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September 19, 2008

[irmc] Government 2.0 and beyond

I’m at the 20th anniversary celebation of the Information Resources Management College of the National Defense University in DC. David Wennergren (Deputy asst secty of defense for info mgt, and DoD deputy chief info officer) is leading a panel on Gov’t 2.0, with Anthony Williams (nGenera, and coauthor of Wikinomics), Bruce Klein (Cisco, US public sector) and Mike Bradshaw (Google, federal sector). [I’m live blogging, making mistakes, being incomplete, mishearing …]

The moderator and the panelists each take a turn at the podium.

David says that Web 2.0 (etc.) is a powerful opportunity “for us to change differently.” Agencies don’t have to be isolated. Mashups, mass collaboration, etc., enable rapid innovation. “We’ve grown up in a world of systems,” big systems. In the new world, we need to be able to “focus and converge.” [David is citing someone else, but I didn’t catch the name.] He refers to the book “Polarity Management.” We have to get both security and sharing right. E.g., focus on secure networks and you create a “self-inflicted denial of service attack” on yourself. [Nice] If you don’t get sharing right, we lose our edge as a nation of innovators.

Anthony Williams (Wikinomics) says he’s been working with governments on e-gov ideas. If we can do Wikipedia, Galaxyzoo, Curriki, there’s no telling what we can do as citizens. The five big ideas: 1. Rethink public service. We still treat citizens as passive recipients. 2. Make sure the information flows horizontally and through all the governmental layers. 3. Open up the boundaries of government, inviting input from citizens, non-profits, private e, etc. 4. New models of democracy, especially interactive models of political communication. 5. Rethink our core institutions, redraw the division of labor. Can we source government services globally?

Bruce (Cisco) talks about how Cisco is using tech to transfer its business. Web 2.0 is about collaboration. Collaboration accelerates productivity, mission success (or growth), and innovation. But it’s more about the culture and the processes than the technology. He shows a crowded slide of how Cisco is using Web 2.0. Their Directory 3.0 includes profiles and areas of expertise. Ciscopedia is an internal wiki. And they have a portal for employees that includes info and apps. Wiki use went up 5x over a year, blogs up 3x, and video up 12x. Cisco is changing from command and control to collaboration and teamwork.

Mike (Google) begins with a title slide that has Google in one corner but that shares the space equally with Skype, Wikipedia, the iPhone, Facebook, AOL, YouTube, the iPod, Second Life, and Bebo. 98% of Google’s revenues come from its free products. Only 2% comes from Mike’s federal group. The cost of switching is zero, he says, so companies have to constantly work on providing good features that are usable without training. “We take that philosophy now to the workplace.” 89% people say they use at least one “unsanctioned” technology at work (Yankee Group). 49% say the tech they have at home is more advanced than what they have at work. He gives some examples of government embracing Web 2.0 tech. E.g., Homeland Security in Alabama used Google Earth as a platform for satellite imagery. Then firefighters started populating it with info about buildings and equipment. Then students started adding info. Etc. He ends by talking about the importance of cloud computing. He compares it to the early corporate resistance to PCs because they were insecure, etc. In addition to providing applications and infrastructure, cloud computing can be a platform (as with Google aps and Salesforce.com). In its own data centers, Google assumes things will fail. They buy commodity hardware and hold the drives in with velcro. Every minute, 13 hrs of video are uploaded to YouTube. The search engine gets a billion queries a day. Google has had to build a huge infrastructure, which they now make available to the public for free.

Q: How do we reconcile the rapidity of innovation and the slowness of the gov’t acquisition process?
A: (david) It’s changing. We’re becoming beter about using what’s on the Web. And we’re learning to move incrementally rather than building the big honking system.

Q: What kind of test did Cisco do to weed about the execs who are not ready to move from the command and control structure?
A: At Cisco, we measure everything. John Chambers put together boards and councils to run the company. The councils are cross-functional. You quickly see who collaborates and who doesn’t. Cisco changed the compensation so that for some, 70% of their compensation comes from how the company overall does.

Q: The DoD blocks many social networking sites. The younger employees want to collaborate all the time. How do we bring them in, let them live in their culture, and modify the environment to meet their needs?
A: (david) Blocking access is a non-sustainable policy. These government institutions do change when leaders stand up.
A: (anthony) We interviewed 10,000 youths globally. The public sector is the least desirable place to work in the US, UK and Canada. I agree with Dave on the blocking of sites. Canada banned Facebook for gov’t empoloyees, so everyone moved to MySpace. Canada is now looking at rolling out a Facebook-like product for the entire government.
A: (mike) Google has “20% time”: Spend 20% of your week doing something of great interest to you. That’s how Gmail was created. It includes community service, solar energy, etc. That helps retention. The federal gov’t attracts very smart people, but they get frustrated when tools they’re using — Facebook, for example — gets shut down. The first thing that has to be addressed are the security issues. We open our data centers to let federal folks see how secure we are. The old certification process takes too long.

Q: In the new model of gov’t how do you make sure the voice of all the people, even those without cmputers, is heard?
A: Yes, we don’t want simply to amplify the traditional values. But we hope some of the gaps will close. This needs political attention.

Q: The Toffflers [who are in the audience] point to the variance of rates of change. What’s Google doing to help accelerate change in education and law, to keep it up with the speed at which business changes?
A: (mike) We do try to influence policy. And we try to get info out to the gov’t. My 20% time is spent in bringing tech to charitable orgs.
A: (bruce) Cisco thinks there has to be a major transformation in education: Change in curriculum, in how teachers teach, how students can use tech to learn. We have bunches of pilots in place.

Q: We don’t have standards. Should there be government regulation of the Net to produce standards? And how would this work internationally?
A: (anthony) Regulating the Internet is not so good. But having the government using open standards is important.
A: (bruce) You stifle innovation if you over regulate.
A: (mike) Disruptive tech disrupts cost structures as well. We like open source and open standards because if you use our stuff, you’ll also be using other stuff as well.

Last thoughts? What do you see coming down the road?
A: (mike) Watch for Android. Open source.
A: (bruce) Work on culture to take advantage of what’s out there.
A: (anthony) How does the gov’t source expertise? How does it tap into the collaborative intelligence?
A: (david) We have to work on trust. It’s the single biggest inhibitor to making this shift. [Tags: ]

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