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Business, Featured, Government - Written by on Tuesday, August 25, 2009 10:07 - 1 Comment

Nick Vitalari
Beyond public options or private options: Embracing the potential of the new public-private ecosystem

In my previous post, I presented Apple, Inc. as a leader in using corporate business platforms and ecosystems for business growth.  I also advised all industries to take notice and learn.  But platforms and collaborative ecosystems transcend the private sector. At nGenera Insight’s All Members Meeting in May, I argued that the emergence of “public-private platforms and ecosystems” has the potential to significantly advance the social good and transform our governmental institutions in the process.  A lofty assertion? Perhaps.  Controversial?  Absolutely. But let’s take a closer look.

Envision a world where networks of public institutions and private companies seamlessly work together.  In this next generation world, each member of an ecosystem divides their collective resources and labor according to those functions and capabilities best performed within each respective entity.   The ecosystem has a unique division of labor, clear decision rights, and defined roles across tens to thousands of individual organizations. Such new levels of collaboration arise from the economic and technological capabilities available in a massively internetworked planet.

True, public-private partnerships are not new – in the 20th century we saw many in areas ranging from space exploration to entrepreneurial innovation.  However, the combination of online platforms and networked ecosystems transforms their underlying form and function. Public-Private Ecosystems fortified with powerful online platforms can drive entirely new ways to involve citizens, divide work activities among traditionally private and public enterprises and harness talent in new ways for the common good.  Here are three examples that point to the potential and key elements:

  • Crossroads Bank for Social Security, BelguimMaryantonett Flumian, a fellow colleague and frequent contributor to our Government 2.0 Insight program, tells the story of the Crossroads Bank for Social Security (CBSS) – a platform that links 3,000 private and public sector agencies to cooperatively deliver services for the citizens of Belgium.  The “bank” itself holds no information – the information of the citizens and the services delivered travel among the right agencies across the right public, private and jurisdictional boundaries, at the right time.  To quote Flumian, “The work of the CBSS has resulted in dramatic reductions in forms, decreased burden on employers, and streamlined access to better social services. It is estimated that since 2002 the system has saved companies 1.7 billion Euros a year in administrative costs.”
  • City of Frieburg, Germany.  One of our student interns, Alex Marshall, studied a software platform developed by the local government of the City of Freiburg and TuTech Innovation (see post).  By architecting a web-accessible system of “budget sliders,” Freiburg enabled citizens (1,291 participants) to increase or decrease the spending levels of 22 proposed budget line items. The city gained new insight into the desires of its inhabitants and in the final analysis readjusted some of its spending priorities.  Similar examples can now be seen in Hamburg, Germany and Belo Horizonte, Brazil.
  • Apps for Democracy, United States. Vivek Kundra, the first Chief Information Officer (CIO) for United States Federal Government, came to Barack Obama’s attention through his innovative approach to leveraging government databases as Chief Technology Officer for the District of Columbia. Kundra found that by taking existing government databases and adding common software interfaces, he could generate a free-form public-private platform and ecosystem of the District of Columbia staff, external software professionals, private firms, and creative citizens.  In contrast to the prior examples, the data grounded the effort, the platform was mashed-up from a collection of open source software, and an ecosystem formed through the independent activities of interested parties to find new ways to use the data for the public good – ways that the District of Columbia neither had the time or resources to find by themselves.  Now Kundra is applying the same logic to the U.S. Federal Government through a series of open data initiatives (see http://www.data.gov).

So what have we learned and what are the implications for citizens, governments and public policy?

  1. Focus on differential advantage.  Anyone who manages an organization knows that appropriate division of labor is often a prerequisite for success. We need to apply the same thinking across enterprises and institutions in this new massively networked world.  Let’s extend the lesson of Belgium’s CBSS to link capabilities regardless of jurisdiction utilizing the strengths of each organization.  In a networked world why should we duplicate efforts across enterprises or start new enterprises when enterprises work together?  Such a mindset goes a long way to unbundling our preconceptions of who should do what and taps into a latent stream of broad societal efficiencies. What latent capabilities exist that can be linked when we reexamine particular types of work that must be done for the public good across the traditional divide of public and private entities?
  2. Consummate network externalities.  Let’s not be shy.  In most developed nations we have a surplus of 20th and sometimes 21st century capabilities locked down and isolated in balkanized 18th century structures.  As the world has become networked so too we need to re-examine how we have created divisions of labor among what we call public and private.  Sure there are legal and jurisdictional boundaries that protect the common good and regulate political and economic power.  However, these new examples indicate that not all divisions are necessary for good democracy or regulatory imperatives.
  3. Information does not need to be consolidated in one place to do good. As seen in both the CBSS and the District of Columbia examples, in the networked world a free flow of information can enable previously siloed organizations to collaborate and revise their division of labor.  The result: potential new efficiencies for society and economic benefits from a better use of assets and capabilities.

While many details need to be worked out in the new public-private ecosystem, including privacy, legal, governance and regulatory factors, the emergence of these new structures, processes and participants could usher in a more effective set of arrangements for the common good.



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Wikinomics» Blog Archive » Collaborative Platforms and Open Data as Keys to the New Public-Private Ecosystem
Sep 10, 2009 10:47

[...] Beyond Public Options or Private Options: Embracing the Potential of the New Public-Private Ecosyste… [...]

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