In an earlier post I discussed about whether vendors may derail government 2.0. My line of reasoning was that most of what government 2.0 is about is bottom-up experimentation and transparency, and neither may be exactly welcome to incumbent IT service providers. In fact, much of shortcomings in e.government relate to doing too much in areas like online services and portals without asking questions such as “is this what people need or care about?”. Also, empowering groups of people to develop their own services by leveraging open data as well as engaging a new breed of suppliers by making procurement far more transparent eats into the revenues of most of the usual suspects (both large and small, locally incumbent vendors).
Earlier today I had an inquiry with a European vendor and I was asked how they can best advise their clients who have hired them to articulate their future e-government/gov 2.0 strategy. My point was that they have to choose between doing the right thing for the client and doing the right thing for themselves.
The former may imply advising the client to spend less in technology, to insource some of the skills needed to figure out a sustainable engagement strategy, to focus on developing policies and empowering employees rather than on improving portals and web sites. The consequences may be less business for the vendor in the short to medium term, as their client pauses and reflects about the best course of action.
The problem is that often government organizations lack the right skills or – if they have those – priorities are different and it is difficult to detach employees who have those skills from their everyday’s responsibilities. So vendors and consultants (assuming they really get the essence of what government 2.0 is about) can play a key role to gather information, to stimulate and propose. What they should not be doing is to own or drive any government 2.0 initiative.
Government 2.0 is about spending less rather than more, it is about leveraging existing resources (employees, public data, consumer tools) rather than increasing them, it is about starting small and scaling fast, it is about focusing on specific problem areas rather than developing horizontal strategies, it is about listening rather than talking.
So, how many vendors are prepared to do the right thing for their clients?