Blog: Can Gov't Go from Open to Smart in Today's Economy?

For the last year or so governments have increased efforts to become more transparent by making information available about their agency decisions and operations, have increased public participation in government, and initiated plans and deployed nascent endeavors to collaborate and cooperate across all levels of government to better serve their constituents. Yes, these three are the Open Government mandates for federal agencies, but also, state and local governments have voluntarily embraced these tenets as well. Surprising in this economy of shrinking budgets, furloughed employees, and citizen demand for increasing information and services?

Not really, as governments that embrace openness realize that proactively sharing information that is useful to their constituents can optimize resources and create maximum citizen value. Take the example of Oakland County Michigan. In a state with 2010 foreclosures ranking the 5th highest in the nation, and a current unemployment rate at 11.3%, Oakland County is arguably one of the government entities most dramatically impacted by today's economy. Rather than curtail information sharing with their residents due to declining revenues and resources, Oakland County executives decided to maximize delivery of information by leveraging appropriate channels and resources. For example, the county is sharing information with citizens through a network of "Net Volunteers," citizens who access official government information and then blog about this information to further share with other citizens. This not only relieves government from this task but engages the public in spreading critical, authentic government news to interested citizens who may not access it otherwise.

The economy is also having a positive impact on government's ability to share resources across different entities. States like Nevada have legislative mandates for all government entities, including medical centers and schools, to collaborate and share applications across cities and counties. For example, although each county has their own animal control officer, Las Vegas hosts the animal control software, sharing with surrounding governments. This shared service allows citizens to see pictures of rescued animals, and includes information about when the animal was picked up, and which location they were taken to. Sharing services allows these government entities to efficiently better serve citizens.

Government entities can transcend from open to Smart Government even in this economy. In the recent IDC Government Insights report, Business Strategy: Transcending Open Government to Smart Government - GI227222, examples illustrate how government entities embracing processes that use smart technologies deliver useful information and optimal citizen service. Benefits to governments include not only increased efficiencies and responsiveness, but also the opportunity for real time citizen information sharing and feedback. Since maturation to the smart stage requires systems, software, services, and business processes that are connected and seamless, Smart Government will need to be driven by collaborative strategic plans that drive cross-agency investments in technology solutions, and drive cross-agency deployments -- efficiencies that become very practical in this economy.

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Adelaide O'Brien

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