Yesterday I was part of a panel at the CIO Summit, a conference for CIO’s of the various ministries of the Canadian Government. There was lots more I would have liked to have shared with the group, so I’ve attached some links here as a follow up for those in (and not in) attendance, to help flesh out some of my thoughts:
1. Doing mini-GCPEDIAcamps or WikiCamps
So what is a “camp“? Check out Wikipedia! “A term commonly used in the titles of technology-related unconferences, such as Foo Camp and BarCamp.” In short, it is an informal gathering of people who share a common interest who gather to share best practices or talk about the shared interest.
There is interest in GCPEDIA across the public service but many people aren’t sure how to use it (in both the technical and social sense). So let’s start holding small mini-conferences to help socialize how people can use GCPEDIA and help get them online. Find a champion, organize informally, do it at lunch, make it informal, and ensure there are connected laptops or computers on hand. And do it more than once! Above all, a network peer-based platform, requires a networked learning structure.
2. Send me a Excel Spreadsheet of structured data sets on your ministries website
As I mentioned, a community of people have launched datadotgc.ca. If you are the CIO of a ministry that has structured data sets (e.g. CVS, excel spreadsheets, KML, SHAPE files, things that users can download and play with, so not PDFs!) drop the URLs of their locations into an email or spreadsheet and send it to me! I would love to have your ministry well represented on the front page graph on datadotgc.ca.
3. Some links to ideas and examples I shared
– Read about how open data help find/push the CRA to locate $3.2B dollar in lost tax revenue.
– Read about how open data needs to be part of the stimulus package.
– Why GCPEDIA could save the public service here.
4. Let’s get more people involved in helping Government websites work (for citizens)
During the conference I offered to help organize some Government DesignCamps to help ensure that CLF 3 (or whatever the next iteration will be called) helps Canadians navigate government websites. There are people out there who would offer up some free advice – sometimes out of love, sometimes out of frustration – that regardless of their motivation could be deeply, deeply helpful. Canada has a rich and talented design community including people like this – why not tap into it? More importantly, it is a model that has worked when done right. This situation is very similar to the genesis of the original TransitCamp in Toronto.
5. Push your department to develop an Open Source procurement strategy
The fact is, if you aren’t even looking at open source solutions you are screen out part of your vendor ecosystem and failing in your fiduciary duty to engage in all options to deliver value to tax payers. Right now Government’s only seem to know how to pay LOTS of money for IT. You can’t afford to do that anymore. GCPEDIA is available to every government employee, has 15,000 users today and could easily scale to 300,000 (we know it can scale because Wikipedia is way, way bigger). All this for the cost of $60K in consulting fees and $1.5M in staff time. That is cheap. Disruptively cheap. Any alternative would have cost you $20M+ and, if scaled, I suspect $60M+.
Not every piece of software should necessarily be open source, but you need to consider the option. Already, on the web, more and more governments are looking at open source solutions.