On Defining E-Government
—– Original Message —–
From: Mark Montgomery
To: eGov IG (Public)
Sent: Tuesday, April 24, 2012 3:35 PM
Subject: Re: what do you mean, e-gov?
One common irony with new disciplines and new technologies has been that we have thought leaders in many disciplines coming together to work toward the obvious benefit for the whole, yet are quite often very late to the game of defining our own role and mission. Too often has been the case when definitions are left to those with conflicts simply for lack of timely response from those in the trenches, and/or inability to form a consensus. A good rule of thumb seems to be that if you don’t define it someone else will sooner than later.
For many it is very difficult to consider any work credible that requires resources but has not been defined by the champions, aka sales people. Proper governance, use of public money, public trust, and fiduciary responsibility require no less than a definition– in many local governance schemes expending resources requires a definition by rule of law.
Of course that does not mean to suggest that orgs, agencies, local gov’t should wait for anyone to play around with definitions for years (or decades)– I did that with standards and therefore cannot recommend it for anyone other than the super wealthy and/or super spiritual living in a mountaintop monastery somewhere (humor folks). If efficiencies are obvious, as they often are, then of course any leader should grab the low hanging fruit and define it for their own use — especially given the fiscal situations in most of the developed world. To not do so is irresponsible in a world of massive needs and finite resources (dwindling, far from sustainable at this point–at least there is some consensus on that). However, that’s also precisely how the world wound up with massive data silos. So it’s surprising that no definition has been created and released by either this group or some other working the problem.
1) Of course definitions should include the rule of law as sovereign governments determine, within guidelines of international law, treaties, etc. Otherwise it would presumably be illegal in those jurisdictions anyway. However as many here have long considered looking to future functionality, universal compatibility will presumably be included.
2) Do not allow any special interest group or ideology to influence the definition (even if social herding/majority–perhaps especially then), or lack thereof (including government unions and corporations that often take an activist role), as we’ve seen in other cases.
In this case this would seem particularly important due to the potential economic efficiencies involved with the common usage of the term itself within the broader context in the world we live in, and in the era in which we live in it. That is to say that proper governance would require evidence-based stewardship, which at the moment the best evidence strongly points towards the need for a definition that includes economic and ecological sustainability.
Of course that well intentioned inclusion alone threatens enormous powerful interests– any progress does at this point. I am not suggesting inviting controversy, just that e-government and the standards employed should be based on the best evidence available on the solid ground of unbiased truth seekers; not the institutions or sponsors or guilds that employ them. May seem obvious but requires constant vigilance still.
3) Make an exceptional effort to be aware and understand one’s own bias– not restricted to conflict (academia, religion, industry, corporation, government), but bias in the specific discipline, culture (sector, geography, etc.) and even general philosophy. Advocacy has proven often to be a double edged sword in this regard with some seemingly not aware that they even have two edges, while others have proven remarkably skillful in the application of both edges while claiming ignorance that a weapon even exists.
Please allow me to pass on a warning given to me by one of the most prominent and respected IT industry/academic leaders a few years ago in discussing adoption of semantics one on one in one of the most influential orgs (paraphrase) — “expect arrows in the back, for they will surely fly if you are doing anything worthwhile in the modern era–it only demonstrates that you are in the lead”.
Of all the advice I have received in my career, this has proven to be the most wise and accurate, particularly surrounding technical standards.