For the third year in a row, here is my (absolutely personal) top ten in the area of government 2.0 and government innovation in general. This ranking is my own, and – as such – totally arbitrary. I am sure I am missing great things that happened in many corners of the world, and I could actually make it longer. My choice is based on topics, issues, individuals, jurisdictions that have “animated” my life as an analyst, through multiple interactions, dealing with several questions about them, and agreeing or disagreeing with what they are doing.
As usual, my thanks go to all professionals who, in different roles and capacity, inside or outside government, work relentlessly to help transform the public sector with (or notwithstanding) technology innovation. Their contribution has been essential to help governments around the world face their huge challenges and better prepare to deal with an often uncertain, and certainly even more challenging future.
As usual, the list is in reverse order, from number ten to number one.
10. Vendors trying to help with government clouds
With the US federal and several other governments hugely interested in cloud computing, several vendors have made significant inroads to meet government requirements for security and data sovereignty. Although most vendors tend to overuse the term “cloud” as an umbrella for a number of different services and delivery models, they have been listening more carefully and responding to their government clients’ needs. Examples include the development of specific federal clouds by Google, Microsoft, IBM and more recently Amazon; the issuance of IaaS blanket purchase agreements by GSA; the role of the vendor association Intellect in helping the UK government shape its own cloud strategy. While there is still room for improvement, things seem to be moving in the right direction.
9. Cloud Security research by the European Network & Information Security Agency
Largely ignored by clients outside Europe (as witnessed by the number of clients who had never heard about it), ENISA’s “Security and Resilience in Governmental Clouds” is one of the few substantial contributions that the European institutions and agencies have provided to the cause of greater use of cloud computing by government organizations. Very thorough, it provides a great list of criteria for anybody who wants to look beyond the surface of compliance issues, and to something a bit more international than what FISMA and FedRAMP give in the US.
8. How Queensland used social media to face the floods in January
This has been mentioned by many as one of the best examples of good government use of social media where this has often associated to riots and revolutions. Several state agencies opened access to social media to their employees, and started using platforms like Twitter and Facebook to reach out to the community affected by massive floods. Some of those uses have been exemplary and have gained the Queensland State Police, amongst others, accolades and awards. This great case also showed us how social media can serve a tactical purpose to face an immediate need, but may be difficult to sustain over time.
7. The many UK strategies
After a pause to let the new coalition government settle, the UK Cabinet Office did issue a Government ICT strategy in March, followed by a shared services vision and then a stream of documents about the implementation of the ICT strategy, covering cloud computing, end-user devices and more. These documents show that the idea of having foundational partners, i.e. IT leaders in large departments, in charge for different parts of the strategy is working. On the downside, though, some leadership changes in the Cabinet office, with executives moving to the private sector, may leave some void at crucial implementation time.
6. Alex Howard: great gov 2.0 blogger
Alex and I are often on the opposite side of the fence when it comes to debating open government. He is an enthusiast, although, being a reporter, he does not like this term. Actually, I mean this in a positive sense, as opposed to my analyst cynicism that makes me look at many open government endeavors as politically motivated, déjà vu, or “me-too”. I have often enjoyed comparing notes with him and certainly like the breadth and depth of his government 2.0 coverage. Probably if he were not working for O’Reilly, he could come to terms with the weaknesses in the “government-as-a-platform” approach: despite this, he is one of the most balanced bloggers I have been reading on this and related themes.
5. The US Federal CIOs: change and continuity
This year has seen the change in federal IT leadership with Vivek Kundra moving to Harvard and Steve Van Roekel taking his place. Vivek has been one of the most controversial and innovative figures in federal IT, dividing experts between enthusiastic supporters and dismissive critics. The former liked his very different approach, driven by transparency and the willingness to push change in various areas. The latter complained about his lack of experience with federal environment and processes and even accused him of caring mostly about self-promotion. Reality, as usual, is in the middle: he certainly was visionary for the federal environment and triggered some significant change; however he did not put enough emphasis on the sustainability of his many initiatives. Steven’s main challenge is to accomplish something that helps build political capital in a re-election year: he is doing so by building upon what Vivek did, rather than immediately looking at something else in order to impose his personal vision.
4. Australia: down under and down to Earth
During 2011 Australia published both its draft ICT strategy and its cloud strategy. While not perfect, these documents are very sensible and do not try to impose blanket approaches to all agencies. This has been much welcome in between a stream of more compulsory measures, from the shared service approach in Canada to Cloud First in the US. It is always refreshing to discuss about these topics with people at AGIMO:I do wish them to keep a stronger drive than what they did with the outcome of the government 2.0 taskforce, which made number 2 in my top ten in 2009 but apparently had little impact so far.
3. GSA: keeping their drive with tighter budgets
The tighter federal budget in 2011 has taken resources away from some of the innovative programs that the US General Services Administration have been leading under the Obama administration. Nevertheless they have kept advancing their agenda on both USA.gov and on cloud computing. On the latter, despite a change in leadership, they have finally published the blanket purchase agreement for IaaS, pushed a call for tender on email services through a GAO protest, progressed the complex FedRAMP initiative, while transitioning themselves to a new cloud-based email service. This is a group of talented and highly-motivated professionals who epitomize the great government employees that made number 1 in my top ten last year.
2. Women in IT: leading with grace
I have written in the past about how women get social media better than men do, and how I have had the pleasure to meet great female IT-savvy politicians and IT executives. The list goes on and on. Behind many of the successful achievements that I have been tracking there is a woman. People like Linda Cureton (NASA CIO and author of the excellent “The Leadership Muse”), Ann Steward (Australian federal CIO), Mechthild Rohen (Head of eGovernment program at the European Commission), Claudia de Andrade de Wit (CIO of the City of Amsterdam), Stela Mocan (Director of the eGovernment Center in Moldova) and many many others are all great examples: we’d better watch out!
1. New Zealand: the best social media guidelines so far
Analysts can’t help find little drawbacks even in the best product or strategy. That’s why I was so happy to find the social media guidelines from the New Zealand government: this is close to an almost perfect document (of course it’s not, analysts are impossible to please) and certainly one that I recommend to many to read. It is a great blend of common sense and actionable advice, and can be easily tailored to different contexts. The authors said they were heavily inspired by a document prepared by people in the UK government: however it does not look like the UK published one yet, so, while some kudos go to the unknown British employees who inspired this, the merit is all for our distant friends in the Pacific.
Thank you all for reading my blog through 2011. Let me wish you, your families and friends a Happy New Year.