Government as a platform eh?

I came across this draft post from when I attended the 2009 Gov2.0 Summit in Washington.  It was just after Obama became President and the excitement in the air was like that in Ottawa recently with our new Prime Minister. 

Reading it again, it occurred to me that it might be useful input into the conversation about what digital means to the governments of Canada.
Gov20summitThere was lots of talk about government as
a platform on the first day of the summit and I must admit that I came to Washington a little unclear on the topic. There are multiple “layers of abstraction” and no doubt those who build hardware and software have a more detailed understanding, nonetheless I will share with you what I took away about one of the big themes of the conference.

platform for change

  • A data platform for services
    By sharing data in open machine readable ways, the government can enable industry to create social and financial value by building services on top of that data. The dominate examples had to do with GPS and GIS data, (location, maps and details). There were impressive examples from the battlefront in Afghanistan to the streets of LA. The Obama administration has taken a bold step towards embedding this behavior in the bureaucracy with its Open GOvernment Directive.
  • A social platform
    With its power to convene and consult with groups of citizens the government can be a powerful catalyst for civic action. With much of the credit of Obama’s election win going to the power of the internet to mobilize voters, the administration is very interested in how to involve Americans in taking action to solve their problems. By using modern internet tools the government could fulfill the promise of Jeffersonian Democracy it seems.
  • An economic platform
    Finally with its power to invest the government can initiate market moves and affect the direction of the economy. The feeling in the room was that if government investments in infrastructure good things will happen.

There are probably many more ways you could describe Government as a platform. Gosh, I even heard a sidewalk referred to as a platform for social interaction. (Depending upon how you design and build it, you will get different behaviors. Add a bench and people sit down. Make it narrow and people walk on by.)

The thing about Government as a platform is that it provides a new perspective on the old problem of making government more effective. As I believe that genus with the funny hair said:

 ” you can’t solve old problems with the same thinking that created them”  

New perspectives are a good thing.

There are many ways you can think of Government as a platform. The take away for public servants is to use this perspective to create new forces for good.  To create policy and programs that will address the real problems the world faces today.

There you have it. My thoughts, such as they are. Feel free to comment, correct or elaborate, express whatever you want, just be polite about it ok?


About Thom Kearney

Change agent, teacher, arts, science, open government, father, mentor, storyteller, husband, dog owner,collaborator, not necessarily in that order.
This entry was posted in Conference, Gov 2.0, Open Data, Positive Change. Bookmark the permalink.

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