are starved for funding because we refuse to solve the IT problem.

But there is incredibly good news.  The components exist to fix it.  The technologies needed are now robust.  The security top notch.  We have citizen developers standing at the ready and showing up at hackathons to provide the innovation and a private sector ecosystem that can support it long term.

So, CIO’s, Ministers of ICT, Premiers, Mayors, Governors, pay heed.  I don’t care which cloud platform you switch to (OK, I have an opinion, but you get what I am saying).  I do care that you tear down these walls.  Eliminate the infrastructure tax.  Stop paying the Software tax.  It is starving missions in need of reform.  And, if you accomplish the brave switch, you will have resources to deploy as you need and agility to do things unheard of before.

THe time is now.

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Fiscal Cliffs, Date Night and the Greater Fools – Uniting America

Rise Up.  Own this. Look for your Leader in the Mirror.

Rise Up. Own this. Look for your Leader in the Mirror.

I love my country.

A simple statement.  Overused across the board, devoid of meaning in most contexts and yet, loaded to the hilt right now.  At this point in time, before the 2012 Presidential Election, my love of country, our love of country, calls upon us to unite despite the calls all around us to divide and descend into a political black hole.

It is an amazing time to be an American.  From the standpoint of political infrastructure we are staring at the abyss, right now.  We are pushing on the walls and constraints of political discourse in ways that will resolve either in an incredible new experiment in democracy or the destruction of hegemony, devolution into disarray and a long walk through barren lands to hopefully return to a country slightly resembling the America our parents and grandparents built.  Sound overly dramatic? Stay with me.

Fiscal Cliffs

I watched during 2011 as revolutionaries took over control of parts of Congress and the minds of one of our parties.  I literally watched it unfold in my home state of Wisconsin which was undergoing a change that no political pundit would have predicted.  In the land that literally gave birth to AFSCME, public sector unions were on the road to being abolished, normally a “third rail” in Wisconsin politics.  In that context, national political leaders decided to start testing other “third rails”.  The “debate” over the debt ceiling in 2011 was a test of what was possible in terms of touching lightening and living.  And it happened.  The GOP threatened, at the behest of Tea Party leaders, to not authorize raising the debt ceiling as Republican and Democratic Administrations had done for decades.  For this faction, it was simple political calculus.  To “win”, they must capture the attention of the world.  Much as fringe elements worldwide do when they hijack planes, invade olympics or pull our citizens into dark places in Tehran, this fringe held our economy hostage.  Pointed a gun at our head.  Pulled the trigger and prayed, to test our resolve.

The Democratic Party utterly failed to respond.  In Wisconsin, in Washington DC, across the country.  Due to decades of living with the existence of “third rails”, the Democrats simply lost their sharpness in the debate.  The Democratic Party did not have the organization, willpower or resolve to take on the tough issue directly.  By failing to take the threat seriously, the Democrats failed not just the country, but the global economy.  This party was just as culpable in the situation that they might as well as pulled that trigger themselves.

But that lack of sharpness in defending recessionary government spending, Healthcare Reform, or Medicare, or Social Security, out of fear, threatened a much more devastating outcome.  By not having an organized citizen based backing to demonstrate support for a sane fiscal positioning, we, together, drove the country toward collapse (and really only took our finger off the trigger with sequestration now facing the country).

As I will get to, because we lacked an understanding of why I love my country, and why we all do, we are now approaching that gun again with our finger at the trigger.  The fiscal cliff is no joke.  At the worst possible time in the midst of this recovery, our politicians are staring down a barrel.  While we discuss “legitimate rape” on one side and birth certificates on the other, the only areas of concrete and productive spending will be at complete risk.  On all sides.  Citizens in need will suffer, our national defense will suffer and our economy will take a self inflicted shot to the head.  Unless we rise.

Date Night

In the midst of all of this controversy life goes on.  In America, as in all of the countries I have visited in my career, we continue to turn inward to our family.  For us, it is a weekly ritual for my wife and I to go to dinner, sometimes a movie or a show, or just a drive around our great city.  We did that this week again as I figure many american households did at the same time.  But we didnt make it to a movie.

Because of some books each of us are reading (some at the behest of my incredible 13 year old daughter) we started talking about America.  Whether we should aim to be the most powerful country in the world.  Whether we should have healthcare or education or a job as a right.  Whether a strong defense is the only path to peace.  The outcome of each of these debates was interesting but far more interesting was the conversation over what is it that still makes us uniquely American.  As a country.  And if there still was the unique American, what is it that is killing her and what is it that would save her.

It was an incredibly emotional conversation.  Are we really what the polls say we are?  Are we split hopelessly down the middle?  Do our republican friends really believe what they say?  Do our Democratic friends understand their arguments?  What issues bind us?  What issues drive us apart?  And who are pulling all those levers?

I admitted, as a lifelong political ally in some circles, to having lived out the problem.  And I consider some of my closest friends as continuing to live out the challenges.  I am responsible for parts of this problem.  After much reflection we settled on a simple position that captures the essence of the poisonous current discourse.

Our political world is tilted toward “winning” elections and not creating and sustaining “states”.

It has been part of my career to advise politicians on how to “win” elections.  I am actually pretty good at it.  As are my friends.  And we can understand why a faction in the political right would suggest and embrace the debt ceiling strategy, to win.  Why it makes sense to highlight a misstep of words to characterize the other party as waging a war on women, to win.  Why it is OK to suggest killing Medicare as we know it and at the same time tell the world publicly that your intention is to save the system, to win.  Why a campaign would attack Solyndra as a waste of money while understanding deeply the need to invest in risky startups to embrace and push forward new industries, to win.  We do, and argue for, these positions because, quite simply, it is how you “win” elections.  My job wasn’t to govern, but to win.  And that, is the crux of the problem.

But the answer isn’t far from us.  The examples, as my wife and I discussed, are manyfold.  Men and women who have bucked the current system, focused on building a state that works, caring for the craft, identifying and supporting truth speakers and making hard choices about a sustainable way forward and then to work ACROSS divides to unite us as a country in funding those priorities.  Our table talk surrounded who could rise to meet this challenge?  Marco Rubio?  Chris Christie?  John Huntsman? Hilarie Clinton?  Barack Obama?  Mitt Romney?

Our conclusion?  None of them.  What is required of folks to rise and succeed in the current political world is inconsistent with what is needed to change it.  The political and corporate leaders we each know well, lack the ability to craft a state.

But, we decided, each of us has that ability.  To rise up where we are, not look outside for some white knight to come in and save the day.  That the answer was to tap into our cross-party identity to activate in our own world. To advocate for our american family inside our childrens schools.  To advocate and forward those priorities where we work.  To agitate within our local city councils and neighborhoods to demand the type of civics that are suitable to be called American.  Not everyone has the unique set of experiences to allow them to become president, but each of us has the unique capability to take back our country from a poisonous discourse, by talking again to our neighbors, advocating for our neighbors and our own needs and ignoring the constant buzz of national politics.

So with the problems identified (“Winning” over “Statebuilding”) and a focus on the solutions needed (local leadership replacing national politics) the question remained whether there was this unique thing called America, that bound us together.  There was.

Through our conversations last night we uncovered volumes of cases when America showed her true colors repeatedly.  From individuals we knew that quietly supported folks who suffered unnecessarily, to examples from our own lives.  In Law School my house burned down.  We were a bit unsure what to do and where to turn and, to our surprise, our community came to support us.  With food, clothes, offers of shelter, anonymous donations of money, support from my school, from churches, from non-profits and others. When injustice happens in America, none of us bring our political convention badges.  We bring our soul.  Look at the outpouring of support for Aurora, Colorado and Oak Creek, Wisconsin this year as examples.  There were not Democrats and Republicans at the vigils, there were Americans.

And while I have given countless speeches about it, the most powerful example of this was, and is, 9/11.  I was in the towers weeks before they came down. I have and had myriads of friends who work on that beloved island.  And what I loved, in the midst of our darkest despair, is the way we came together in that week as Americans without political cover.  We all flew our flags, I watched bankers help laborers walk home from the towers, I watched needy left-wing citizens follow the guidance of a caring right-wing mayor.  I watched brave firefighters and construction workers, selflessly run TOWARD that collapse, in order to save even one more life while risking theirs.  To understand the true unity laying dormant in America you need only remember how you felt the day those proud towers fell.  Despite the centuries of political messaging heaped on top of who we were, that shot at our country instantly stripped it away, and lay bare what it means to be an American.  We are united, not divided, at our core.  Politics has led us in a different direction.  Statesmanship can lead us out.

The Greater Fool

So, the day after a great date night, it is often hard to keep the momentum going.  Great talk, do we act?  Are we still tuned in?  Sometimes, as my wife always says, the universe is giving you an answer, but you need to listen.  When I walked into my wife’s office after coffee this morning she had DVR’ed Newsroom.  We love the show, admittedly because we are left of center types and its fun to hear our thoughts in eloquent words.  But the season finale was about everything we had just discussed.  Everyone should watch it, so they get the conclusions below.  The central point of the show is a back and forth over the idea of “The Greater Fool”.  As an aside I have issues with the example myself due to its financial roots, but the wrap up lines in the show were perfect.

There have been many people with opinions about how to “fix” our country.  How to take us back.  Regain our beautiful history.  Become what we were.  I dissent.  We have never lost what we were.  It has simply been buried under decades of communications crap laid on top by politics.

We must embrace what we are.  What we truly are.  We must act on it.  Locally.  We must unplug from stupid national attempts to control what we think and demonstrate we understand our neighbors.  We must touch what makes us all American, fight like hell for that, and work together to resolve on the details.  It will be hard, impossibly difficult, unbelievably irritating and the challenge of my generation.  But as a boy, I watched Team USA, skate on the ice, unknown, with no believers, defeat what we used to call the USSR.  It is only the fool, the greater fool, that truly thinks we can do that now in politics.  Not by finding or building a candidate.  But by acting.  In our lane.  Running our pattern.  Fulfilling our role.  Never flinching in defense.  And understanding what makes us all American.

And later today I came across a great debate on Facebook about Voter ID.  A good one.  Sid Burgess asked a simple question about Voter ID.  Good conversation about it.  A few partisan barbs but really what seemed to be real people talking about an issue.  A vital one.  The right to vote.  The discourse was intelligent and civil.   And the source, a great republican passionately embracing walkability in of all places, Oklahoma City, helps to prove that this world, this conflict, has hope of resolution.  If this lifelong Democrat in Seattle and a self-described card carrying Republican in OKC can come to together to build a civic discourse, maybe we will succeed in building a new America.

“The Greater Fool is someone with the perfect blend of self-delusion and ego to think that he can succeed where others have failed. This whole country was made by greater fools.”

 

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It is time

It is time.

A number of friends have talked to me offline about re-energizing FixingPotholes. I am thrilled to recommit to doing so and having it be a forum to double click on policy leaders thoughts on government and technology.

I am hoping that the regular writing will allow me a small slice of time to finish the book, Rebel Technology. Please keep your thoughts coming and let’s write an incredible reflection of how the world is leveraging technology to change our world.

It is time. To rise.

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How MLK would look at Government2.0 – #gov20 #opengov

MLK in the Valley - Government2.0 requires sacrifice

MLK in the Valley - Government2.0 requires sacrifice

I consider Martin Luther King a personal hero of mine.  As a child I didn’t always have the guidance I thought I needed, but luckily had a public library available and the ability to read the words of incredible leaders to give me some guidance in the way I considered the world and the way I would ultimately arrange my life.  MLK was a huge part of that and I consider his orientation every time I consider a new movement, a new direction or a new project.

So, how would MLK think about Government2.0?  Would he be concerned about the expenditure on technology instead of directly on people.  Would he be concerned about building platforms as opposed to direct aid?  I dont think so.  I believe he would embrace it, in particular the application of the Social Enterprise to Government.  Because, at its core, this new technology enables the true connection of individual spirits and souls in concerted activity with the ability to unlock the latent aspirations inside those fighting to pull themselves up in society.

As we connect we see people in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Bahrain, Iran and Syria embracing technology to unlock their souls.  And I have seen, heard and tweeted about friends in those areas standing up to regimes empowered only by a mobile device, rough video footage or the daring nature of a singular tweet to take down the repression of regimes with weapons with more direct consequence.  It is this type of action that makes me believe that MLK would embrace the social technology revolution in governments throughout the world.  When his revolution was effective we saw regimes move to suppress such conversations in their own societies.  Our social technologies in a civic context are working to liberate those voices, through technology, one ward at a time.

And in the United States we are seeing the same.  The civic conversation is happening in the cloud.  Tweets organized Occupy Wall Street.  The Tea Party embraces new modes of communication.  Labor Union’s have long leveraged social media to organize.  Voices are rising and modern governments in the States will realize that this is a huge opportunity here, as opposed to a threat.  The engagement of our citizens is something we have long needed, long lacked and long fought for.  A giant inside the United States has been awakened.  Our technology enables that voice.  And our government now has the call to respond, or step aside.

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Bridges to Revolution

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I have long believed in bridges. No, not just to get me across lake Washington, but to shoot the gaps.

A long time ago, in law school, I had the honor of being taught labor law by an incredible thinker, scholar and doer, Jim Jones at the UW Law School. In awe I asked him how he brought the country from not understanding discrimination to embracing the civil rights act. His response? Bridges.

My family and career is full of visionaries I said to him. They see what needs to be done and I want my life to be about making that change real. But I meet resistance. Often.

He taught me I need to think of the change as a series of connected islands with bridges connecting us from today to the world as it should be. Utilize tools to achieve the small changes that add up to the revolution.

I lived that this week. Discussing change with leaders in my new company and then taking those learnings to great customers in New York. I was thrilled as I met no resistance and in fact engaged deeply in a bridging conversation. Could our approach bridge one of the toughest divides in public sector IT?

Yes it can. And yes we will. And my promises to dr. Jones can be fulfilled. Thank you Salesforce.

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Looking for a few great State and Local CIOs

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In my career I have known some amazing public sector CIOs. As I return to a leadership position in global public sector at Salesforce, I want to pay things forward and embrace the new set of public sector technology leaders.

If we were to embrace a few state and local governments to work with deeply, in particular on the benefits of enabling their entire jurisdiction as a social enterprise, who would you think would be best? I have worked with large countries, global cities, tiny villages, water districts and others. All I want is suggested leaders in locations with great promise.

Nominations?

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