Many of us in the technology business have a visceral belief that Information and Communications Technology (ICT) can help drive country growth. [Sometimes called ICT for Development ICT4D with the major subset of M4D, Mobile for Development.] There are many outside the tech world who look at this believe as naive at best, misguided at worst. The skeptic can demand evidence and suggest that evidence provided is non-scientific, anecdotal, misleading, or doesn’t prove cause and effect.
Meanwhile, the evidence and lessons learned continue to mount.
And, practitioners continue to experiment and build good practices.
And, overcome challenges.
A case in point is the webinar hosted in Washington on this subject. Although there may have been some overly enthusiastic speakers with a touch of hyperbole, it was clear that speakers were far from naive.
That practitioners understand, accept, embrace and overcome ICT4D challenges.
There was general agreement that mobile technology and social media has had governance effects. The ability for rapid
organization around an issue is disruptive because it circumvents traditional organizations.
One ICGFM member wondered whether the digital divide means that social media becomes another mechanism for elites at the expense of the poor. Another wondered whether social media is just another mechanism for groups to influence political discourse. My sense is that inexpensive mobile technology is broadening political efficacy and interaction. Social media has become a tool for the rising middle class in developing countries and accessible to the working poor. One ICGFM participant told me that SIM cards cost as low as 30 cents in one African country. And, we can’t forget that social media is leveraged by civil society as representatives of the poor. It’s not perfect, but it’s a lot better than the pre-mobile alternative.
Marshall McLuhan pointed out that the previous medium becomes content for the next. A poll at the conference found that many participants believe that social media is just another communication medium. Social media is used by companies, NGOs and pressure groups to broadcast messages. Advertising has become social. It’s still early days. It’s very much like the first years of television that borrowed from radio, vaudeville and cowboy movies. TV became TV much later – the medium became the message. Television producers learned what the medium can do. We shouldn’t look at the noise about social media advertising and viral videos to make conclusions about the resulting effects on society. After all, TV has changed.
The long-term change to public financial management will come through government interaction with citizens. One participant thought that my idea of ‘citizen auditors’ was fascinating. He thinks that open government and social media will provide more effective outcome feedback loops – much faster and inclusive with more participation than surveys or focus groups. The key change, in my opinion, is that citizens have the tools to report on government outcomes. It’s very difficult to determine effective outcome measurements. And, it’s difficult to get comprehensive reporting even when outcome metrics are good. Why not crowdsource? Citizens can suggest metrics and provide content related to whether objectives are being achieved – narrative, pictures, audio, video etc.
The conference theme is “PFM in the 21st Century”. There is discussion of innovation, standards (COSO, IPSAS, MTEF) and diagnostics (PEFA). We look forward to sharing some of the lessons learned from countries like Namibia, Cambodia, India, Jordan, Peru, Nepal and Korea as the conference progresses.
My view is that the next generation of Public Financial Management will see more emphasis on transparency and open government (procurement, budgets, civil service spending, audit etc.) There will be increasing collaboration with citizens and civil society – technology-enabled participatory budgeting will become the norm. And, this engagement will become increasingly mobile through supporting tablets, smartphones and SMS.
Open Source software continues to gain acceptance in government, especially for middleware. Large vendors have acquired open source companies and more companies are placing code in open source. There have been significant moves to acquire open source software as an alternative to commercial software in governments like France and Russia. Many large COTS vendors try to use FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) about open source security and reliability. Yet, leading open source middleware software has been found to be more secure and reliable. That’s why the largest users of open source software in the US government are DoD, CIA etc.
Software stack commoditization continues with less and less value for software infrastructure, nevertheless big companies continue the approach of trying to “own the customer”. Database and business intelligence vendors have been acquired.And, there is an attempt to put proprietary middleware in hardware boxes to give customers less choice.
Business process management (BPM) has become an integral part of larger enterprise software suites. There has been some consolidation in the market although many best of breed vendros remain. It seems like every year is to be the year of BPM but generally isn’t. My sense is that business process management is often a solution to a problem, it’s just that BPM products are not necessarily the right tool to use.
Software as a Service has exploded. Huge growth. It’s even woken the ERP giants who struggle with the “cloud” business model. As predicted in 2007, the uptake in government has been limited, especially for financial management despite well-publicized usage for e-mail and other services. Governments are now re-branding shared data centres as “private clouds” – which doesn’t really give governments cloud benefits.
Wireless government has picked up especially in developing countries. What’s new here is the impact of civil society and innovation outside of government. Governments can use crowdsourcing or be crowdsourced – as we saw with the Arab Spring. Tools like Usahidi have proven highly effective for election and crisis mapping. Arab Spring. The explosion in mobile technology usage in Africa, Asia and Latin America is slicing through the digital divide.
SOA adoption is also slower than I expected. Many vendors try to hoodwink us into thinking they have Service-Oriented Architectures. It is difficult to fully support SOA, particularly with granular objects with legacy ERP code. It’s got to the point where SOA is just a noise word that vendors use rather than something customers can use.
Government Financial Management System of the Future: Prediction and Reality
I predicted that the GRP of the future would be modular, de-centralized, integrated, non-monolithic, multiple vendors products, mobile, commodity and innovative. How does this compare with the 2012 reality?
Not so good predictions: yes, major vendors have put barriers to modular and non-monolithic software architectures. There’s some hope as vendors seem forced to, at least, support integration. This has created some space for multiple products to work together for customers. Large vendors are creating “ecosystems” for partner products. That increases choice – but not optimal choice because it relies on monolithic products.
Scorecard for 2007 Predictions
Better predictions: Mobile technology – now with the Consumerization of IT (CoIT) with tablets and smart phones is disrupting the market and giving users better tools. This is one of the innovations that we are seeing that provides governments with IT-enabled innovation. Others: social media, crowdsourcing, big data, visualization.
Open source operates on a community model with more decentalized governance much like Web 2.0 and social networking
Open source and open data have network effects: the more there is the more valuable it is
Open source is fueling a lot of open government (there was a lot of talk about uses of Drupal and the OpenAtrium distribution)
Open source generally enables more effective security and provides higher quality middleware making the US Department of Defence as the largest user within the American government
Open source provides the flexibility needed to adapt social media for government usage
Open source provides the cost flexibility for governments to do more with less (with interesting case studies from California and New York)
Data visualization was another consistent topic. Geographic information, in particular, has become effective in assisting disaster recovery. The Ushahidi platform for disaster recovery was also a consistent topic.
The unconference (second picture) is more of a flexible networking event than the typical conference (first picture). Here are some of my tweets from the conference:
jamiey Great CA success story of meeting a state-wide redesign mandate w/gov webmasters by connecting & training. Community empowers. #techATstate 2:16 PM Feb 11th via TweetDeck Retweeted by freebalance and 1 other
shervin On this day, Feb 11 1990, Mandela was released from jail after 27 years. Now, Egyptian people are free after 30 years of dictatorship. 2/11 12:02 PM Feb 11th via Twitter for iPhone Retweeted by freebalance and 30 others
techATstate Every single federal agency now has congressional authority to pursue prizes, challenges, and competitions – Aneesh Chopra #techatstate 9:41 AM Feb 11th via web Retweeted by freebalance and 3 others
It’s an era of seemingly different and overhyped stories about government. So many technologies over such long periods that we fail to notice the transformation. Or the pattern of technology-induced transformation.
(For those of you unfamiliar with this notion of technology changing the nature of government, consult the work of Harold Innis, who described how the medium used for writing determined the nature of ancient empires, and Marshall McLuhan, who described the effects of technology on society.)
2010 exposed three interrelated government transformation trends:
Change of the government to citizen power relationship though increasing mobile, Internet and social networking usage
Global re-alignment, known as the “new normal” enabled through improved automated governance tools and ICT for Development (ICT4D)
Devolution of the nation state partly as a consequence of social networking and DIY content
As the Las Vegas Sun reported, 2010 was a very digital year: “Ecuador’s president announced a state of emergency because of civil unrest via a tweet… People were engaged through social media, connecting to politicians, charities and causes. The American Red Cross raised nearly $33 million for the earthquake relief effort in Haiti via text messaging.”
Will Social Networking Transform Government?
What this means
Citizens can band together for social change or monitoring governments using untethered mobile technology leveraging existing civil society networks or self-organizing through social networking. Citizens can track even opaque governments meaning that transparency becomes the only way to present the government view: the emperor has no clothes.
Surveillance technology has become affordable and is starting to bridge a different digital divide. The gap between government and citizen surveillance capabilities will continue to narrow especially as citizens gain asymmetrical advantages. This will create more focus on performance in government. Long-term prediction: the debate over government size and cost will transition to the value of government. Dogma and opinion will be replaced by data and facts.
Technology generates more concerns over balancing privacy, surveillance, security and transparency. Should anonymity be promoted to encourage freedom of expression or should radical transparency, following the Facebook ethos, be used to encourage thoughtful debate? Is Julian Assange a hero for transparency or a criminal?
Slow migration from the “command and control” efficiencies from the analog world to improved efficiencies and effectiveness of the network model. Government organizations will continue to adopt Government 2.0 technology to improve internal processes and engage external citizens.
International organizations will be further re-aligned to reflect the growth in developing countries. (And, the ability for business to rapidly support the global market will be a competitive advantage.)
Governments will continue to focus on technology incubation to improve economies. At the same time, governments will increasingly release government information to encourage economic activity as described by Tim O’Reilly as “government as platform”. The impact of releasing government collected data to economic development cannot be understated. O’Reilly has pointed out the impact of GPS as an incubator for private sector innovation. There will be a gradual move away from traditional manufacturing incubation in developed countries.
Governments will become more transparent. There will be a higher adoption of budget plans, budget execution, civil service spending, civil service recruitment and procurement portals. Governments will leverage more transparency and accountability to become more efficient and effective. This will improve stability.
Technology will begin to bridge the information gap between producer and speculator. The farmer in the field will have the same commodity price information that the trader has.
There will be increased use of using country systems by donors in order to improve aid effectiveness. The pressure for transparency will increase on donors and citizens demand better results.
Government performance management will become a competitive advantage. The ability to achieve desired results, not just spend money on programs, will become a key element in political debate. This will transcend the dogmatic cleavages we see in many countries.
Marshall McLuhan predicted a global village created through an always present electronic age.
The printing press enabled mass production of books and newspapers in national languages. Languages were standardized. This technology led to the creation of the nation state. Radio, a “hot media”, enabled radical nationalism. Digital technology enables self-organizing. It enables political devolution and decentralization. It also provides the ability to manage at the supranational level. This supports the economies of scale for freer trade and regional organizations. Despite the current Eurozone crisis, countries continue to move towards EU accession and adoption of the Euro.
This global village with DIY organization will change the nature of government and the nation state. It’s still early days. Perhaps government become a competitive provider of services in the physical and virtual worlds as envisioned in the science fiction classic Snow Crash.
2. More rapid impact on business and non-profit
The impact on the for-profit and non-profit world is more apparent. Non-profit NGOs with hierarchical structures are getting dis-intermediated. Networked non-profits and methods for direct donation from individuals to recipients are rises. Meanwhile, the concept that “the business of business is business” has been wildly refuted. Business has come to recognize the need to have sustainable customers to have a sustainable business. Business also has become to understand the impact of practices on society. (Kind of a corollary to the impact that government has on business.) New business models that focus on sustainability and real value, rather than what Umair Haque calls the “zombieconomy”.
These represent a few elements of discourse that can distract us from what is really going on.
Outsourcing. Outsourcing could be a seen as an expression of the centre-periphery model in operation. Yet, effective use of outsourcing has been shown to have economic advantages in the short term to developed countries. In the long run, outsourcing increases stability in developing countries, raises living standards and, ultimately, will provide a more equitable environment. Salaries will increase in developing countries.
Globalization radicals. There is some validity that developed countries have exploited trade negotiations. Technology and transportation has created a global environment. The cat is out of the bag.
Tablets. Tablet, eReader, netbook and smart phone wars are unimportant in the big picture. These technologies reduce costs, reduce the digital divide and make citizens more agile. (In some ways, the real takeaway is that usability can dramatically improve adoption.)
Cable News. The increasing sensationalism of cable news is indicative of the loss of television impact on citizens. It’s the last desperate moves of an industry in decline.
Cloud Computing. Cloud computing is about deployment, agility and does not appear to have any material impact except as an enabler of citizen surveillance and Government 2.0.
CSR Backlash. This backlash to CSR with the notion that it reduces profit or a scam are criticisms of the early days of a broad trend.
Donors and Country Systems. Donors will transition from thinking country systems are, as Richard Allen calls “courageous”, to realizing that this will reduce high transaction costs and encourage capacity building and anti-corruption. Also, many of the country systems have better use of public financial management good practices than donor systems.
According to the FCW article, “a core group of government workers have been walking the walk of Government 2.0 for several years but now they are receiving important support and official sanction.” This observation has been confirmed in conversations, presentations and articles. Government 2.0 has entered the “technology adoption cycle”. Experimentation is exposing good Government 2.0 practices. What is the next stage?
From Figure to Ground
Marshall McLuhan identified the problem decades ago: humans often fail to see what is important about new technology. We often identify things that are not important as important. “Figure” is what is important – the characteristics that represent change. “Ground” is everything else. He pointed out that everything moves from figure to ground, whether it is print, radio or word processing.
Government 2.0 is clearly “figure” because it represents change. 10 years from now, Government 2.0 will be common place. Public servants won’t be talking about the security or cultural issues about Government 2.0. There will be no discussion of the ROI of Government 2.0 – just like there is little discussion of the ROI of mobile telephones. Government 2.0 will be. Government 2.0 will “go to ground.” Participation and collaboration will be pervasive. Public servants will wonder how jobs could be done any other way – similar to today when we wonder how we survived without fax machines and the Internet.
Government Performance Management requires Citizen Feedback
Government 2.0 and government transformation is inevitable, according to Doug Hadden, VP of Products at FreeBalance, and VP Communications for ICGFM. Government, society and technology trends are creating an environment for transformation. Citizens demand improved performance. Techniques used for Corporate Performance Management (CPM) are not effective in government.
Mr. Hadden introduced Web 2.0 and Government 2.0 applications. ICGFM has been leveraging social networking or Web 2.0:
The differences between E-Government and Government 2.0 were presented. The impact of cloud computing, semantic web and mobile computing was put into perspective. Mr. Hadden questioned the categories of unstructured and structured data used in the software industry. He predicts that the next generation of government applications will integrate transactions, documents and collaboration.
Corporate Performance Management techniques operate well in business because there is a bottom line – profit. There can be numerous unintended consequences of government programs. These impacts may not be measured giving and incorrect view of success. Government Performance Management focuses on structural concerns, according to Mr. Hadden. Internal and external social networks are required to provide a 360 degree view of government performance. Examples of the use of Government 2.0 to enhance government performance was presented.
Security is a concern for Government 2.0 adoption. Yet, the fastest adopters for this technology are in the Defence and Homeland Security departments in the United States. The US Government Intellipedia application has become the “meme” case study for Government 2.0 adoption, according to Mr. Hadden.
Inevitable Government Transformation
Mr, Hadden placed Government Performance Management in context to social change and social pressures. Globalization creates competitive pressures among countries. The desire for improved governance and transparency from citizens is creating more open governments. And, citizens and businesses have expectations set through the use of e-commerce and Web 2.0 tools.
This move to Government 2.0 and Government Performance Management is part of long-term trends. Mr. Hadden introduced theories presented by Marshall McLuhan. He suggests that government transformation is inevitable – that Government 2.0 is a technology enabler. The organizational and societal changes that make this inevitable are:
Flattening of organizations
Move from vertical to virtual integration
Project and program focus in government
Top-down to bottom-up organizations
Role changes and the move to generalization
There will remain cultural barriers to adoption of Government Performance Management 2.0. Mr. Hadden described a number of government initiatives world-wide that demonstrate movement to this new model of social networking and performance. A scenario for the future was presented – showing the necessity of linking transactions, documents and collaboration in order to have a full picture of government performance.
Imagine our surprise when we were invited to speak at the Financial Management Institute Professional Development Week about the value of ERP in government. Why? For one thing, FreeBalance is not an Enterprise Resource Planning vendor. We’re a Government Resource Planning (GRP) vendor, as we have spoken about frequently in this blog. ERP vendors operate in many vertical markets – FreeBalance provides software for governments only.
Nevertheless, we took up the challenge. The presentation was focused for Government of Canada financial managers, but it is applicable to many countries. We focused on three elements of the Treasury Board Secretariat Investment Planning Policy: value for money, total cost and project governance.
We think that we did a very good job presenting an objective viewpoint. We didn’t talk about FreeBalance and how our solutions are more applicable than generic software for governments.
Performance measurements are more difficult to determine for governments than companies. The private sector has an objective measurement for performance: profit. FreeBalance presented the case for linking Government Performance Management with Government 2.0 at the recent Financial Management Institute Professional Development Week.
The technical discipline of “corporate performance management” provides governments with compelling planning and analytical tools. However, the “performance management” discipline is narrow focused and does not include all relevant aspects of government performance. Government 2.0 is a new trend in government transformation. Our presentation describes how Government 2.0 will transform the practice of public financial management. We describe how the government “back-office” benefits from citizen and civil society collaboration.
The practical application of performance management techniques in government has had mixed results. Unlike the private sector, Government Performance Management has no easily identifiable “bottom-line.” Government initiatives have unexpected positive and negative consequences. The selection of specific outputs and outcomes does not provide a 360 degree view of government performance.
Government 2.0 is the use of Web 2.0 techniques to enable collaboration among like-minded people in government. Government 2.0 provides the tools necessary to link government initiatives with societal impact. It also enables governments to improve performance by leveraging the wisdom of crowds.