Tag Archives: government 2.0

An Open Letter on Open Government to the Access to Information, Privacy & Ethics Parliamentary Committee

The other week I received an invitation from the Canadian Standing Parliamentary Committee on Access to Information, Privacy & Ethics to come and testify about open government and open data on February 1st.

The Committee has talked a great deal about its efforts to engage in a study of open government and since February 1st is quite a bit away and I’d like to be helpful before my testimony, I thought I draft up some thoughts and suggestion for the committee’s strategy. I know these are unsolicited but I hope they are helpful and, if not, that they at least spark some helpful thoughts.

1. Establish a common understanding of the current state of affairs

First off, the biggest risk at the moment is that the Committee’s work might actually slow down efforts of the government to launch an open data strategy. The Committee’s work, and the drafting of its report, is bound to take several months, it would be a shame if the government were to hold back launching any initiatives in anticipation of this report.

Consequently, my hope is that the committee, at is earliest possible convenience, request to speak to the Chief Information Officer of the Government of Canada to get an update regarding the current status of any open government and open data initiatives, should they exist. This would a) create a common understanding regarding the current state of affairs for both committee members and witnesses; b) allow subsequent testimony and recommendations to take into consideration the work already done and c) allow the committee to structure its work so as to not slow down any current efforts that might be already underway.

2. Transform the Committee into a Government 2.0 Taskforce – similar to the Australian effort

Frankly, my favourite approach in this space has been the British. Two Government’s, one Labour, one Conservative have aggressive pursued an open data and open government strategy. This, would be my hope for Canada. However, it does not appear that is is presently the case. So, another model should be adopted. Fortunately, such a model exists.

Last year, under the leadership of Nicholas Gruen, the Australian government launched a Government 2.0 taskforce on which I had the pleasure of serving on the International Reference Group. The Australian Taskforce was non-partisan and was made up of policy and technical experts and entrepreneurs from government, business, academia, and cultural institutions. More importantly, the overwhelming majority of its recommendations were adopted.

To replicate its success in Canada I believe the Committee should copy the best parts of the Australian taskforce. The topic of Canadians access to their government is of central importance to all Canadians – to non-profits, to business interests, to public servants and, of course, to everyday citizens. Rather than non-partisan, I would suggest that a Canadian taskforce should be pan-partisan – which the Committee already is. However, like the Australian Taskforce it should include a number of policy and technical experts from outside government. This fill committee would this represent both a political cross-section and substantive knowledge in the emerging field of government 2.0. It could thus, as a whole, effectively and quickly draft recommendations to Parliament.

Best of all, because of step #1, this work could proceed in parallel to any projects (if any) already initiated by the government and possibly even inform such work by providing interim updates.

I concede such an approach may be too radical, but I hope it is at least a starting point for an interesting approach.

3. Lead by Example

There is one arena where politicians need not wait on the government to make plans: Parliament itself. Over the past year, while in conversations with the Parliamentary IT staff as well as the Speaker of the House, I have worked to have Parliament make more data about its own operations open. Starting in January, the Parliamentary website will begin releasing the Hansard in XML – this will make it much easier for software developers like the creators of Openparliament.ca as and howdtheyvote.ca to run their sites and for students, researchers and reporters to search and analyze our country’s most important public discussions. In short, by making the Hansard more accessible the Speaker and his IT staff are making parliament more accessible. But this is only the beginning of what parliamentarians could do to make for a truly Open Parliament. The House and Senate’s schedules and agendas, along with committee calendars should all be open. So to should both chambers seating arrangement. Member’s photos and bios should be shared with an unrestricted license as should the videos of parliament.

Leadership in this space would send a powerful message to both the government and the public service that Canada’s politicians are serious about making government more open and accessible to those who elect it. In addition, it could also influence provincial legislature’s and even municipal governments, prompting them to do the same and so enhance our democracy at every level.

4. Finally, understand your task: You are creating a Knowledge Government for a Knowledge Society

One reason I advise the Committee to take on external members is because, laudably, many admit this topic is new to them. But I also want the committee members to understand the gravity of their task. Open Government, Open Data and/or Government 2.0 are important first steps in a much larger project.

What you are really wrestling with here is what government is going to look like in an knowledge economy and a knowledge society. How is going to function with knowledge workers as employees? And, most importantly, how is it going to engage with knowledge citizens, many of whom can and want to make real contributions beyond the taxes they pay and don’t need government to self-organize?

In short, what is a knowledge based government going to look like?

At the centre of that question is how we manage and share information. The basic building block of a knowledge driven society.

Look around, and you can see how the digital world is transforming how we do everything. Few of us can imagine living today without access to the internet and the abundance of information it brings to us. Indeed, we have already become so used to the internet we forget how much it has radically changed whole swaths of our life and economy from the travel and music industry to the post to political fund-raising and to journalism.

If today our government still broadly looks and feels like an institution shaped by the printing press it is because, well it is. Deputy Ministers and Ministers still receive giant briefing binders filled with paper. This is a reflection of how we deal within information and knowledge in government, we move it around (for good reasons) in siloes, operating as though networks, advance search, and other innovations don’t exist (even though they already do).

How our government deals with information is at the heart of your task. I’m not saying you have to re-invent government or dismantle all the silos and ministries. Quite the contrary, I believe small changes can be made that will yield significant benefits, efficiencies and savings while enhancing our democracy. But you will be confronting decades, if not centuries of tradition, culture and process in an institution that is about to go through the biggest change since the invention of the printing press. You don’t have to do it all, but even some small first steps will not come easily. I share this because I want you going into the task with eyes wide open.

At the very least we aren’t going first, our cousins both across the Atlantic, the Pacific and our southern border have already taken the plunge. But this should add urgency to our task. We cannot afford to stand by while others renew their democratic institutions while simultaneously enhancing an emerging and critical pillar of a new knowledge economy and knowledge society.

How Tories could do transparency – Globe and Mail

Today’s blog post appears in the Globe and Mail. You can read it there (please do, also give it a vote).

How Tories could do transparency

Britain’s new Conservative government did something on Friday that Canadians would fine impossible to imagine. After a brief video announcement from Prime Minister David Cameron about the importance of the event, Francis Maude, Minister of the Cabinet Office, and Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, announced that henceforth the spending data for every British ministry on anything over £25,000 (about $40,000) would be available for anyone in the world to download. The initial release of information revealed thousands and thousands of lines of data and almost £80-billion (about $129.75-billion) in spending. And starting in January, every ministry must update the data once a month.

For the British Conservative Party, this is a strategic move. Faced with a massive deficit, the government is enlisting the help of all Britons to identify any waste. More importantly, however, they see releasing data as a means by which to control government spending. Indeed, Mr. Maude argues: “When you are forced to account for the money you spend, you spend it more wisely. We believe that publishing this data will lead to better decision-making in government and will ultimately help us save money.” And they might be right. Already, organizations like Timetric, the Guardian newspaper and the Open Knowledge Foundation have visualized, organized and indexed the data so it is easier for ordinary citizens understand and explore how their government spends their money.

These external sites are often more powerful than what the government has. After observing the way these sites handle the data, the minister noted how he wished he’d had access to them while negotiating with some of the government’s largest contractors.

For Canadians, the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government is but a distant example of a world that a truly transparent government could – and should – create. In contrast, Stephen Harper’s Conservatives seem stuck in a trap described by Mr. Maude in his opening sentences: “Opposition parties are always remarkably keen on greater government transparency, but this enthusiasm mysteriously tends to diminish once they actually gain power.” Canada’s Conservatives have been shy about sharing any information with anyone. Afghan detainee files aren’t shared with Parliament; stimulus package accounts were not emailed to the Parliamentary Budget Office, but uselessly handed over in 4,476 printed pages. Even the Auditor-General is denied MP expense data. All this as access-to-information wait times exceed critical levels and Canada, unlike the United States, Britain , Australia and New Zealand, languishes with no open-data policy. Only once has the government pro-actively shared real “data,” when it shared some stimulus data that could be downloaded.

The irony is not only that the Tories ran on an agenda of accountability and transparency, but that – as their British counterparts understand – actually implementing a transparency and open-data policy may be one of the best ways to stamp a conservative legacy on the government’s future. Moreover, it could be a very popular move.

During the digital economy strategy consultations, open data was the second-most popular suggestion. Interestingly, it would appear the Liberals are prepared to explore the opportunity. They are the only party with a formal policy on open data that matches the standards recently set by Britain and, increasingly, in the United States.

Open data will eventually come to Canada. When, however, is unclear. In the meantime it is our colleagues elsewhere that will reap the benefits of savings, improved analysis and better civic engagement. So until Mr. Harper’s team changes its mind, Canadians must look abroad to see what a Conservative government that actually believes in transparency could look like.

David Eaves is a public-policy entrepreneur, open government activist and negotiation expert based in Vancouver

Let's do an International Open Data Hackathon

Let’s do it.

Last summer, I met Pedro Markun and Daniela Silva at the Mozilla Summit. During the conversation – feeling the drumbeat vibe of the conference – we agreed it would be fun to do an international event. Something that could draw attention to open data.

A few weeks before I’d met Edward Ocampo-Gooding, Mary Beth Baker and Daniel Beauchamp at GovCamp Ottawa. Fresh from the success of getting the City of Ottawa to see the wisdom of open data and hosting a huge open data hackathon at city hall they were thinking “let’s do something international.” Yesterday, I tested the idea on the Open Knowledge Foundation’s listserve and a number of great people from around the world wrote back right away and said… “We’re interested.”

This idea has lots of owners, from Brazil to Europe to Canada, and so my gut check tells me, there is interest. So let’s take the next step. Let’s do it.

Why.

Here’s my take on three great reasons now is a good time for a global open data hackathon:

1) Build on Success: There are a growing number of places that now have open data. My sense is we need to keep innovating with open data – to show governments and the public why it’s serious, why it’s fun, why it makes life better, and above all, why it’s important. Let’s get some great people together with a common passion and see what we can do.

2) Spread the Word: There are many places without open data. Some places have developed communities of open data activists and hackers, others have nascent communities. In either case these communities should know they are not alone, that there is an international community of developers, hackers and advocates who want to show them material and emotional support. They also need to demonstrate, to their governments and the public, why open data matters. I think an global open data hackathon can’t hurt, and can make help a whole lot. Let’s see.

3) Make a Better World: Finally, there is a growing amount of global open data thanks to the World Bank’s open data catalog and its Apps for Development competition. The Bank is asking for developers to build apps that, using this data (plus any other data you want) will contribute to reaching the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. No matter who, or where, you are in the world this is a cause I believe we can all support. In addition, for communities with little available open data, the bank has a catalog that might provide at least some that is of interest.

So with that all said, I think we should propose hosting a global open data hackathon that is simple and decentralized: locally organized, but globally connected.

How.

The basic premises for the event would be simple, relying on 5 basic principles.

1. It will happen on Saturday, Dec 4th. (after a fair bit of canvassing of colleagues around the world this seems to be a date a number can make work). It can be as big or as small, as long or as short, as you’d like it.

2. It should be open. Daniel, Mary Beth and Edward have done an amazing job in Ottawa attracting a diverse crowd of people to hackathons, even having whole families come out. Chris Thorpe in the UK has done similarly amazing work getting young and diverse group hacking. I love Nat Torkington’s words on the subject. Our movement is stronger when it is broader.

3. Anyone can organize a local event. If you are keen help organize one in your city and/or just participate add your name to the relevant city on this wiki page. Where ever possible, try to keep it to one per city, let’s build some community and get new people together. Which city or cities you share with is up to you as it how you do it. But let’s share.

4. You can hack on anything that involves open data. Could be a local app, or a global apps for development submission, scrape data from a government website and make it available in a useful format for others or create your own data catalog of government data.

5. Let’s share ideas across cities on the day. Each city’s hackathon should do at least one demo, brainstorm, proposal, or anything that it shares in an interactive way with at members of a hackathon in at least one other city. This could be via video stream, skype, by chat… anything but let’s get to know one another and share the cool projects or ideas we are hacking on. There are some significant challenges to making this work: timezones, languages, culture, technology… but who cares, we are problem solvers, let’s figure out a way to make it work.

Again, let’s not try to boil the ocean. Let’s have a bunch of events, where people care enough to organize them, and try to link them together with a simple short connection/presentation.Above all let’s raise some awareness, build something and have some fun.

What’s next?

1. If you are interested, sign up on the wiki. We’ll move to something more substantive once we have the numbers.

2. Reach out and connect with others in your city on the wiki. Start thinking about the logistics. And be inclusive. Someone new shows up, let them help too.

3. Share with me your thoughts. What’s got you excited about it? If you love this idea, let me know, and blog/tweet/status update about it. Conversely, tell me what’s wrong with any or all of the above. What’s got you worried? I want to feel positive about this, but I also want to know how we can make it better.

4. If there is interest let’s get a simple website up with some basic logo that anyone can use to show they are part of this. Something like the OpenDataOttawa website comes to mind, but likely simpler still, just laying out the ground rules and providing links to where events are taking place. Might even just be a wiki. I’ve registered opendataday.org, not wedded to it, but it felt like a good start. If anyone wants to help set that up, please let me know. Would love the help.

5. Localization. If there is bandwidth locally, I’d love for people to translate this blog post and repost it locally. (let me know as I’ll try cross posting it here, or at least link to it). It is important that this not be an english language only event.

6. If people want a place to chat with other about this, feel free to post comments below. Also the Open Knowledge Foundation’s Open Government mailing list is probably a good resource.

Okay, hopefully this sounds fun to a few committed people. Let me know what you think.

Which App for Climate Action do you like most?

Yesterday, at 5pm PST the Apps for Climate Action team at the Province of British Columbia released the list of 17 applications created using data from the Apps for Climate Action data catalog.

At the moment anyone can register and vote for the application that they think is the best. I’d encourage people to click over to the website and take a look.

The Apps for Climate Action is a demonstration of what can happen when we begin to make government held data freely available to the public: people can bring to life, even make fun, engaging and useful, what are often boring stats and numbers to bridge what Hans Rosling calls the last 6 inches (the distance from your eyes to your brain, a reference to the failure in design where we make data we can see, but not that captures our imagination).

In a month where our federal government cited imaginary data to justify policies on crime and has eliminated the gathering a huge swaths of effective data necessary for the efficient governing of our cities and rural communities as well as ensuring critical services will no longer reach innumerable Canadians, it is nice to see a province trying to do the opposite: not only understand that effective data is the cornerstone to good policy but to enable everyday, ordinary Canadians to leverage it so as to make smarter decisions, influence policy debates and empower themselves. It’s what a modern democracy, economy and civil society should look like.

The Apps for Climate action team and the government deserve a ton of praise fro striking out and trying something new and different. I hope they get worthwhile acknowledgement.

I for one am looking forward to the tough job of serving as a judge in the competition.

Apps for Climate Action Update – Lessons and some new sexy data

ttl_A4CAOkay, so I’ll be the first to say that the Apps4Climate Action data catalog has not always been the easiest to navigate and some of the data sets have not been machine readable, or even data at all.

That however, is starting to change.

Indeed, the good news is three fold.

First, the data catalog has been tweaked and has better search and an improved capacity to sort out non-machine readable data sets. A great example of a government starting to think like the web, iterating and learning as the program progresses.

Second, and more importantly, new and better sets are starting to be added to the catalog. Most recently the Community Energy and Emissions Inventories were released in an excel format. This data shows carbon emissions for all sorts of activities and infrastructure at a very granular level. Want to compare the GHG emissions of a duplex in Vancouver versus a duplex in Prince George? Now you can.

Moreover, this is the first time any government has released this type of data at all, not to mention making it machine readable. So not only have the app possibilities (how green is your neighborhood, rate my city, calculate my GHG emissions) all become much more realizable, but any app using this data will be among the first in the world.

Finally, probably one of the most positive outcomes of the app competition to date is largely hidden from the public. The fact that members of the public have been asking for better data or even for data sets at all(!) has made a number of public servants realize the value of making this information public.

Prior to the competition making data public was a compliance problem, something you did but you figured no one would ever look at or read it. Now, for a growing number of public servants, it is an innovation opportunity. Someone may take what the government produces and do something interesting with it. Even if they don’t, someone is nonetheless taking interest in your work – something that has rewards in of itself. This, of course, doesn’t mean that things will improve over night, but it does help advance the goal of getting government to share more machine readable data.

Better still, the government is reaching out to stakeholders in the development community and soliciting advice on how to improve the site and the program, all in a cost-effective manner.

So even within the Apps4Climate Action project we see some of the changes the promise of Government 2.0 holds for us:

  • Feedback from community participants driving the project to adapt
  • Iterations of development conducted “on the fly” during a project or program
  • Success and failures resulting in queries in quick improvements (release of more data, better website)
  • Shifting culture around disclosure and cross sector innovation
  • All on a timeline that can be measured in weeks

Once this project is over I’ll write more on it, but wanted to update people, especially given some of the new data sets that have become available.

And if you are a developer or someone who would like to do a cool visualization with the data, check out the Apps4Climate Action website or drop me an email, happy to talk you through your idea.

How to Engage with Social Media: An Example

The other week I wrote a blog post titled Canadian Governments: How to Waste millions online ($30M and Counting) in which I argued that OpenID should be the cornerstone of the government’s online identification system. The post generated a lot of online discussion, much of which was of very high quality and deeply thoughtful. On occasion, comments can enhance and even exceed a post’s initial value, and I’d argue this is one of these cases – something that is always a joy when it happens.

There was however, one comment that struck me as particularly important, not only because it was thoughtful, but because the type of comment is so rare. This is because it came from a government official. In this case, from Dave Nikolejsin, the CIO of the Government of British Columbia.

Everything about Mr. Nikolejsin’s comment deserves to be studied and understood by those in the public and private sector seeking to understand how to engage the public online. His comment is a perfect case of how and why governments should allow public servants to comment on blogs that tackle issues they are themselves addressing.

What makes Mr. Nikolejsin’s comment (which I’ve reprinted below) so effective? Let me break out the key components:

  1. It’s curious: Given the nature of my blog post a respondent could easily have gone on the offensive and merely countered claims they disagreed with. Instead Mr Nikolejsin remains open and curious about the ideas in the post and its claims. This makes readers and other commentators less likely to attack and more likely to engage and seek to understand.
  2. It seeks to return to first principles: The comment is effective because it is concise and it tackles the specific issues raised by the post. But part of what really makes it shine is how it seeks to identify first principles by talking about different approaches to online ID’s. Rather than ending up arguing about solutions, the post engages readers to identify what assumptions they may or may not have in common with one another. This won’t necessarily makes people more likely to agree, but they’ll end up debating the right thing (goals, assumptions) rather than the wrong thing (specific solutions).
  3. It links to further readings: Rather than try to explain everything in his response, the comment instead links to relevant work. This keeps the comment shorter and more readable, while also providing those who care about this issue (like me) with resources to learn more.
  4. It solicits feedback: “I really encourage you to take a look at the education link and tell me what you think.Frequently comments simply retort points in the original post they disagree with. This can reinforce the sense that the two parties are in opposition. Mr. Nikolejsin and I actually agree far more than we disagree: we both want a secure, cost effective, and user friendly online ID management system for government. By asking for feedback he implicitly recognizes this and is asking me to be a partner, not an antagonist.
  5. It is light: One thing about the web is that it is deeply human. Overly formal statements looks canned and cause people to tune out. This comment is intelligent and serious with its content, but remains light and human in its style. I get the sense a human wrote this, not a communications department. People like engaging with humans. They don’t like engaging with communication departments.
  6. Community Feedback: The comment has already sparked a number of responses which contain supportive thoughts, suggestions and questions, including some by those working in municipalities, as experts in the field and citizen users. It’s actually a pretty decent group of people there – the kind a government would want to engage.

In short, this is a comment that sought to engage. And I can tell you, it has been deeply, deeply successful. I know that some of what I wrote might have been difficult to read but after reading Mr. Nikolejsin’s comments, I’m much more likely to bend over backwards to help him out. Isn’t this what any government would want of its citizens?

Now, am I suggesting that governments should respond to every blog post out there? Definitely not. But there were a number of good comments on this post and the readership in terms of who was showing up makes commenting on a post likely worthwhile.

I’ve a number of thoughts on the comment that I hope to post shortly. But first, I wanted to repost the comment, which you can also read in the original post’s thread here.

Dave Nikolejsin <dave.nikolejsin@gov.bc.ca> (unregistered) wrote: Thanks for this post David – I think it’s excellent that this debate is happening, but I do need to set the record straight on what we here in BC are doing (and not doing).

First and foremost, you certainly got my attention with the title of your post! I was reading with interest to see who in Canada was wasting $30M – imagine my surprise when I saw it was me! Since I know that we’ve only spent about 1% of that so far I asked Ian what exactly it was he presented at the MISA conference you mentioned (Ian works for me). While we would certainly like someone to give us $30M, we are not sure where you got the idea we currently have such plans.

That said I would like to tell you what we are up to and really encourage the debate that your post started. I personally think that figuring out how we will get some sort of Identity layer on the Internet is one of the most important (and vexing) issues of our day. First, just to be clear, we have absolutely nothing against OpenID. I think it has a place in the solution set we need, but as others have noted we do have some issues using foreign authentication services to access government services here in BC simply because we have legislation against any personal info related to gov services crossing the border. I do like Jeff’s thinking about whom in Canada can/will issue OpenID’s here. It is worth thinking about a key difference we see emerging between us and the USA. In Canada it seems that Government’s will issue on line identity claims just like we issue the paper/plastic documents we all use to prove our Identities (driver’s licenses, birth certificates, passports, SIN’s, etc.). In the USA it seems that claims will be issued by the private sector (PayPal, Google, Equifax, banks, etc.). I’m not sure why this is, but perhaps it speaks to some combination of culture, role of government, trust, and the debacle that REALID has become.

Another issue I see with OpenID relates to the level of assurance you get with an OpenID. As you will know if you look at the pilots that are underway in US Gov, or look at what you can access with an OpenID right now, they are all pretty safe. In other words “good enough” assurance of who you are is ok, and if someone (either the OpenID site or the relying site) makes a mistake it’s no big deal. For much of what government does this is actually an acceptable level of assurance. We just need a “good enough” sense of who you are, and we need to know it’s the same person who was on the site before. However, we ALSO need to solve the MUCH harder problem of HIGH ASSURANCE on-line transactions. All Government’s want to put very high-value services on-line like allowing people access to their personal health information, their kids report cards, driver’s license renewals, even voting some day, and to do these things we have to REALLY be sure who’s on the other end of the Internet. In order to do that someone (we think government) needs to vouch (on-line) that you are really you. The key to our ability to do so is not technology, or picking one solution over the other, the key is the ID proofing experience that happens BEFORE the tech is applied. It’s worth noting that even the OpenID guys are starting to think about OpenID v.Next (http://self-issued.info/?p=256) because they agree with the assurance level limitation of the current implementation of OpenID. And OpenID v.Next will not be backward compatible with OpenID.

Think about it – why is the Driver’s License the best, most accepted form of ID in the “paper” world. It’s because they have the best ID proofing practices. They bring you to a counter, check your foundation documents (birth cert., Card Card, etc.), take your picture and digitally compare it to all the other pictures in the database to make sure you don’t have another DL under another name, etc. Here in BC we have a similar set of processes (minus the picture) under our Personal BCeID service (https://www.bceid.ca/register/personal/). We are now working on “claims enabling” BCeID and doing all the architecture and standards work necessary to make this work for our services. Take a look at this work here (http://www.cio.gov.bc.ca/cio/idim/index.page?).

I really encourage you to take a look at the education link and tell me what you think. Also, the standards package is getting very strong feedback from vendors and standards groups like the ICF, OIX, OASIS and Kantara folks. This is really early days and we are really trying to make sure we get it right – and spend the minimum by tracking to Internet standards and solutions wherever possible.

Sorry for the long post, but like I said – this is important stuff (at least to me!) Keep the fires burning!

Thanks – Dave.

Canadian Governments: How to waste millions online ($30M and counting)

Back from DC and Toronto I’m feeling recharged and reinvigorated. The Gov 2.0 expo was fantastic, it was great to meet colleagues from around the world in person. The FCM AGM was equally exciting with a great turnout for our session on Government 2.0 and lots of engagement from the attendees.

So, now that I’m in a good mood, it’s only natural that I’m suddenly burning up about some awesomely poor decisions being made at the provincial level and that may also may be in the process of being made at the federal level.

Last year at the BC Chapter of the Municipal Information Systems Association conference I stumbled, by chance, into a session run by the British Columbia government about a single login system it was creating for government website. So I get that this sounds mundane but check this out: it would means that if you live in BC you’ll have a single login name and password when accessing any provincial government service. Convenient! Better still, the government was telling the municipalities that this system (still in development) could work for their websites too. So only one user name and password to access any government service in BC! It all sounds like $30 million (the number I think they quoted) well spent.

So what could be wrong with this…?

How about the fact that such a system already exists. For free.

Yes, OpenID, is a system that has been created to do just this. It’s free and licensed for use by anyone. Better still, it’s been adopted by a number of small institutions such as Google, Yahoo, AOL, PayPal, and Verisign and… none other than the US government which recently began a pilot adoption of it.

So let me ask you: Do you think the login system designed by the BC government is going to be more, or less secure that that an open source system that enjoys the support of Google, Yahoo, AOL, PayPal, Verisign and the US Government? Moreover, do we think that the security concerns these organizations have regarding their clients and citizens are less strict than those of the BC government?

I suspect not.

But that isn’t going to prevent us from sinking millions into a system that will be less secure and will costs millions more to sustain over the coming decades (since we’ll be the only ones using it… we’ll have to have uniquely trained people to sustain it!).

Of course, it gets worse. While the BC government is designing its own system, rumour has it that the Federal Government is looking into replacing Epass; it’s own aging website login system which, by the by, does not work with Firefox, a web browser used by only a quarter of all Canadians. Of course, I’m willing to bet almost anything that no one is even contemplating using OpenID. Instead, we will sink 10’s of millions of dollars (if not more…) into a system. Of course, what’s $100 million of taxpayer dollars…

Oh, and today’s my birthday! And despite the tone of this post I’m actually in a really good mood and have had a great time with friends, family and loved ones. And where will I be today…? At 30,000 ft flying to Ottawa for GovCamp Canada. Isn’t that appropriate? :)