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A Year in Review: Top Ten for Government 2.0 in 2010

By Andrea Di Maio | December 28, 2010 | 4 Comments

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As I did last year, I decided to share my personal top ten in the area of government 2.0 and the likes.

Once more, I am following the tradition of many top tens, by going in reverse order, from number ten to number one. This ranking is my own, o course, and – as such – very personal and totally arbitrary.

Each and every one of these items speaks to the effort, passion and persistence of many professionals in the public and private sector, who are working hard to transform and improve government.

I want to personally thank them all, even if at times I have been erring on the opposite side and criticizing their tones, approaches and accomplishments. Without them, government would not be changing… and my blog would be a very boring place.

10. EU Action Plan on E-Government

The European E-Government Conference, held in Malmo (Sweden) in November last year, delivered an E-Government Declaration which I found hardly compelling. Two weeks ago, after a long labor, the European Commission gave birth to  its EU Action plan, which is meant to implement the objectives set in the declaration.

It is good to have a plan and to keep political attention, as well as funding, alive on a topic like e-government. However the plan is too much about furthering the status quo and supporting existing pilot initiatives, such as those about eID, e-procuremen or benchmarking, and not enough about recognizing the radically different EU situation today, with debates about the faith of the euro or the possible default of sovereign debt in some of its member states, which were unthinkable just a few years ago. Unfortunately, the plan looks almost untouched by these ugly realities.

9. U.S. Open Government Plans

Last year I was not hugely complimentary of the Open Government Directive in the US. Although an important step toward greater transparency, collaboration and participation, it made openness a compliance rather than a business issue for several agencies.

Its main effect was not to stimulate a reflection about how agencies could be use openness as a key tool to better achieve their mission priorities, but to make sure that they would comply, by certain dates, with the obligations of  having an open government plan.

Some agencies did very well, some less so, some clearly showed how much they were driven by the desire to comply (and excel), despite having quite good ideas, some others were disappointed by the outcomes.

8. The Developers’ Mob

This summer I had an interesting experience, when – in response to a blog post advocating for more application developers entering politics – I observed that developers are far more useful at doing what they do (that is, developing applications). The reaction of what turned out to be a real mob was overwhelming. I was literally buried by tweets and comments dismissing my position, accusing me of bigotry, and even profiling me by the usual stereotypes.

The experience was both nasty and funny, and in between a few harsh exchanges, it revealed a very important trait that many of the developers I pissed off do share: passion. Passion for their job, passion for their accomplishments, passion that make them proud, passion that takes them to the next level.

When I have doubts that open government will ever achieve its intended potential, I think about these folks and their passion, and still have hope that something good will come out.

7. Government organizations venturing into the public cloud

The discussion about how government organizations can benefit from cloud computing are often dominated by the almost mythical concept of “government cloud” (or “community cloud”, which is a more popular term in the US). While users and vendors scratch their heads to figure out where these clouds will emerge from, government agencies around the world have started using solutions that are based either on public clouds or on vendor-provided government clouds (which are little else than portions of their existing infrastructures that are either entirely devoted to government clients or just made compliant with government security regulations).

Examples of this that I have been writing about are the GSA and US Department of Agriculture, which will respectively migrate their email to Google and Microsoft cloud-based offerings, or the Australian Maritime Safety Authority using (Gartner client access required).

What is happening is that government agencies are already moving into the cloud, either public or private, showing that government or community clouds may be far less important than many think.

6. Smart Local Government CIOs

Many people say that local governments are always at the forefront of change because they touch citizens much more closely and on a broader set of topics, from education to taxes, from environment to traffic management. Therefore local government CIOs are usually exposed to several different issues, fight with tighter budgets and have a more direct and immediate line of sight to understand the impact of what they do, both good and bad.

Throughout the year I met several CIOs from European cities, such as Barcelona, Stockholm, Goteborg, Helsinki, Amsterdam, as well as US ones, such as Washington DC or Los Angeles. These and most of their colleagues across the world are brilliant people, usually with a great blend of technical and business acumen, working under tight constraints and often in a less forgiving environment than their counterparts in federal or national government.

5. Kate Lundy and the many women who “get it”

Last June I had the pleasure of meeting Australian senator Kate Lundy, who was later named as parliamentary secretary for immigration and citizenship. She is a very affable, competent, and driven person. When I look at the ministers, senators and member of parliament who have been dealing with IT issues in my own country, I am really envious of my Australian friends.

She is also one of the many woman who understand the deep implications of government 2.0, and the role of social media. I wrote a post a few months ago, highlighting that women seem to be much more at ease than men in everything 2.0. I have no scientific basis for such an assertion nor any statistically valid sample, but just anecdotal evidence that keeps pointing in the same direction.

What I found remarkable was that some of my (male) readers were pissed off by my statement.

4. Washington DC’s Citywide Digital Divide Strategy

In one of those coincidences that make life so interesting, while I was commenting on the issue of digital divides, I came across a wonderfully sensible document presenting the digital divide strategy for the US capital city. We usually associate digital divides to developing countries or underdeveloped areas, but divides exist everywhere, even between neighboring blocks.

This document is exemplary as it looks at digital divide causes and remedied from different perspectives, aiming to leverage existing infrastructure, programs and funding prior to throwing lots of money (which is in rather short supply these days) as many did in the past.

3. OMB 25 Points Plan

Entering the second half of its first term, the Obama administration is starting looking at what can be accomplished in a timeframe that is compatible with the impending political campaign, also as a consequence of the mid-term election outcome. In IT terms, this implies a shift from vision to execution, from disruption to evolution.

Vivek Kundra and his colleagues at OMB and GSA have planted the seeds of change in areas like open government, cloud computing, program and portfolio management. The 25 point Implementation Plan for Federal IT Management published in December clearly indicates how some of those initiatives can become sustainable. From the “cloud first” policy to institutionalizing “TechStat” program reviews at the agency level, the plan looks mostly actionable in the next 12 to 18 months, and – what is equally important – acknowledges areas that will require a longer timeframe for change and sets expectations accordingly.

2. GSA approach to social media and cloud

I know that this may sound a bit partisan of mine, but I have to say that the move of my ex colleague Dave McClure to GSA as associate administrator has clearly been both a loss for Gartner and a gain for GSA: I can see his no-nonsense, down-to-Earth approach is some of the recent initiatives taken by GSA.

On the social media front, completes an ideal employee-centered social media toolkit, comprising policies to use consumer platforms, internal collaboration tools and external tools that individual employees can decide to adopt to create engagement opportunities with external stakeholders. On the cloud front., GSA finally sorted out the RFQ for Infrastructure as a Service after more than a year from its original inception, and gave a first, concrete example of how to use the procurement lever to push for commoditization.

I truly believe that Dave deserves to win a federal 100 award this year.

1. The Unsung Heroes: Government Employees

Yes, you are right, this is exactly the same number one I had last year. Throughout 2010 I have collected countless examples where the single most important success factor in generating value from 2.0 is the government workforce. It is not by chance that Gartner decided to use one of those examples to open its three largest Symposia.

Unfortunately politicians, the press and most of the general public like to believe that government 2.0 is mostly about citizens and how they can engage and do better than employees themselves.

Reality is different. Government services and processes are complex, and crowdsourcing some or most of those requires expertise, commitment, and independence. Only people whose job is to serve the public and who are accountable for doing so can connect the untapped potential that many call “wisdom of the crowd” with specific problems to be solved, maintaining a line of sight and an accountability chain between problems and solutions.

Thanks for reading my blog through 2010. Happy New Year to all of you and your families.

The Gartner Blog Network provides an opportunity for Gartner analysts to test ideas and move research forward. Because the content posted by Gartner analysts on this site does not undergo our standard editorial review, all comments or opinions expressed hereunder are those of the individual contributors and do not represent the views of Gartner, Inc. or its management.

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  • Sebastian says:

    Great top 10, Andrea. The only flaw I think this list has is its slight US-centricity, which makes 2010 look a bit more of a success than it may actually be. A lot has been accomplished, clearly, yet if you put one of those smart local CIOs on a plane and send them to a random municipality in Europe, that CIO might as well have been in a time machine, not just a plane. In terms of open government, advocates and pioneers in Europe have unsheathed their Machetes in front of a rainforest of bureaucracy, while in some other country, notably of Anglo-Saxon color, those advocates and pioneers have already fought their way through the jungle and can see the sunlight, as they hack their way towards the exit…

    Reading what I just typed, I may sound horribly pessimistic, but in fact I have high hopes and I think a lot of good has been done. Just cannot help myself but be a little discouraged when observing the continental European situation….

    Happy New Year

  • jp says:

    Hi Andrea, this is going to sound really critical but I’m going give you some feedback.

    I would have gotten a lot more out of your post if your writing had been a bit better. It’s so difficult to take what someone says seriously when the language and spelling, grammar and sentence structure are so poor as to be a barrier to understanding. Somewhere in there I’m sure you have interesting things to say, but unfortunately your post suggests a sloppy approach to your work and you lose credibility as a result. Please take the time to review your writing before you post it or have someone else read it over for you.

  • @jp – Apologies for the rather unusual sloppiness. I was clearly in a hurry to start my vacation. On the upside, it appears that many people read and retweeted this post, so they were probably more forgiving than you were. But thanks for your straight feedback, which is most welcome.

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