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.