Radically Rethinking Government: The New Digital Strategy

Posted by Dr. James Canton on June 30, 2012 under Uncategorized | Be the First to Comment

There is a New Digital Strategy that is just released by the White House. It calls for a revolution in mobile, social, cloud, analytics and the interoperable use of data. It is the most far ranging attempt by any government to get tech savvy. It is part wish list and part logic: if we are going to build the next generation of 21st century governments then we had best rethink how we use technology and then rethink who we are.

Government 2.0 is a paradigm of rethinking what government agencies do, how they serve citizens and how they could operate more cost-effectively and be innovative in an era of complex change. The use of technology with work process transformation and better strategic planning is part of this model. Also, how they prepare citizens for the future is essential.

There have been many attempts with all administrations since the Internet became a dominant communications revolution to create change, Democrat and Republican alike. Few big changes came about while the private sector has been completely transformed. Government cannot afford in an era of fiscal prudence, yes even under the Democrats not to innovate to reduce costs.

But agencies are very protective of their power and unless the White House takes a stand nothing will happen. So that is what this is, along with more then a policy directive, there are aggressive time tables for each deliverable starting in 90 days. Which is what this should be so it is not just policy directives with no metrics or deliverables.

I think this is a timely and relevant policy shift driven by cost and innovation, or the lack of it. It has been coming for awhile and when I advised under Bush I banged the drum of digital integration as did many more closer to power. Now it is clear that in this climate of Twitter, Apple’s rise, the mobile web, Facebook and this president who has the best record on alienating business of any president, he is trying to demonstrate that he is tech savvy.

Now, to why much of this may not happen. The agencies are traditional bastions of power and hold tight their fiefdoms. Meaning they will not change unless mandated to. Next. There is no additional budget as yet so in essence your asking the agencies to make this very innovative policy directive happen without any new funds. Challenging at best.

On the security, privacy and terrorism issues. This is now in the hands of Depart Homeland Security. I think that there is a confidential counterpart plan to this that addresses these issues as this is DHS’s role and when talking about interoperability and shared data etc. in government the legal issues on use of citizen data access and disclosures are hugely complicated. So rather then complicate the vision here, it is implicit DHS will handle it but this too could not be funded and therefore not a priority versus hard targets like terrorists.

Now a more sinister forecast could play into the intrusion dreams of shared data and preying on citizens and unless you have not been paying attention that horse has left the stable–Big Brother has arrived.

My forecast that I gave to about 80 agencies was that there were going to be three trends facing them within the next 3-7 years that would be driven by higher expectations of performance, customer demands and smaller budgets. There are about 430 agencies making up about $13 Trillion (around same as GDP) of which best accounts are that there is over 30% waste or irrelevancy that we could eliminate if anyone had any guts to do so.

The first is Reduce Government Forecast will affect the lower performing group of agencies that resist innovation and cost cutting and resist rethinking their agencies purpose, work, mandate and customer-facing quality controls (impact on citizens). They would go away. These agencies would be eliminated or be outsourced to private sector companies. FedEx and UPS can do the postal service, should mostly be digital. And on.

The second Government M&A Forecast affects the next group of agencies. They would for similar reasons, basically not performing, get merged and consolidated into other agencies or new ones that have rigorous metrics, like the private sector but around leveraging innovation and serving real needs, with highly intelligent government pros as opposed to special interest agents or providing jobs for political hacks.

The third Government High Performers Forecast, this rewards agencies who transform themselves into innovative, digital, inventive and cost-saving and even profit creating but certainly customer enabling agencies, that derive their power from empowering citizens via better health, education, technology, defense and employment services. I would have them compete with real metrics to win even more budget.

The key, now and whoever the next President will be, is to use this digital mandate to set the stage, get the metrics, see who gets it or not and carve up the rest and get rid of the dead wood. I know this sounds deterministic but this is what needs to happen given fiscal austerity or a growth scenario.

Enabling government to do more with less funds will require a Radical Rethinking of Government. In a recent keynote in Washington DC I outlined this vision of the future.

Impossible Facebook and the Future of Social Media

Posted by Dr. James Canton on May 30, 2012 under Uncategorized | Be the First to Comment

Impossible to imagine that a billion dollar revenue based company that dominates social media and has over 900 million users has to endure all of this huge diversionary mirage about the dysfunction of their public offering. Whew!! There I said it.

Common wisdom is that drop in value has something to do with Facebook’s S1 public offering disclosures, their lack of desire to actually make money (please, does anyone actually believe this?). I cannot think that anything is farther from reality.

Facebook is developing, and I do mean developing a disruptive new business model that puts a value on connections, relationships, networks of communities. Over $1 million per 900 million. Over $3 Million per business. This is a new, yet to be proven business model.

So the fast R/evolution of web business is hard to see in real time. Microsoft dominated the desktop, Google blew up advertising, Apple conquered the apps world and now Facebook is a mega disruptor all over again dominating social media. This doesn’t mean there is lots of room in the business ecosystem for Twitter, Linked In, and others to play in the huge global web connected marketplace. Plenty of dinero. Plenty of time to grow new innovations with a long tail.

So back to Facebook. Impossible Facebook. Can they meet the mobile web challenge learning from Apple? Can they monetize advertising like Google has? I think they can and they can co-compete with other players.

Keep in mind that to 900 people today and over two billion people tomorrow, within five years, Facebook will be the Web for most people. Search, communicate, transact, locate and share all via Facebook.

So do I care that the stock is dropping? Or the valuation is questionable? No. This is a billion dollar company just growing up. Give it time, while your on Facebook or off Liking this or that.

Let’s let Mark show us what he can do. I bet he is a closet data scientist that has big plans for big analytics, big data and has a vision of the future of social media, maybe even the future of society and business.

Impossible Facebook is a fulcrum of change, electrifying the now and maybe the future of social media. Give them time to stretch and grow.

Future of Energy

Posted by Dr. James Canton on April 24, 2012 under Uncategorized | Be the First to Comment

Recently I have been giving a series of keynotes to clients on the future of energy. I spoke to the Biomass Organization and recently the Gas Processing Association. The same trends seem to be relevant.

To understand the future of energy you have to understand demand drivers such as population, wealth, economics, demographics, mobility and health care. Why? Energy lies at the very heart of every society’s sustainability. Their commerce, security and well being are tied today and will be tied in the future to energy. Energy access determines the future sustainability, climate change, evolution and development of nations. You have access to energy, you grow and thrive. You don’t and well the absence of energy is critical to survival or demise.

The world will need over 45 terawatts of energy to be sustainable by 2040. There is not enough energy in the world to keep pace with global or national GDP. Not enough means an energy challenged future.

Without radical accelerated alternative energy sources such as nano-solar, extreme biomass, natural gas infrastructure and yes more petro sources, we will not be able to feed 9 billion by 2050.

We need a new Smart Grid that connects everything users and providers, petro to alternatives to energy harvesting chips to pollution management. This is the future if we start thinking holistically. Plug in to the future.

So the future is about radical innovations that may bring us fast and accessible new solutions. Big data, Cloud computing, biotech energy development, synthetic biology etc. Without that we are at risk. Prosperity and the future are linked. Without energy there is no prosperity. New radical innovations will transform the energy equation–more energy sooner coming and fast.

Stay tuned

2012 Global Futures Forecast

Posted by Dr. James Canton on February 9, 2012 under Uncategorized | Be the First to Comment

The Global Futures Forecast is a trend analysis of what’s coming this year from Dr. James Canton, the Institute for Global Futures. What’s on the horizon.

Just published at www.FutureGuru.com the Global Futures Forecast. Future of water, network agility, innovation, mobile, youth dissent, cyberhacking…

See www.futureguru.com for the full publication GFF 2012Future of Mobility

IBM’s Watson Challenge: Future Computing

Posted by Dr. James Canton on November 18, 2011 under Uncategorized | Be the First to Comment

My friends at IBM research invited me and small group to the latest Watson Challenge at UC Berkeley and Stanford this week. I had a deep dive into the computing technology behind Watson and it was a exceptional.

Watson, named for the founder of IBM, was the computer that beat the World chess champ and recently became the winner over the humans on Jeopardy. Now Wellpoint the health care provider to 60,000 patients wants to hire Watson to do decision analysis.

I know what your thinking–HAL from 2001, the Matrix and Terminator’s Skynet cannot be far off. If we have Angry Birds will we have Angry Computers? This is a fair question. Luddites don’t unite just yet. There are legitimate concerns about supercomputers running our world in ways that humans do not approve of where humans are oppressed by computers. We are not there yet.

What the folks at IBM do get credit for is experimenting with inventing new ways to intelligently use data and computing to maybe, just maybe make the planet and our future a better place. Other then just making a commercial product they are making a profound contribution to computing technology but also are doing some Big Thinking about how we can use computers in health care, security, transportation and safety to better meet grand planetary challenges.

For this I give them lots of credit, willing to think big and apply computing to larger more holistic frameworks. If we are going to face the big challenges of our day and the future, Watson and computers and AI’s like Watson, who become, even evolve into true thinking machines with IDH Intelligence Different then Humans will make the difference.

Watson is a learning computer operating at 80 terabytes of power and 15 terabytes of memory. What makes Watson interesting is not the techno data but the combination of machine learning, natural language processing and reasoning programming. Watson is the beginning of a new more powerful era of thinking machines.

Is Watson a true AI, an artificial intelligence I asked the IBM team, is “he” capable do you think one day of self-awareness? maybe even consciousness? They don’t think Watson now or in the future will achieve self-awareness and after the deep dive into the technology behind Watson I agree.

AI, once known as the fifth generation of computing project ran into many barriers over the past 30 year of computing. Theoretically AI, thinking machines are possible and likely but not based on the still rudimentary computer tools we have today.

What future does Watson point to? Intuitive computing based on nanoscience-based computer chips, software that is genetic-inspired, Cloud Computing networks, quantum information systems and synthetic biology when mashed up will offer new hardware, software and computing ontologies that will transform the future of computing.

So real AI, that can advise us and invent new solutions for a planet in conflict dealing with poverty, explosive population, war, climate change and business requires a new computing model well beyond where we can can envision today. Are we there yet? No but we are on the way.

The exploration of evolutionary biology, as a computing platform is a direction I am interesting in exploring. Computers that use GA and GP, genetic programming and algo’s may hold the key to future computers.
Computing that is based on network cloud deployed anywhere AI, cloud based intelligence, with a personality, now that is coming.

If we are really going to make a better world we need next gen tools like Watson to help us get there. When Watson builds the next Watson then we will perhaps discover a new generation of post-human computing, built by computers that can help the humans figure this all out.
Stay tuned.