Featured, Government - Written by Nick Vitalari on Thursday, September 10, 2009 10:13 - 15 Comments
Collaborative platforms and open data as keys to the new public-private ecosystem
In my two last two posts I focused on collaborative platforms and ecosystems in private sector and in the public sector. In my previous post, I specifically discussed the emergence of what I called the New Public-Private Ecosystem and key examples. I noted that this new type of public-private collaboration would lead to a reconstruction of our notions of what activities are done by public organizations and what is done by private organizations. I further argued that the New Public-Private Ecosystem would be fueled by open collaborative platforms that seamlessly enable differing public and private organizations to combine respective capabilities to collectively serve the common good as well as spur innovation and drive new economic efficiencies.
This week I’ve had the pleasure of attending a very well executed Government 2.0 Summit held in Washington D.C. I was pleasantly surprised to find many ‘kindred spirits’ at the conference and additional examples that signal the rise New Public-Private Ecosystem.
Tim O’Reilly, whose firm conducted the conference, opened with a keynote that argued that the twin developments of open data and the power of shared platforms had the capacity to revolutionize government. He noted that platforms such as Google, eBay, Amazon, Craigslist and Apple’s iPhone App Store were successful because they harnessed user contributions to create enormous collective value – value way beyond what they could do alone. He then went on to argue that this same logic could be applied to the role of government services. He argued that the government needed to begin to think of itself as a platform. He pointed to how the investments made by the U.S. Department of Defense in globally positioned satellites (GPS) spurred others to develop applications, products and services, and spawned an entire industry.
Over 40 noteworthy examples of the government as a platform were seen at the conference. Here are some of the highlights:
- NASA’s Spacebook – “Lessons Learned from NASA’s Enterprise Social Network,” (Emma Antunes) that supports internal and external cross-fertilization of ideas and innovation at the juncture of different scientific disciplines.
- TSA’s IdeaFactory – “Transportation Security Administration’s IdeaFactory: Social Media and Securing America,” (Tina Cariola) that harnesses front line TSA employee’s ideas for innovation and continuous improvement at the TSA.
- Citizen budget input in Santa Cruz – “City of Santa Cruz Offers Blueprint for Solving CA Budget Crisis with Social Media,” (Peter Koht) was used to deal with radical budget cuts in municipal services and reallocate resources.
- State of Utah – “Utah Department of Public Safety Media Portal,” (Jeff Nigbur) – a shared portal that coordinates safety information, enables collaboration with private media organizations, and saves money for the State of Utah.
- Data and Platforms – “GeoEnabling Gov 2.0″ (Jack Dangermond) – GIS wizard, pioneer and founder of ESRI, illustrated how open data sources with powerful GIS tools and government platforms can enable “on-the-fly” mashups to support situational awareness and crisis situations in realtime, like the recent Station Wildfire in Los Angeles.
One of my favorite sessions was a panel on “Creating an Effective Platform,” with John Markoff (New York Times), Vinton Cerf (Google), Jack Dorsey (Twitter) and Tim Sparapani (Facebook). Markoff started off the session by distinguishing between “platforms of liberation,” and “platforms of control,” suggesting that platforms of liberation lead to creativity and innovation whereas platforms of control tend to limit creativity, stifle innovation and by implication in the worst case, be used to enslave or oppress. All the panel members reiterated that effective platforms (aka liberating platforms) have the ability to enlist broad voluntary participation. Cerf noted that a combination of design requirements from the Department of Defense for connectivity among all of their assets mixed with the values of the academic community fostered an open, cooperative architecture for the Internet. Dorsey, the creator of Twitter, noted that the concept of a utility, like the electricity grid or the Internet was his inspiration for Twitter – a reliable platform that can be used by others to build new capabilities. Sparapani noted that while Facebook has over 250 million members, it is also important to note that Facebook’s architecture also enlists and supports over a million independent developers that add value to the Facebook platform every day.
At the highest levels of the Obama administration the United States, with the appointments of Vivek Kundra as the first CIO of the United States and Aneesh Chopra as the U.S. CTO, is developing policy frameworks (e.g. The Open Government Directive) and new tools (e.g. data.gov and The Federal IT Dashboard) that will support collaborative platforms and open data. Both Mr. Kundra (see here) and Mr. Chopra (see here) provided additional information on these efforts at the conference.
So the story continues and I believe the mindshare is growing. Policy makers, practitioners and thought leaders are rising to the idea that a globally interconnected world affords new opportunities to reshape government. Open data unleashes the creative potential of citizens and private enterprise to create new services, software applications, and insights that the government cannot do by itself. The shear numbers tell the story. Millions of citizens and hundreds of thousands of companies of all sizes uniting to independently create value and enhance the common good. The proprietary ownership or licensing of that data to a few (Gov 1.0) seriously limits the power of the New Public Private Ecosystem. Now not all government data should be open and privacy must be safeguarded to be sure. Nonetheless, the vast proportion of government data falls under the non-private category.
The same logic applies to collaborative platforms. In contrast to open data, however, collaborative platforms require investment and development. As we further explore the New Public-Private Ecosystem, policy makers, entrepreneurs, and the market will need to work out where it is best for the public sector to invest and where the private sector should invest. The dividing line is not clear. Only 10 years ago, one would not expect Twitter to emerge from the private sector; utilities were the province of governments. But the good news is that democracies, republics, and open societies have the natural open forums to debate and collaborate to find the answer. Closed societies force themselves into a comparative disadvantage on the world scene – they only harness a small proportion of their collective creative spirit. We are not likely to see the New Public-Private Ecosystems and its benefits emerge in those nations.
This is a new age of collaboration and the train has left the station. Distinctions between less government or more government are the realm of old categories and thinking. Government may well get smaller – a happy thought for citizens. Howeverit will get smaller, not through fewer services, but rather through the power of collaborative platforms, open data, and the New Public-Private Ecosystem, and in the final analysis, private citizens will have more services and a play a greater role in the development and delivery of those services. Everyone can win: the dedicated public servant, the engaged citizen, the investor, and the company.
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