>Civic Commons-A Lesson In Sharing

>

Love this concept on Civic Commons that was presented at the Gov 2.0 Summit (2010) and is now becoming a reality.

Presented by Bryan Sivak the CTO for DC–Civic Commons is about governments collaborating and building technology once and reusing multiple times, rather than reinventing the wheel over and over again–a critical enterprise architecture principle.

Governments have similar needs and can share common solutions–products and projects–for these.

A number of successful examples:

1) DC and San Francisco building Open 311 (which I wrote about in a prior blog).
2) Minnesota building a $50 Million Unemployment Insurance System and then sharing it with Iowa who implemented it at less than 1/2 that.

Some initial products that have been committed:

1) White House IT Federal Dashboard
2) Track DC (Operational Dashboard)
3) San Francisco Master Address Database Geocoder
4) New York Senate’s Open Legislation Application

And more will be coming…all of which can be used and improved upon.

It is great to see so many state governments collaborating–across the Nation–from Seattle to LA, Boston, San Francisco, NY, and Chicago. Moreover, they are coordinating with the Federal Government, as well as with supporting organizations, such as OpenPlans, Code For America, O’Reilly Media, and more that are helping with coordination, facilitation, and support.

This is another great step in breaking down the silos that separate us and becoming more efficient in working together and learning to share what can benefit many.

>Power To The People

>

Seeclickfix1

From potholes to garbage, broken street lights to vandalism…we want to get our community problems resolved.

There is a good-looking application called “SeeClickFixfor connecting people and government to point out problems and get them fixed, fast.

It works with iPhone, Droids, and Blackberries; integrates with Facebook and Twitter; and has dashboard reporting and alerts, as well as emails notifications to provide acknowledgements and status updates on issues.
Built on the Open311 model, which provides APIs to existing internal systems and processes, so citizens report non-emergency issues to government based on standardized, open-access, and interoperable systems.

Open 311 describes how it works:

Using a mobile device or a computer, someone can enter information (ideally with a photo) about a problem…This report is then routed to the relevant authority to addressthis information is available for anyone to see and…contribute more informationBy making the information public, it provides transparency and accountability for those responsible for the problem.”

According to an article, iCitizen, in Fast Company (December 2010-January 2011), reported problems from citizen’s smartphones or computers can even be routed straight to dashboard computers on public works trucks, “meaning a click in the morning can lead to a repair in the afternoon.”

Ok, this may still be more vision than reality at this time, but it is a noble vision, indeed!

This is an evolution from 311 phones systems in many cities which are one way communications from individuals calling into government call centers and then waiting, waiting, waiting to see if the problem gets resolved to instead applications like SeeClickFix as a highly visible cloud solution where many people can openly exchange information over the Internet on public issues–providing more information, even potentially rating and ranking them (i.e. helping set public priorities for allocating limited public resources to community problems).

This can even be coupled with suggestion platforms such as IdeaScale for crowd-sourced citizen input into urban planning and community health, safety, and livability issues.

As part of its Apps for Democracy contest, DC awarded a prize and grant for the development of FIxMyCityDC, a web-based application for submitting service requests, checking status by interactive maps, along with the option of the user getting a call when the problem is resolved.

This is huge progress from the prior endlessly annoying call centers and their Interactive Voice Response Units that previously took callers through a maze of pre-recorded numeric options that more-often than not ended in the users abandoning the call and service requests going unfilled.

This is a far better model of information sharing, collaboration and transparency to solve real everyday problems in our communities, and a great example of the power of e-Government.

>GovNet and Enterprise Architecture

>

In Government Computer News, 10 December 2007, Edward Meagher, the deputy chief information officer at the Department of the Interior (DOI) asks why the federal government doesn’t have one IT infrastructure. He states:

Despite the huge costs and inefficiencies, we still cling to the notion that each department and agency is so unique and special that we each have to create and maintain our own infrastructure to support our mission area.

I am convinced that a day will come when the billions of dollars we spend each year on each department’s stovepiped IT infrastructure will not only be viewed as incredibly wasteful but also incredibly stupid. It will be seen as the equivalent of having allowed each department to drill its own water wells, generate its own electricity and treat its own sewage.

The notion of a true “GovNet” has been around for many years, but I believe the time is fast approaching when we will agree on the terms and conditions and get about the business of designing, building, converting to, operating and managing a secure, unclassified IP network that will deliver all IP services to federal civilian agencies.”

What has the federal government done so far to advance the idea of one IT infrastructure?

An IT Infrastructure Line of Business (ITILOB) has been established as a Presidential Initiative as part of the President’s Management Agenda for e-Government (eGov).

The vision of ITILOB is:

  • “An effective and efficient IT infrastructure enabling government-wide customer-centric services.”

The goals of ITILOB are:

  • “Infrastructure enables interoperability of functions across agencies and programs.
  • Optimize the infrastructure to enable collaboration within and across agencies, sectors, and government levels.
  • Efficiencies realized from infrastructure investments will be recapitalized in support of agency mission.
  • Infrastructure investment governed to achieve agency mission and government-wide goals.” (http://www.whitehouse.gov/OMB/egov/c-6-9-ioi.html)

Are we on the road to success with ITILOB?

The ITILOB links to a related site http://www.itinfrastructure.gov/. It is not clear what the relationship between IT Infrastructure LOB and IT Optimization Line of Business (IOI) are. However, the IT Optimization LOB states that “The Infrastructure Optimization Initiative (IOI) puts in place a government-wide approach for measuring and optimizing agency infrastructures to enhance cost efficiency/service level and better enable core agency missions and customer-centric services. While the IOI provides the standardized framework for comparing performance across the federal government, departments/agencies remain responsible for choosing appropriate strategies for optimizing their commodity infrastructure cost efficiency/service level metrics. The IOI does not mandate how agencies optimize their infrastructure – it will provide tools for agencies to leverage.”

So, while it seems that the vision of one IT infrastructure or GovNet is a noble one and probably one worth pursuing, if done right; the mandate of the existing IT Optimization LOB does not go far enough to actually mandate usage by federal agencies. This makes this initiative rather weak and unlikely to succeed, in its current form.

Are there similar initiatives in the federal government?

DHS has an Infrastructure Transformation Program (ITP) that has been working for a number of years now at “consolidating and centralizing control of its data centers, e-mail systems and help-desk services, and sensitive but unclassified video communication networks under three directorates.” (Government Computer News, 22 August 2005)

Is this DHS infrastructure consolidation perhaps, a first step, where each major federal department (like DHS), starts by consolidating its agencies, and then moves on toward an overall federal consolidation. Possibly, this two phased approach would give the overall federal consolidation a greater chance for success.

Meagher at DOI states:Congress, the administration, the federal bureaucracies and the vendor community must come together to tackle the impediments and move rapidly to create a well-managed, 21st-century equivalent of the Eisenhower-era National Highway System.” Will a federal IT infrastructure be as successful?