Change is here. It is happening everywhere. I have been fortunate in the last few months to speak and also do a tremendous amount of listening and asking pertinent questions of minister level officials in 5 national capitals, on 4 continents. The pace of change in government use and implementation of social media, gov 2.0, open gov, egov and various other monikers is extremely rapid, in some countries it is breakneck.
But still the old bogeyman is hanging around. Fear. I have written about the role Fear plays in the gov 2.0 and open gov discussions around the world, but this recent world tour just confirms that fear is still the largest inhibitor to successful implementation of new plans, and actually stops some excellent programs right in their tracks. I have personally witnessed the role fear plays with minister level officials down to low level staffers as well as with political functionaries in multiple countries. I have been in meetings just this year where fear is so palpable in the room; that literally nothing gets done with the exception of voices being raised in anger or out of frustration.
That being said, there are also tremendous advances being made – both those that have been officially sanctioned and budgeted and those where courageous government workers are sticking their necks out to test, take chances and experiment. More and more it is less the top down movements and more the individual workers who are making the real changes. Because a shift in acceptance of a new role; of a new place in the workplace is well underway.
But besides fear, economic concerns are also hitting this movement, both positively and negatively. In USA budgetary crisis are causing ripples up and down the Gov 2.0 movement as it is called here. But at the same time the budget crisis globally is refocusing anew the issue of legacy system investment versus investment in new technologies that are often more cost effective and much more efficient.
So pretty soon we will be crossing the chasm of decision making from supporting older legacy systems and protocols with the need to be competitive on a data basis in an increasingly competitive and real time 24/7 world.
The time to make decisions about abandoning old legacy systems with a sunk investment versus the new-found results and applications available for cheaper alternatives is upon our society, and much like Y2K there is at least partially a ticking clock. This time it is how long will current systems last before not being able to operate in a new world?
In Europe which is also facing severe economic contractions, the funding for these programs is in fact increasing for now, but that may change if the EU financial situation continues to get worse. Additionally, certain European countries need to make a mind shift from cyber space equaling protection of assets versus cyber space being a multilateral space where protections of freedoms are just as important.
Australia is committing funding and new initiatives that will drive the adoption of these practices, including the NBN (national broadband network) which will effectively wire most of the continent to be able to implement egov and open gov quickly.
Canada is struggling with funding issues and a perceived innovation gap – but at the same time it actively encouraging the open gov coalition and just recently announced a new web standards policy and it is clear that there are some powerful ministers and ministries looking to adopt egov and open gov sooner than later.
The UK is getting ready to reveal its next new initiative “GovUK” currently in Alpha, getting ready to be launched in Beta, which will serve a government wide portal along the lines of Govusa, but with a much more direct call to action and a major change in how UK gov websites will be run and maintained in the near coming future.
Russia has a small but extremely active egov movement, and there are surprising strides coming out of Russia, including a gov 2.0 proponent now running for the Duma on an open gov platform. But given Russia’s history of top down management of its people and government, the egov movement in Russia struggles against the state dominated ownership and manipulation of both the media, and the infrastructure necessary to provide open gov, like ISP’s government maintained choking of internet access and the ability to shut off the internet from the people in a very dramatic fashion.
What I have learned mostly though, is that the breakneck pace of change that has been rattling the government and e-government spaces since 2008 is having real results globally. I will leave it to others to pick apart my statements or point to specific case studies. But reality is social, mobile, cloud are here and have forever changed how governments interact with themselves and with us.