Government as a Platform
Tim O’Reilly has promoted the view of “Government as a Platform“. Tara Hunt spoke about it at GOVIS 2008. Essentially the idea is to encourage government organisations to serve as a development platform business and industry.
NZ Government officials have been receptive to this concept because re-use of government information may have significant creative and economic benefit for New Zealand. In May 2010, the State Services Commission released NZGOAL, a standardised approach for State Services agencies to apply when releasing their information for re-use.
If you accept “Government as a platform”, then you hope “if you build it, they will use it”. There have been several #nzdata workshops over the last few months, intended to develop criteria for prioritising the opening of government datasets.
A different approach
I think “Government as a platform” is the wrong catch phrase. I base this on three events that occurred to me:
- I saw a GOVIS 2010 presentation about Operation Snap, a partnership to reduce property offending. The key message for me was about the transformational relationship between the parties involved (Cash Converters, Hamilton City Council, Crimestoppers, Gallagher, Datacom, Trademe, SelectaDNA, NZ Police, Ministry of Education). They had rallied together in developing an open, collaborative and value based system.
- I took part in the first #nzdata workshop. I discussed my emerging idea of an open data maturity model at the workshop. At the highest level I thought agencies might actually see how people use the data, and change their processes/systems/data to derive greater value.
- I read an article which said data from farms can be combined to drive productivity improvements worth $1.1 billion annually to the dairy sector alone (article).
Strategically, I believe a better concept is “Government as a partner“.
Government as a Partner
Governments occupy the role of regulators and law enforcers in many value streams. A value stream is an end-to-end business process which delivers a product or service to a customer or consumer. The process steps along the way may both use and produce intermediate goods, services and information to reach that primary end. As a trusted third-party, government agencies inspect and certify certain aspects of the process, ensuring its integrity (and thereby increasing its value). They seek to recover their costs either directly as compliance charges, or indirectly (via taxes).
Government agencies need to think how the information they hold can improve these value streams. This is not an entirely new concept; Supply Chain Management (SCM) has been around since the 1980s. What is emerging, is a shift in how Government Inc., thinks about its role.
SCM expresses the need to integrate the key business processes, from end-user through original suppliers. The basic idea is that parties involve themselves in a supply chain by exchanging information. If all relevant information is accessible to any relevant party, every party in the supply chain can help optimise the entire supply chain rather than sub optimise based on a local interest.
This leads to better production and distribution which can cut costs and give a more attractive product, leading to better sales and better overall results for the companies involved.
New Zealand is in a global competition, and government needs to partner in New Zealand’s supply chains.
Why do we need this?
- Cooperation between sectors
- New types of networks
- Multi-sector cooperation
- Competitive advantages
- Better marketing
- Better utilisation of resources
- More reliable information
- More effective working routines
- Greater participation
- Fewer misunderstandings
- More refined products
- Better service