Last week I read a quite interesting book about the impact that the scarcity of oil will have on the global economy (Why Your World Is About to Get a Whole Lot Smaller, by Jeff Rubin). Of course I knew that our reliance on non-renewable resources was a long term challenge, but I was almost shocked by some of the evidence provided by the author. In particular the increasing cost of extraction and transformation (almost two order of magnitudes between the Saudi wells and the oil sands in Alberta) and the increasing minimum price of oil after each recession made me reflect about the author’s claim that the global financial crisis and recession have not been caused by the subprime mortgage problem, but by inflation ensuing the record price of oil in 2008.
There seems to be a connection then between the short term challenges that government organizations have to face – decreasing budgets, economic uncertainty – and the energy crisis ahead of us. And the touch point is the increasing cost of energy.
Creating “sustainable public value” implies that the total cost of ownership of government services and processes needs to take into serious account the energy cost as well as the environmental cost, especially as carbon charging schemes become more popular.
This has a substantial impact on our research on smart government, which we define as an administration that:
- Integrates information, communication and operational technologies
- to planning, management and operations
- across multiple domains, process areas and jurisdictions
- to generate sustainable public value
Today people do not seem particularly interested in the long term view. As I was delivering a smart government presentation at the Gartner Symposium in Cape Town today, a few people walked out of the room as soon as I started talking about climate change and non-renewable resources, while everybody else stayed as I moved to shorter-term challenges, such as possible double-dip recession, disruptive use of social media in recent riots, and so on. People simply do not see – or do not want to see – the connection between what we are facing today and what we will be facing tomorrow. As I was covering green IT before 2008, I saw how fast our government clients’ interest on topic declined when bigger and more urgent issues, such as the GFC and the biggest recession after WW2, suddenly hit them.
Smart government principles aim at making that connection clearer, by relentlessly focusing on providing sustainable public value. This applies to different processes, timeframes and people in the IT organization:
- Is my IT strategy future-proof? Am I supporting the right blend of standardization and choice taking into account changes in technologies, vendors, user attitudes and demographics?
- Am I maintaining the right portfolio of applications, planning to discontinue those for which I am unable to prove any future value, and to build or procure new ones in ways that make them evolve over time?
- Am I using enterprise architecture to control what I have or to understand what I should (and should not) have?
- What am I doing to help prepare the business to address problems collaboratively, overcome the boundaries between silos, and implement innovative and sustainable solutions?
The three themes that were highlighted during the symposium keynote in Cape Town are particularly relevant here.
- Postmodern business – smart governments will have to solve new problems but also old problems in new ways
- Simplicity – smart governments will have to provide users, be they citizens or employees, simple solutions accessible through devices and channels of choice
- Creative destruction – with declining budgets, resources have to be found by discontinuing low-value projects and assets. Smart governments will do so, and then progressively decrease the rate of “destruction” by ensuring that new solutions are more sustainable, as they embed provisions for future evolution and leverage.
All this entails big changes in the role of government CIOs and of IT organizations in government. The most disruptive one, I believe, is to accept that choice will replace control as the dominant paradigm. While the past was about controlling what the business does with technology, the future is about enabling the business to use technology to meet its goals, and support their choices of technology and vendors, setting parameters that preserve security and accountability
But how many government CIOs are ready to welcome choice as a blessing rather than fearing the loss of control?
Category: smart government Tags: