International meeting shows universality of IT priorities
- By Frank A. McDonough
- Dec 09, 2011
Delegates from 17 countries met at the International Council for Technology in Government Administration’s 45th annual conference, held in mid-October in Taipei, Taiwan. Here are some highlights of that meeting.
Taiwan is shrinking the number of government ministers by a third from the current 44 in next 12 months, and is consolidating its data centers to 10. “We paid for huge estates of underutilized data centers,” said one speaker.
Moldova, adopting cloud computing, is consolidating its 120 data centers into the cloud.
Expecting savings of 5 percent to 10 percent in 2014 and beyond, Canada is consolidating e-mail, standards, data networks, and data centers in 44 departments while transferring 7000 to 8000 people and funds to the a organization, Shared Services Canada. The US, meanwhile, reported plans to consolidate from 2,100 data centers to 800 by 2015 indicating that the government has already closed 400.
Broadband communication is at the 100 percent level in Taiwan and climbing to that level in other countries.
Delegates identified the mobile office, cloud, web 2.0, broadband, and open source as near term priorities; and they view mobile communications and cloud as game changers.
Budget cuts are priorities in many countries. Canada, for example, has a deficit reduction plan requiring all departments to find and implement 5 percent savings each year.
Switzerland has a system to evaluate the effectiveness of e-government.
In Estonia, a third of the people vote on Internet.
Estonia takes an unusual approach to implementing promising proposals: First they try it, and only if it gets the desired results do they pass legislation about it.
The Sensible Cities program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, working on the Copenhagen Wheel bike project, required a multidisciplinary team of architects, psychologists, computer science, transportation experts, and others to work the challenges of a smart city. Teams such as this will be required more frequently because of the cross-boundary, unstructured problems facing governments.
Attempting to boost the economy, Taiwan is investing in selected industries (biotechnology, tourism, high-end agriculture, green energy, health care, and cultural creativity).
When governments attempt to pick winners, they can stifle innovation and waste money. Apple computer, the most valued company on the NYSE, started in a garage without a sniff of government funding.
The delegates discussed using a "kill switch" to shut down Internet during civil disruptions. In Egypt, President Hosni Mubarak shut down Internet when the revolt began. Congressional leaders in the US have discussed kill-switch legislation in recent months. Whether it will work is in question. In Libya, leader Moamar Ghadaffi shut down Internet, but the allies reportedly restored service by adding a new source so Internet communications could continue between the revolutionaries.
Centralization in governments is king now as technology allows centralization and terrorism motivates it. Unfortunately, centralized organizations tend toward grand designs because they deal with the biggest problems; however, grand designs typically fail in part or completely.
Despite failures, governments in all countries have examples demonstrating that they have innovated successfully.
While there was little talk about CIO’s, there was comment that governments need to develop a new set of CIO competencies, or create a new position such as Chief Transformation Officer.
At least one government, Israel, is taking three actions relative to service to the public.
- It is creating a central agency for services to the public,
- It is developing a single catalogue of its entire set of services for customers, and
- It is also requiring each agency to assign individuals responsible for customer service.
New roles for government
Shifting from a delivery role to a coordination role, Taiwan uses the 10,000 7-11 and Family Mart convenience stores it holds as extensions of government. Members of the public can conduct government transactions and pay bills there..
Taiwan uses the public media aggressively to reach the target audience for its services.
The US program Data.gov now has 400,000 data sets and the government wants to include many more. This type of initiative in transparent government effectively transfers much of the responsibility for the quality of the data from the government to the user.
In software, governments are adjusting to changes in the marketplace, which is providing many toolmakers (apps developers, for example) rather than the relative few in the history of the industry.
Finally, accountability resides with the government no matter who the other actors are.
Frank McDonough, a consultant and author, retired from the General Services Administration in 2003.
Consultant Frank A. McDonough is former deputy associate administrator of the General Services Administration’s Office of Intergovernmental Solutions.