Strategic Approach to Government 2.0

One of the challenges that continually surfaces in Government 2.0 initiatives is what I call the tool syndrome. People get stuck on the tools. Should we use Facebook or Twitter? Do we need a blog or a wiki? Come on, admit it. We’ve all been there. I know I have.

The tools question is one that needs to be addressed at some point in the process, but it is not the first thing that should be considered. The first thing that should be considered is the business need. What do you want to do? Why?

Over the last couple of months, I’ve been working on a strategic framework that helps organizations articulate and communicate what they want to accomplish and how to go about it. The framework is based on Benefits Realization, articulated by John Thorpe in his book The Information Paradox. Benefits Realization provides the fundamental governance, necessary conditions, and tools and techniques to enable organizations to effectively and efficiently manage business value from IT investments.

The frameworks helps organizations:

  1. To understand and align their programs and investments with their strategy;
  2. To help them quantify and manage the achievement of their business outcomes;
  3. To translate those strategies into meaningful action; and
  4. To achieve results.

My example of the Gov 2.0 Strategic Framework is a draft based on the Province of BC’s Citizens @ the Centre:BC Government 2.0: A Transformation and Technology Strategy for the BC Public Service. It illustrates how the Province’s initiatives/programs lead to the business outcomes articulated in their strategy.

The business outcomes are the circles on the right-hand side of the diagram. The initiatives are the boxes on the left of the outcomes. Usually, a Results Chain will include contributions, assumptions (risks) and accountabilities. I have omitted these components in the interest of simplicity to clarify the pictorial narrative. A document supporting the Results Chain is the Benefits Register which tracks the measure of each business outcome, including baseline and target value. The circles on the bottom are business outcomes that I have not mapped yet. Like I say, this is a work in progress.

The framework (Results Chain) tells a story in a single image and is an excellent communication tool for government executive, public service employees and the general public in understanding government’s strategic approach to Government 2.0.

The Results Chain is used by executive to articulate organization goals and understand the traceability between initiatives and business outcomes. Drafting a Results Chain on a whiteboard will precipitate a discussion that includes investment management decisions, a prioritization of programs, and a high level understanding of each program’s contribution to organization objectives.

Steve Jobs Tribute

We will look back at Steve Jobs in the same way as we look back at Leonardo Da Vinci, Galileo and Mozart.

Steve Jobs not only revolutionized technology, he revolutionized the world. His innovative user-centric interface design will forever change the way we design everything in the future.

Imagine a car designed by Apple. That is our future thanks to Steve Jobs.

I like the way this bagpiper avoids the attention of the media in the following video. His intention is only to pay respect to a great man.

Steve Jobs, RIP.

Open Government Risk Aversion one of Government’s Greatest Risks

As we look across the open government landscape, we see shining beacons of leadership and success. Certainly since the election of Obama and the subsequent appointment of the first U.S. Federal CIO, Vivek Kundra, the U.S. Government has lead the world in the technology-enabled transparency.  The U.S. drives performance and opens data to engage citizens, businesses, and policymakers to create citizen-centered apps for a fraction of the cost of traditional development. The U.S. open government strategy has saved U.S. taxpayers millions of dollars in I.T. spending over the last two and a half years by engaging citizens to develop hundreds of innovative, lightweight and cost-effective apps based on open data.

The U.K. also embraces open data and open government to allow government to be more transparent, efficient and responsive to the needs of its citizens. Data.gov.uk allows citizens to easily search and consume data, share applications, find developers and request new data.

Closer to home, British Columbia was the first provincial government in Canada to launch an open data website (data.gov.bc.ca) with a progressive data license, over 2,500 data sets, and tools for non-developers to create applications. On the same day, BC launched a redesigned, citizen-centric website (www.gov.bc.ca) and a new, open information portal to proactively release information that is requested through the FOI process.

However, a quick environmental scan reveals that the majority of governments in Canada (federal, provincial, territorial and municipal), and indeed the world, are resisting the movement to open government. Although, according to Mr. Kundra, there are “21 nations, 29 states, 11 cities and several international organizations” that have initiated open data platforms, most have not yet implemented an open government policy.

Interesting, when you consider the following benefits of open government.

  1. Open government stimulates economic growth and saves government money, in a time of extreme economic and budgetary pressures. Open government:
    1. Enables government to do more with less by leveraging technology and engaging its greatest resource – citizens.
    2. Assists in the development of new products, services and businesses.
    3. Encourages research and development and educational and scientific communities
    4. Replaces many large, costly IT projects (which take years to develop and often underperform because business requirements and technology change in the time lag for implementation) with smaller, citizen-centric applications that deliver incremental, focused business value early in the project lifecycle.
    5. Reduces the requirement of what can be expensive FOI requests with a proactive FOI strategy.
    6. Stimulates the economy by providing jobs to small, start-up technology firms which leverage open data to create value for citizens and by providing more agile, responsive services to businesses to help them be more competitive in the global marketplace.
    7. Increases accountability and reduces expenditures that do not provide appropriate return on investment for citizens with public scrutiny of government spending.
  2. Open government makes government more transparent and accountable and drives. Open government:
    1. Engages citizens, NGO’s and businesses in the consultation, deliberation, decision-making and implementation of public policy, to drive more effective and responsive results based on supporting data.
    2. Reduces the risk of ‘hacktivism’ (politically-motivated hacking into computer systems) and political unrest because citizens and interest groups are engaged in the political decision-making process.
  3. Open government greatly improves services to citizens by becoming more citizen centric and collaborative.

Risk aversion and fear of the unknown thwarts public institutions from realizing the benefits of open government. I find this interesting because it is risk aversion in the area of open government that could be one of government’s greatest risks. Government’s risk aversion to open government leads to greater risk of:

  1. Real or perceived government corruption
  2. Poor investment management decisions
  3. Alienation of citizens, businesses and interest groups
  4. An underperforming economy
  5. Not getting re-elected

Gov 2.0 is not (just) Government as a Platform

Gov 2.0 is more about people than it is about technology, more about culture than about the internet.

Before a presentation this week on how I use twitter to advocate for Gov 2.0 someone asked me: What is Gov 2.0?

I explained that Gov 2.0 is the next generation of government. It is a public service renewal where government becomes more efficient, responsive, and open to citizens. It is a recognition that we (public servants and citizens) are all in it together.

I told him about the launch of British Columbia’s new open data portal Data BC and a citizen-focused internet site this week. Along with increasingly more governments around the world, the Province of BC is committed to becoming more open, transparent and citizen-centric.

Gov 2.0 is about working with citizens to solve the really big issues that government can’t handle alone like health care, climate change, jobs, the economy, drug addiction, crime and poverty. It is a paradigm shift and, with enough citizen engagement, it is a societal transformation that includes citizens in governmental deliberation and decision making.

I didn’t tell him about Tim O’Reilly’s definition of Government 2.0 as “government as a platform.” O’Reilly, a forward thinker and the founder of O’Reilly Media, explains: “Government 2.0, then, is the use of technology—especially the collaborative technologies at the heart of Web 2.0—to better solve collective problems at a city, state, national, and international level.”

I’m a big fan of Tim O’Reilly. He is talking about how Government 2.0 makes use of the Web 2.0 platform technologies (cloud computing, collective intelligence apps, social media, mobile devices) to provide services to citizens. At the same time, he says, government needs to move away from being a ‘vending machine government‘ (where taxpayers put in money and government delivers complete, finished services) to being a collaborative government that works with citizens to create value. What I like is Tim’s call to action: “As technologists … we can do our part to be bold, to be brave, and think fresh because that is what will make a platform for greatness.”

Vending Maching Government

But I think we risk losing people when we talk about government as a platform. Gov 2.0 is not just about technology. The revolution was sparked by technology, and technology enables it, but Gov 2.0 is more about people than it is about technology, more about culture than about the internet. Gov 2.0 is about people being passionate and making changes for the collective good. Its success is more dependent on trust and people being willing to authentically share and participate, than it is on the latest social media tool. Even the name ‘Gov 2.0’ connotes technology, the second major revision of software. Sometimes I use the term ‘open government’ because it is more accessible for non-techies.

Let’s face it, we collectively have some large issues to address, and the problem isn’t that we don’t have enough technology or communication media. The challenge is that people need to come together and contribute through the technology to address the big issues. The challenge for government is that we need to build trust. We need to be transparent, engage with the public, understand their concerns, listen to their needs, harness their diverse expertise, be inclusive, provide value, and follow through on promises (walk the talk). As citizens, we need to become more involved, stand for something, understand the issues, lead change, share authentically, and know what we are passionate about and make a difference.

In British Columbia, as in many parts of the world, we are in exciting times and moving in the right direction. Sure, we have big challenges and a long way to become more transparent and build trust, but we are taking big strides in the right direction.

How do we organize government so that citizens can participate?

We are in the midst of a digital social revolution. Changes that are so dramatic in the Arab spring also wash upon the shores of democratic countries, though to a considerably lesser degree. But it is a revolution nevertheless. Just as we are unaware of the earth rotating around the sun at approximately 67,000 MPH, we are desensitized to the lightening-fast changes to our digital world and their social implications. The social, participatory web is enabling an informed citizenry and the democratization of knowledge and power.

At the same time, we are faced with complex, global and potentially life-threatening issues that impact our environment, economy and society. With the advancements of social media, the question that we all should be asking is: How do we organize government so that citizens can participate more fully in the decision-making and execution of initiatives that impact our lives, the lives of our children, and the future of our planet?

Democracy comes from the Greek rule by the people and it is a form of government where all citizens have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives. In perspective, it is useful to remember Winston Churchill’s words: “No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”

One of the problems we have with democracy is that citizens do not in fact have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives. I see three important ways we can redesign government so that people can participate more effectively.

  1. Use Gov 2.0 to lower the transaction costs for citizens to participate fully with government
  2. Make government data open by default
  3. Ensure that government is transparent

Today, I want to comment on point 1.

1. Use Gov 2.0 to lower the transaction costs for citizens to participate fully with government

According to Don Lenihan’s public engagement framework, Rethinking the Public Policy Process, citizens participate with government in three processes: consultation, deliberation, and public engagement.

The consultation process is when citizens are consulted and public opinion is collected in wikis, blogs, Facebook pages, public hearings, telephone interviews, or online surveys, to give some examples. Then, government makes a decision based on that information. Although sometimes productive, this process is not effective when we are considering highly contentious and/or complex issues.

The deliberation process is when citizens contribute to the discussion on how to proceed with what is discovered in consultation process. Participants address issues, negotiate, seek synergies and/or compromises, and arrive at strategies to proceed in light of differing opinions. Government then makes the final decision.

The public engagement process is when citizens contribute to (or even lead/facilitate) the consultation process, deliberation process, policy and legislation decisions, and/or actions to address the issue. The public and government are partners throughout the entire public engagement process.

The social and interactive and participatory nature of Gov 2.0 makes it a natural enabler of all three forms of public involvement in government policy process. We have some good examples of consultation, deliberation, and public engagement via web 2.0 (i.e., http://www.livingwatersmart.ca/blog/, http://challenge.gov/, and http://www.federalregister.gov/), but surely this is just the beginning. We need to design government so it engages with citizens to participate more fully in making decisions and creating policy that impacts their lives.

One of the challenges we face, for example, is identity. When you log onto your bank account, the bank knows it is you who is transferring money into another account. If government had a similar high assurance of a citizen’s identity, it would enable high value Gov 2.0 services and support more effective participation for citizens. A verified identity would:

  • Allow citizens to access secure online services such as health information and passport renewal
  • Provide more credibility and lay a foundation of trust for online participants in the deliberation, negotiation, and collaboration of public policy
  • Enable online voting for public policy decisions and even the election of government representatives

We are in the midst of a digital revolution with profound social implications. Government, being one of our most entrenched institutional organizations, has a challenge and opportunity to grow with this change.

Citizens want a voice and stake in their government. They want to know government is responsive to their needs. People will no longer tolerate a secretive, paternalistic, ‘we-know-better’ government. The opportunity for government is to involve citizens and earn their trust. Real change will only occur when the public is involved and therefore willing to take shared ownership and responsibility for the issues that affect their lives.

Innovative Gov 2.0 – Turning it Upside Down

Think differently.

It turns out that even creative, out-of-the-box thinking follows certain laws and principles. This is a good thing. In government, we are challenged not to pave the cow path. What does the future of Gov 2.0 look like? How do we think differently about providing valuable services to citizens?

Genrikh Altshuller noticed a pattern to creative thinking. As a clerk in a Russian patent office processing 40,000 patents between 1946 and 1969, he realized that inventions and patentable ideas follow predictable laws of evolution. Altshuller postulated TRIZ (the Russian acronym for the Theory of Inventive Problem Solving) as a model that describes how technical systems evolve towards their increased ideality by overcoming contradictions.

My intention here is to apply the principles of TRIZ to think creatively about the possible advancements of Gov 2.0 and the next stage in its evolution.

According to TRIZ, technology evolves by overcoming contradictions. In order to predict the evolution of Gov 2.0, let’s consider a contradiction that must be solved. Data is a good example. Worldwide data is growing exponentially. Even as the technology to store and access data is becoming more efficient and cheaper, data growth remains IT’s biggest challenge (according to Gartner). As part of the open data movement, government data is increasingly more available to citizens. Data is a good. Data is the foundation of information, and information provides value to citizens. The contradiction arises when you begin to think of citizen’s valuable time. The more data (and information) that is available, more often than not, the more time it takes to find, and the more costly it is to distribute.

How do we improve the productivity of citizens looking for information and services via Gov 2.0 and, at the same time, ensure they have access to the growing stores of data they need to find that information?

With contradiction in hand, we use the TRIZ Contradiction Matrix to determine which TRIZ principle may be considered to trigger innovation for Gov 2.0. Using ‘productivity’ as an improving feature and ‘loss of information’ as the worsening feature of the contradiction, one output of the Contradiction Matrix is the invention principle turn the process upside down.

We tend to think of Gov 2.0 as government informing (or creating services for) the public. If we turn this upside down and look at it from this new perspective, we can consider the public informing (or producing services) for government. Hmm … interesting view. We already do this by exposing data for citizens to write code for as part of the open government data movement. But to turn the whole process upside down? Can we crowdsource government? Data, information, applications, and even policy would be managed by citizens. The implication would be government light or, taken to the furthest point on the spectrum, no government at all.

Realistically, government is here to stay. In Canada’s federal election earlier this month, we had only a 61.4% of all eligible voters turn out for a 15 minute commitment may only occur once every four years. Lincoln’s ideal of “government of the people, by the people, for the people” assumes an engaged citizenry. But voter apathy is partly a result of antiquated government practices. Perhaps turning it upside down is the answer. We need to organize government so that citizens can participate. Gov 2.0 and the open government data movement is a start in the right direction. To take it a step further, government data should be open by default. Furthermore, decision makers and the decision making process need to be transparent. We need to leverage Gov 2.0 to lower transaction costs so that citizens engage in policy and decision making.

When it comes down to it, the purpose of government is to serve citizens. Turning it upside down suggests the best way to do is to listen, facilitate, enable, and then, in some cases, get out of the way. Democratization and decentralization of government through Gov 2.0 can reduce the overhead and cost of government services and enable citizens to participate in their democratic right, not once every four years but on a much more regular basis. Only then will “government of the people, by the people, for the people” ring true.

5 Objections to Social Media in Government … and their Responses

How do we address the typical objections that we hear at government decision-making tables about the use of social media in government? Let’s face it, in any government organization there will be a mix of decision-makers who recognize the value of social media tools in government, and those who don’t. Here is a table of typical objections to social media in government and some suggested responses.

 Objection

 Response

 1. Employees will waste their time on Facebook and other social networks. This is a question of trust. The same objection was raised for the telephone. If you don’t trust your employees, you are micromanaging them. Trust them, give them autonomy, and watch productivity and engagement metrics soar.
 2. What is the business value of social media? I’ve blogged about this before. From a high level, improved:

  1. Citizen engagement
  2. Employee engagement
  3. Communication and collaboration

Social media is a powerful platform that helps government expand service delivery channels, improve online customer services, and communicate directly with constituents on the web.

The best way to introduce the value of Gov 2.0 to decision-makers is to start small with one social media channel to address a single business problem. Put your energy into the initiative and make it work, preferable with performance measures. Then go back to the excutive table with your success.

Repeat.

 3. What about privacy concerns? Go to where the public already is: Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, for example. Citizens have already shared their personal information with these social media sites. You are only engaging in conversations whey they are. Obviously, do not share entrusted personal information over the internet. In a public social network (like Facebook, Youtube, or Twitter) facilitated by federal, provincial or local government, encourage participants to provide feedback, and upload pictures and video. Be sure of your privacy laws before uploading citizen personal information, including videos, photos and opinions. Check out British Columbia’s Social Media Guidelines as a starting point, understanding that every jurisdiction will have different privacy laws.
 4. How do I control  official government communications?  You still can. Think of social media as just another communication channel, like the telephone, front counter, and website.
 5. What about the ROI? A lot has been written about this. Google “ROI” and “Gov 2.0” or check out this article on Gov 2.0 metrics. The most important point here is that you don’t use social media for the sake of social media. You need a business problem you want to address with social media. For example, employee engagement, improved collaboration, or citizen engagement. You need a specific purpose like updating citizens on the progress of a natural disaster such as forest fires or floods, or perhaps the outbreak of a dangerous virus. There is a new Microsoft Excel-based tool that can be used by government agencies to quickly assess the public value of their Gov 2.0 initiative.