In my latest post on the relationships between social networking and cloud computing from a government perspective, I made a statement that has raised a number of comments from some of my colleagues. I said that cloud computing is just one particular manifestation of the commoditization of government.
One observed that while delivering government benefits might be commoditized, governing could not. Another thought that I meant “commoditization of IT to support government activity”.
Another colleague of mine reinforced my point about commoditization by suggesting that some of Clayton Christensen’s work about the process and dynamics of commoditization may be relevant in this context. He said:
At heart, what Christensen describes is that when proprietary architectures (the vertically integrated proprietary solutions that government has historically built) are “more than good enough” for the intended purpose, they become the potential target of disruption via “modular architectures” (such as the internet, SaaS, cloud computing, social computing, and the opening up of access to information via Google’s Trendalyzer, etc.) Modular architectures are inherently less costly, and often more “agile” than their proprietary alternatives.
They all made valid points Governments have been around for thousands of years and they are going to be still around for thousands of years. However all aspects of government, ranging from service delivery to operations, from IT to policy making, are at risk of being commoditized as a consequence of changes we see already happening. The commoditization of government concerns infrastructure and applications, as well as the socialization of information and the engagement of external constituents in service delivery, problem solving and policy-making through crowdsourcing. These are just early signs of a deeper, longer term process that will cause many government organizations to rethink how special they really are and to what extent they can leverage resources that are commodities.
I have highlighted some of these trends in a recent report about The Future of Government Is No Government (subscription required), and the research note that I am drafting and triggered my earlier post is looking at these in much greater detail.