I attended a webinar from the Inter-American Development Bank last week. Francis Fukuyama described ideas on how governments reform over time. He suggested that there are many paths to reform – democracy is not necessarily a precursor to improving government effectiveness. He discussed the impact of middle class on pushing for reform with reference to Turkey, Brazil and the Arab Spring. I find his views of bureaucratic autonomy interesting. Fukuyama suggests that a high degree of autonomy reduces oversight – hence reduces accountability. Higher capacity public services are able to improve effectiveness through discretion. In these cases, discretion leads to improved decision-making rather than increased corruption.
According to the Brunswick Review, a transparency implication for government is:
“Citizen empowerment: New ways of communicating are shifting power from the ruling elites towards networks of organized citizens. The role of social media, mobile and Al Jazeera during the Arab Spring shows the power of media in the hands of those hungry for change.”
Transparency driving four principles of the open world
Tapscott sees the transparency push coming via the web fueled by demographic changes, the financial crisis and a social tsunami “perfect storm”. He observes that the printing press led to the end of the feudal system towards the industrial age. The Internet enables anyone to be a producer. Tapscott points out that this is not the “information age”, it’s the age of networked intelligence. The result:
Collaboration where social media becomes social production – what has been thought as leisure improves productivity and innovation
Transparency where institutional fitness is not longer optional because institutions are becoming “naked”
Sharing where information in the commons rather than holding “intellectual property” creates the most value and new business models are created
Empowerment were the distribution, decentralization and disaggregation becomes powerful
Implication to governments
Tapscott connects transparency and trust in business. This idea applies more in government where there is a trust deficit – some want smaller government, others want more accountability, many think that politicians are corrupt.
“I’ll give it to you in a sentence. Trust in business is the expectation that the other party will have integrity and transparency. The expression, “What are they hiding?” shows the relationship between transparency and trust.”
Transparency closes the trust deficit. The standard for openness in government will only increase. It’s inevitable.
Crowdsource or be crowdsourced. Governments need to collaborate with citizens to improve results. As Tapscott points out, the Arab Spring and Occupy movement shows us that social media drops the cost of dissent. Governments need to harness the wisdom of citizens to leverage “cognitive surplus” to improve public policy.
Democracy matures from “thin” democracy: elections to something more substantial where citizens and civil society are more empowered and influential. For example, citizen audit may become a civic duty.
Sustainable transparency doesn’t mean government business as usual plus transparency. The key mistake made by open data skeptics is that governments cannot afford the long-term costs for transparency. That’s only true if the government “business model” doesn’t change. As, I’ve pointed out before, there is a transparency value proposition.
Governments can innovate to cut costs and improve productivity through transparency. And, in the global economy, countries cannot fall behind in the transparency arms race. Businesses have choices. As I’ve pointed out before:
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.
Is social media changing society? Business? Government? Malcolm Gladwell’s New Yorker article, why the revolution will not be tweeted, has spurned an echo chamber. An acoustic meme, battling with social media noise. It’s hard to separate, in McLuhan terms, the figure (what’s important now) from the ground.
Marshall McLuhan studied the effects of media. He saw how a new medium, like the printing press, inevitably led to the nation state. He described how a new medium uses the previous medium as content, such as television using radio programs at first – until, the medium becomes the message. The medium changes which has effects in society. A new medium changes the previous medium.
Social Media Effects
Some important effects that we are seeing in the transition from old media to new media:
Traditional media changed new media/social media: reality television, telephone hacking (News of the World) , opinionated cable news adjusts to compete against the always-on internet. It’s an industrial response to a knowledge economy problem.
Social media disintermediation of organizational structures built from industrialization: political parties, unions and NGOs as seen with the Arab Spring where groups self-organized. Traditional organizations are insufficiently agile in the digital age.
Use of traditional media power becomes ineffective: fighting back against social media (Arab Spring, NewsCorp) information through controlled media makes buffoons out of leaders
Acceleration of transparency and accountability: social media thrives on transparency with emphasis on open government, Facebook, and corporate governance. Information once held tight by organizations is exposed via social media. Media monopolies and state media is losing the information battle.
Change of role of traditional media: industrial media items such as the book have changed roles and are being deployed in digital means. The new medium uses the old medium as content.
Category confusion: traditional categories become confusing as new medium enters the transitional phase like “radio with pictures” “horseless carriage”. Today, it’s “social media journalism” where many claim superiority of traditional journalism over social media authors.
The effects of the printing press, telegraph, radio and television did not occur overnight. Much of the criticism suggesting that social media is not affecting change comes from not seeing the trend.
Social media is in the early stage of transforming society. This transformation is gradual.
Observers see the new medium as a variation of a previous medium and see that this change has limited or no impact because of lack of uptake (automobiles) or uptake by influential groups (Facebook)
Use of the previous medium as content leads some to think that the new medium has no use, no content. It’s natural for European television news to report on newspaper headlines and it’s natural to tweet links to on-line newspapers.
When there is an effect (Arab Spring), experts deny that it had much of an effect.
The nature of the medium comes into effect, changing the visceral connections between humans and the medium.
All media, according to McLuhan, are extensions of Man. Digital media is becoming an extension of the nervous system. So, you are not a gadget, but gadgets are extending you.