Business > Efficiency

Let's not automate government but rewire it - and save millions along the way!

Published 07 December 2014

An Open Systems Alliance using open APIs will help not just automate government, but completely rewire it. Camden Council CIO John Jackson explains the thinking bringing the Alliance together

 

Digital innovation is transforming government enabling us not only to automate services but, if we have the ambition, to reinvent what government is about. And it's happening in the world outside.

Think about this. If I was the CIO of my friendly High Street bank I'd normally save money by making services available on the web, providing cool mobile applications on the latest phone or making it easy to move money around between friends and family. I may also make it possible to allow access to promotions such as 5% off my shopping bill.

All of these actions lower the cost base of my bank and build some loyalty with my customers but fundamentally the same institutions, systems of governance and processes remain intact. In other words it's the same banks, same systems but with a user friendly wrapper.

But the world of banking and financial services will be revolutionsed. Bitcoin - a form of digital money - provides a radical and fundamentally different alternative to my High Street banking automation. An alternative that is nothing like what we know today.

Why? By providing a rich set of APIs that provide core functions and secure data sharing capabilities, Bitcoin enables savvy individuals to become banks, foreign exchange markets or financial advisers. In other words, it supplants existing institutions, bypasses regulatory frameworks and potentially completely changes how money works.

As such Bitcoin doesn't deliver an incremental reduction in costs, but potentially a potential massive reduction because the things that drove costs aren't there or are very different from what they were. More than that, Bitcoin shifts resources from classic institutions and ways of doing things to individuals with their own networks for getting things done.

Government could be similarly disrupted in the future if we could rewire government institutions, processes , data sharing and the relationship between government and the state using the same IT bits that allows this i.e APIs.

Digital government today has focused on many things including driving out costs, making government services easier to use, targeting resources better with analytics or becoming fully digital organisations that don't rely on paper and have highly empowered knowledge workers.

Digital government tomorrow is about Open APIs in every part of government. APIs that enable us to rewire government so it becomes seamless across sectors; APIs that enable active participation and engagement of citizens in decision making. Like Bitcoin, open government APIs should allow some functions and transactions to be managed by the citizen and local communities as opposed to traditional institutions and ways of delivering government.

But this is not a straightforward change. To support a radical and different way of government we need to accelerate and incubate the Open APIs that enable government to be rewired.

We need suppliers to provide open systems that share information easily through APIs. We need to use our cross government leverage to shape the market. To achieve critical mass and accelerate a tipping point we need an Open Systems Alliance across government to link up government along with the digital talent that exists in groups such as LG Makers to drive systemic change and accelerate the emergence of Open APIs for government.

We need to harness the power of the local government "crowd" so rather than reinvent things we share what we do. If a council has a great piece of code then let's share it. If we have common problems or needs lets get them into a common pipeline and kickstart them to share risk and investment. If citizens are building great apps lets suck them in and use them.

If we want to save millions, then let's not automate government, let's rewire government through an Open Systems Alliance driven by the passion and creativity in local government, communities and digital natives today.








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