In a Digital Society, government acts as a platform

In February this year, the World Economic Forum wrote “…in a digital society, governments should innovate with the best of them”; they also introduced the term “platform society”. Later, in November another article called for governments “…to take the initiative, helping companies with the upfront costs of resetting production systems and rethinking how we build cities and move goods and people around”. The role of innovation by governments is often overlooked (its easy to forget that the Internet, GPS and GSM emerged from government funded programs).

On how Governments can innovate with businesses: I believe there must be a deeper understanding of the nature and role of government; federal, regional and local. In my opinion, government’s primary value contribution is in creating a safe environment for its people and a level playing field for businesses to create products and services. In this capacity, government are regulators and business developers and service providers (or governmental businesses providing services that parliament has deemed essential for society). These multiple roles can complicate government’s collaboration with non-governmental businesses.

From a technology platform perspective, the generative nature of platforms seem to offer solutions that address the multiple roles mentioned above. In our paper Government as a platform, our closing sections issues a call to discuss the nature of Digital Commons – cross-sectoral digital commons and sectoral digital commons. I sense that Public Service Platforms can serve as multi-sided platforms that generate other platforms; ultimately creating ecosystems that can serve a digital society transparently and equitably.

Much needs to be done, much needs to be understood and disseminated. The future is exciting.

To be continued…

PS! I do hope that we can shift the narrative to value creation and tone down the hype of digitalisation.

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“One foot in today and one foot in tomorrow”

Our digital society will be formed by the collaborative efforts from many actors. Starting from the politicians who create the conditions for value-creation in society as per the peoples expectation (elections); the civil service who ensure that political priorities are implemented; business associations that drive their members business and employer agendas; employee organisations that drive their members’ agendas.

However, the best driver will always be the needs and intentions seen from the eyes of the consumer – i.e. citizen/customer – and how businesses respond to these needs. And how public service agencies encourage and support businesses in their quest to provide valuable products and services to consumers.

This week there was quite a flurry of activities related to digitalization in Norway; starting on the 25th April with the Digital North ministerial conference among the Nordic and Baltic states. This conference culminated in the Digital Frontrunner declaration signed by the ministers in the 9 countries that make up the region.

Today (28th April) a consortium of actors from the Health industry presented their findings about state of the market – the size and activities in neighbouring Nordic countries at NHO seminar (see agenda). The report has interesting numbers (see the full report here – Norwegian text). Also, today, IKT-Norge presented digitalization requirements (Norwegian text) to the Prime Minster Erna Solberg.

There seems to be some movement in the right direction, but then again – this is election year. Ultimately, there must be financial resources to drive these visions and change the status quo. And while there is work being done – there is still a lot that needs to be done; its’ still 95% perspiration and 5% inspiration. Or as Linus Torvalds says Shut up and get the work done.

PS! My own contribution this week was to talk to the enterprise architecture community at the annual ARK conference – theme “Architecture that supports Digitalization – about “Innovation in the Public Sector”

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The rise of Robotic Journalism.

This article about The Washington Post’s use of robots to generate news items during the ongoing Olympics is interesting (Axel Winter, thanks for sharing). I find it interesting for two reasons i) the evolution of content management technology and ii) the implications for societies in an increasingly post-factual world.

The advances in technology are remarkable and exciting as we continue our evolution to a digital society. (I recall the early days of ‘story servers’ in Vignette and advanced capabilities of Dynamo and Broadvision). I wish technology adoption could go even faster (Espen Andersen writes well on the slow progress in digitalisation). However I’m not going to elaborate on the technology other than restate my mantra that “So far IT has been mainly about the T and less about the I”.

The implications are more severe than I earlier blogged about (on the need for more Critical Thinking and a world of Robotic Journalism). The rise of agnotology as witnessed by Brexit, the popularity of Trump and rise of tyrants seem to point to the need for more transparency that ultimately builds trust ..that is if we are ever going to progress the ideals of democracy, inclusion and self-governance. In a digital era this means digital trust.

I believe that digital trust is not possible without impartial actors playing the roles of mediator, fact-checker and regulator. Algorithmic regulation in platforms is therefore not just a nice-to-have but a must-have requirement for societies seeking to harness the power of digitalisation. This serves an exciting challenge to technology companies, professional associations and public service agencies to collaborate. To collaborate towards creating an environment and culture that creates value for all members of society; not just the elite.

Failure to drive digital trust will most likely make the information revolution a violent revolution. As this article claims, history may not be on our side, so we need to work hard and fast.

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Digital Society … 10 years on

On 23rd May 2006 I shared my thoughts around the notion of “Digital Society” at a First Tuesday meeting. I pitched the idea of “Norway as a test bed” for digital services. And then in 2007 I pitched for “Digital Modernization”.

I had a fuzzy idea of what Digital Society was when I started this blog in 2004; I knew what it was not: it was not about IT; it was not about the Digital Home. It was not digital in the home but about connecting homes. “Connected homes = Society”

And now more than ever, I am convinced that so far IT has been primarily about “T” and less about “I”. Further, “IT” are only two letters of “DIGITAL”. Time to go beyond the technology. So there!

I do not blog as often as I once did – that’s because I decided to “do” and not “think”. I believe that we have a lot of “think tanks” – not not enough of “think-and-do tanks”.

Doing stuff I have since had the pleasure of being part of projects that have both influenced my thinking and hopefully also benefited from my thinking. Like participating in Norway’s national projects; which have taught me a lot – large scale innovation and technology delivery at scale. BTW, “Norwegian scale” is different – while some consider scale to be volumes; I like to think of scale in terms of “depth and connectedness in designing services”. I have the pleasure of serving on the board of the Norwegian Computer Society and help shape the national strategy – transforming DND to be a network of networks. Playing a small part in starting the Lær Kidsa Koding movement and then running a “coding in school” program for two schools has been rewarding and humbling. Helping shape and scale the Innovation@altinn program is both challenging and satisfying at the same time. Helping shape and drive activity at the C3 Centre for Connected Care is one of the many projects being run in parallel. My first academic paper on the topic of “Goverment as a platform” became a reality last year.

Going analogue So it was only fitting that on the 10th anniversary of my Digital Society post, I signed up to the board of a community network in my neighbourhood – Linderud Arrangementer. Going from Digital to Analogue will be exciting and will hopefully teach me more about being Digital.

Hopefully the next 10 years will go just as fast ….

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Consumers adapt faster than enterprises would like to believe

Consumers adapt to digital faster than one would imagine. Its happening slowly or fast depending on ones’ perspective. This Wired post captures the essence of our digital society. 

Since the ’90s we’ve gone from glove boxes stuffed with paper maps to floorboards littered with Mapquest printouts to mindlessly obeying Siri or her nameless Google counterpart

However, it appears that seeing the world through the eyes of a consumer seems to be a challenge. This is despite the fact that decision makers – commercial or public service enterprises – are consumers.

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The Industrial internet and platform-thinking

This conversation is probably one of the best I’ve listened to in a long time. It provides a nice context to understand the notions of the Cloud, Big Data, Internet of Things, Bring-your-own-device and mobility. These buzzwords come to life when they are matched by business moves by the likes of GE.

Marc Andreessen’s Wall Street Journal article

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Government as a platform – hype or real?

The Gov 2.0 Expo last month provided a wealth of knowledge about how governments can actually be transformed to serve as platforms. What I found interesting about the Expo — I was not present, just following from a distance – was this sense of a huge social experiment under way. An experiment that has global implications. A lot of the themes presented were very inspiring, like Think Tank from the Expert Labs. Palantir is an interesting “information infrastructure” technology demonstrating the power of open data ( and similar national data infrastructures).

These infrastructures and the apps that they are driving ought to get us rethinking how our societies function. O’Reilly says the Web 2.0 is not the redesign of the web, but stripping down the web to its essential core, similarly so for Government 2.0. Read and comment Tim O’Reilly’s book Government as a platform. My comments hovered around Society 2.0 — not a redesign of society, but getting back to basics for a more engaging and participative society.

From Expo, I found Tim’s conversation with Federal CTO Aneesh Chopra very interesting. It’s not that the views or ideas are so very radical or innovative. It’s the fact that they are executing to a vision. A vision built on the potential of mass collaboration, tranparency and participation. The core of this vision in driven by something called the Open Government Directive. Simple stuff, not rocket science — what impresses me is the execution — and potentially world changing. Ten years from now we will be wondering how we functioned as a society without transparency, collaboration and participation.

See this very rich review of Expo.

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