Adobe has several folks participating in the World Economic Forum in Davos. We were excited to participate in the creation of WELCOM which is new online community designed to extend the collaborative power of DAVOS 1 week summit throughout the entire year. There is a good post by Don Tapscot on WELCOM that you can read here. And if you are interested in a daily sum up of the proceedings, Adobe’s Rob Tarkoff (who keynoted our Adobe Open Government Assembly) is posting insights on the Adobe Conversations Blog.
Posts in Category "Web 2.0"
I really enjoyed Vivek Kundra’s blog last week ‘They Gave Us The Beatles, We Gave Them Data.gov’ as he welcomed the launch of data.gov.uk. He writes, “It is exciting to see the seeds of openness, accountability, and transparency taking root around the world.” So I thought I’d draw attention to some of my favorite international examples of what happens when public servants, “are dedicated to breaking down long standing barriers between governments and the people they serve.”
The Australian Government Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research decided that it was unreasonable for a small business to have to interact separately with dozens of different government agencies before it could legally operate. A new hairdressing business had to first seek approval from 27 agencies for jurisdictional registration, insurance, healthcare, signage, and licenses to play music and serve food (i.e coffee.) before it could legally operate. So Australia created business.gov.au to create a single service in the cloud for business to interact with government. The results were both quantitatively and qualitatively impressive. Listen to Anthony Steve talk about it here.
The London Borough of Southwark struggled to deliver housing benefits to people in need in a timely fashion. By providing more elegant user centric tools to open up process and empower public servants to be accountable to those in need, they reduced the time to benefit from 38 days to 1 day. Listen to Dominic Cain talk about it here.
In 2009, people around the world participated in an open dialogue about international policies and priorities unlike ever before. They did so because the U.S. State Department opened up its public diplomacy to a transparent and collaborative process through its Co.nx program. When U.S. officials spoke, people were invited to listen, question and comment without limitation from their geography, nationality or technical skill. If you’d like to join the dialogue, you can do so here and if you’d like to see pictures of the application that made it possible you can do so here.
Of course all of these examples originated before Open Government became the mantra of a new generation of technologically inspired public servants. But they illustrate that promise can become practice very quickly. And as the British Invasion in 1964 marked the official genesis of ten years of musical innovation, so shall the arrival of fully sanctioned Open Government initiatives like data.gov give rise to innovations in public service. It will be an interesting decade.
Apps.Gov was launched in September 2009 by U.S. CIO Vivek Kundra as a key element of President Obama’s initiative to lower the cost of government operations while driving innovation within government. The online procurement vehicle features pre-approved software that is compliant with various federal policies.
Adobe partner Carahsoft has been a key player in making innovative, cloud-based applications available to federal agencies via Apps.gov. In December, several applications were added including Adobe Acrobat Connect Pro. For more information on techologies available from Carahsoft on apps.gov, visit their site.
Adobe partner, ConnectSolutions, provides a great summary of President Obama’s historic Town Hall in Shanghai, China. Read more.
Should government use Twitter? Can you really say ANYTHING in 140 characters? Facebook, how can that be a business tool? It’s for college kids to share stories and pictures about their drunken exploits. And blogs? Well, who cares what I have to say?!? (spoken from the perspective of potential government bloggers)
Here’s some more FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt for the acronym challenged):
* Social media is insecure!
* What a time waster!
* I know my employees are going to say something they shouldn’t!
* Eh, this technology is for kids, mine use it at home every day.
* I can’t be bothered to learn yet another technology
Ok, so, I’m sure you get the point. Anytime something new comes along, there will be those who will do all they can to put up road blocks. It is a common response from some people when facing something unfamiliar. However, on the flip side, there are the innovators and early adopters to balance the FUD with hype. It’s this community of people who typically believe so deeply in a particular idea that they tend to see it as an answer to all things! Of course, over time, as a new idea becomes more acceptable and adopted for use by a larger population, the fear begins to minimize along with the hype.
The day after his inauguration, President Obama issued a memo calling for an "unprecedented level of openness in Government." Many agencies are going through the process of identifying what open government and transparency mean to their operations. Others are already in execution mode – including the US Department of State.
Over the weekend I listened to commentary on the passage of the President’s Stimulus bill and heard Congressman Ron Paul claim that there were only 5 hard copies of the legislative tome available for review to legislators for a material period of time. I also saw reporters page through the bill on TV to illustrate the hand scribbled amendments in the margin of the final version sent to the President.
I was a legislative aid on Capitol Hill from 1993-1999, when collaboration technology was just getting started, as was 24 hour news coverage. Legislation was available online, but never immediately. Back then, when the President’s budget was sent to Congress, it was done so in paper, and staff would stay up all night reading through a single version so the Senator could have comments ready for an early morning statement. Rapidly amended legislation always caused tension between Members because there was no way to quickly distribute changes on the fly and make intelligent public comments to feed the increasing 24 hour news demands. So the news coverage for urgent funding packages (usually supplemental’s for disaster response) or high profile bills usually devolved into a discussion of process and representative fairness, rather than the substantive merits of the legislation. Much like the public discourse this past weekend.
But this is 2009.
The Washington DC technology community has been abuzz lately with the idea of cloud computing. This is largely spurred on by a classic tech battle shaping up between Goggle and Microsoft over the delivery model for software applications to federal agencies.
The cloud is a metaphor for the Internet, based on the graphical image depicted in computer network diagrams. The specific technical meaning of cloud computing is dependent on who is talking about it. At the highest level, cloud computing is like having pizza delivered rather than the traditional way of dining in the restaurant. Either method may be more appropriate depending on your circumstance, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that one is always better than the other or that the pizza will taste any better. For some government agencies, cloud computing will be as sensible delivery method, for others it will not, or perhaps a hybrid will be best. If you’d like to see beautiful versions of well known on-premise software applications (Acrobat and Connect) hosted in the cloud, go to www.Acrobat.com, you can use them for free.
Unfortunately all the enthusiasm over cloud computing has clouded over the more important opportunity for government software applications – which is that for truly connected democracy, applications have to be ubiquitous. If a user is offline, working across multiple devices or operating on an unsupported platform, cloud applications may fall short. Government agencies shouldn’t get locked in to the cloud or not cloud debate, but should consider the true needs of their end users, all relevant infrastructure in the ecosystem that can be leveraged (Yes, this is a veiled plug for Adobe Reader, Flash and AIR) and leverage the appropriate delivery models to optimize the user experience and productivity.
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I was reading this article earlier today and it sparked a few thoughts about netbooks. I’ve been in the tech industry for over 25 years now and I’ve witnessed so many innovations. Today, we have a very interesting combination of powerful, yet flexible ‘servers’ or services (feel free to substitute your favorite term here), powerful yet highly mobile devices, relatively stable (at least in the more populated areas) and affordable wireless networks and access to ubiquitous ‘client-side’ technologies (Yes, I’m referring to Reader, Flash and AIR!) that enable the creation of sophisticated, yet easy to use applications.