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.

 

Mark Montgomery
Founder & CEO – Kyield
web: http://www.kyield.com
blog: https://kyield.wordpress.com
email: markm@kyield.com
Twitter: @kyield
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Strategic IT Alignment in 2012: Leverage Semantics and Avoid the Caretaker


A very interesting development occurred on the way to the neural network economy: The interests of the software vendor and the customer diverged, circled back and then collided, leaving many executives stunned and confused.

The business model in the early years of software was relatively simple. Whether an individual or enterprise, if the customer didn’t adopt the proprietary standard that provided interoperability, the customer was left behind and couldn’t compete—a no brainer—we all adopted. By winning the proprietary standard in any given software segment, market leaders were able to deliver amazing improvements in productivity at relatively low cost while maintaining some of the highest profit margins in the history of business. This model worked remarkably well for a generation, but as is often the case technology evolved more rapidly than business models and incumbent cultures could adapt, so incumbents relied on lock-in tactics to protect the corporation, profit, jobs, and perhaps in some cases national trade.

Imagine the challenge of a CEO today in a mature, publicly traded software company with a suite of products that is generating many billions of dollars in profits annually. In order to continue to grow and keep the job, the CEO would need to either rediscover the level of innovation of the early years—as very few have been able to do, play favorites by providing some customers with competitive advantage and others with commodities—occurring in the enterprise market but risky, or focus on milking the commoditized market power in developed nations while pushing for growth in developing countries. The latter has been the strategy of choice for most mature companies, of course.

Doing all of the above simultaneously is nearly impossible. Killer apps by definition must cannibalize cash cows and public company CEOs have a fiduciary responsibility to optimize profits while mitigating risk, so most CEOs in this position choose to remain ‘dairy farmers’ either until retirement or are forced to change from emergent competition. In discussing one such incumbent recently with one of the leading veterans in IT, he described such a CEO as “the caretaker”. For enterprise customers this type of caretaker can be similar to the one we hired a few years ago to protect our interests when we moved to the Bay area, returning to a property that was uninhabitable after messaging ‘all is fine’ (beware of the caretaker wolf in sheep’s clothing).

Now consider that software exports generate large, efficient import engines for currency in headquarter countries, thus placing those national governments in strategic alignment with the incumbents in the short-term (often dictated by short-term politics); and another entire dimension appears that is rarely discussed, yet very strongly influences organizations worldwide. This situation can influence governments in protecting and reinforcing perceived short-term benefits of commoditized market leaders over critical long-term needs of organizations, markets, and economies. It is not inaccurate to suggest that national security is occasionally misunderstood and/or misused in the decision process on related policy.

Monopoly cultures think and act alike, whether in the public or private sector, which is often (eventually) their undoing, unless of course they adopt intentional continuous improvement. This is why creative destruction is so essential, has been embraced internally by most progressive organizations in some form, and why customers should proactively support innovators and farm markets towards sustainable diversity. Despite what may appear to be the case, the interests of incumbents in enterprise software are often directly conflicting with the interests of the customer.

While the theory of creative destruction has roots in Marxism, the practice is a necessity for capitalism (or any other ism) today due to the natural migration of cultures and economies to seek security and protection, which in turn takes us away from the discipline required for continual rejuvenation. We embrace creative destruction in what has become modern global socialism simply because very little innovation would emerge otherwise. Competitive advantage for organizations cannot exist in rigid commoditization of organizational systems as we see in software. Simply put—whether at the individual, organizational, or societal level, we should embrace creative destruction for long-term survival, especially in light of our current unsustainable trajectory.

Which brings us to the present day emergent neural network economy. In our modern network economy we simply must have interoperable software and communications systems. The global economy cannot function properly otherwise, so this is in everyone’s interest, as I have been saying for 15 years now. The overpowering force of the network effect would place any proprietary standard in an extortion position to the entire global economy in short order. The current danger is that functional global standards still do not exist while national interests can align perfectly in the short-term with proprietary standards. That is not to say, however, that proprietary languages and applications should not be encouraged and adopted—quite the contrary—open source suffers similar challenges as standards in terms of competitive differentiation. Rather, it only means that proprietary technologies cannot become the de facto standard in a network economy.

In peering into the future from my perch in our small private lab and incubator in wilds of N AZ more than 15 years ago, the need for standardized structured data becomes evident, as does the need for easily adaptable software systems that manage relationships between entities. Combined with the data explosion that seems infinite, it was also obvious that filters would be required to manage the quality and quantity of data based on the profiles of entities. The platform would need to be secure, not trackable for many applications, reflect the formal relationships between entities, and set the foundation for accountability, the rule of law, and sustainable economics. In addition, in order to allow and incentivize differentiation beyond the software programmer community, thus permitting market economics to function, the neural network economy would require adaptability that is similar to that which takes place in the natural, physical world.

I suggest then while nascent and imperfect, semantics is the preferred method to achieve alignment of interests in the emergent neural network economy, for it represents the building blocks in structured data for meaning in the digital age, resting at the confluence of human and universal languages, and serving as the functional portal to the neural network economy.

Finally, as the humble founder and inventor, permit me then to suggest that Kyield is the optimal system to manage semantics as it intentionally achieves the necessary elements for organizations to align and optimize their digital assets with the mission of the organization, containing adaptable tools to manage the relationships between entities, including with and between each individual and workgroup.

May 2012 deliver more meaning to you, your organization, and by extension our collective future.

From the trenches: on tech analysts and software patents


On analyzing technology

One of the most destructive messages our culture broadcasts is that proposed solutions that cannot be reduced to 140 characters shouldn’t move forward. If that policy were enforced in decades past, most of the important technology companies wouldn’t exist today. Concepts can be compressed, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they will be understood. Most of the simple problems were solved long ago. Unfortunately, very few are capable of understanding complex solutions prior to a polished end product, including the world’s leading analysts who passed on most of the big wins early on. So if we intend to move forward as a species, we better craft a new policy and improve methods for developing solutions to the actual complex problems we face. My advice to other founders has long-been to ignore the noise, focus, and do your best to attract employees, partners, customers, and investors who have done their homework and have the capacity; much easier said than done with next gen tech across the ever expanding valley of death.

Most analysts who have studied Kyield, reported on it, and/or attempted to label our work were not prepared for the task and could therefore not be in a position to grasp it. This was not entirely unintentional on my part as I learned the hard way long ago to withhold enough information to make reverse engineering difficult. While many are familiar with the potential benefits of exposing and promoting trade craft and IP, few are aware of the risks involved, and those tend to be the ones we need to be concerned with as they are often employed by giant competitors in one form or another. The world has changed; the biggest threat to incumbents are start-ups with ground breaking technology and/or strong innovation, and as we’ve seen in many cases– almost any tactic is employed when enough power or money is at stake. This is obviously a serious problem for anyone who must divulge sufficient information in order to build products, and by extension everyone who depends on a dynamic and diversified economy.

Software patents

I’ve been waiting on standards to mature since the mid 1990s and on the patent application process since April of 2006. Both systems are dysfunctional as they are manipulated (largely by exploiting weaknesses) by mature incumbents who are threatened by invention and innovation. That doesn’t mean, however, that we need less protection for original creative work, rather that we need more protection, of a different type, and much improved.

IP theft and copying of original work products is an enormous problem that is doing massive damage to our economy today, which is unfortunately largely invisible to the super majority of citizens. The IT industry has frankly been an enabler both in choices on architecture and in attempting to manipulate the legal and political system (often with great success). The IP challenge is symptomatic of structural challenges in the U.S., and increasingly related to economic deficits, education, and healthcare. The incumbents and gatekeepers who have de facto veto power through the political process, legal system, and technology are often threatened by any actual improvement to the system, so they tend to be extremely proactive in their defensive tactics, representing a classic negative spiral to broader society. IT has been commoditized across the world in systems we all use and innovation has been severely curtailed, with very little ability for most to establish differentiation, which is essential for survival in a market economy. This situation directly impacts every major challenge facing our world today.

Some software companies, software developers, venture capitalists, and academics have publicly denounced intellectual property rights for software and processes. While each of the common arguments have valid points, we don’t see many independent inventors claiming they need zero protection, and they are the stakeholders who matter in this debate–for the future of everyone else. I suspect that large numbers of authentic creators have simply opted out due to the lack of protection and justice–I have heard from many creative inventors and engineers through the years who are otherwise employed.

I agree that we need foundational reform in IP, part of which is reflected in Kyield, but I see a much higher probability of technical innovation providing solutions to these challenges than our current political system. Indeed, with the current state of our political system, the primary risk is that legislation surviving the dysfunctional process tends to compound challenges for small, independent inventors, as small and micro entities have lost power in our political system. Those arguing against patents seem to be missing two crucial points:

  • No other viable option currently exists to protect original work beyond encryption with specific apps, while most of our challenges are systemic

 

  • Software is increasingly the primary medium to affect and deliver improvements in our society and global economy

 

I too almost gave up on the patent system–it has been among the most frustrating experiences of my life, both in dealing with the system itself and the byproducts created by a failing IP/legal/political system. Any system that averages many millions of dollars to defend a patent no longer serves individual inventors, obviously. However, I came to the conclusion that as dysfunctional as our patent, legal, and political systems are, the probabilities of real reforms surviving are substantially enhanced with patent protection as it is unlikely that any of the other models for reform will work, quite a few of which have now been tested. We obviously need a new IP system that is based on sound technical infrastructure with properly aligned incentives and protection for the individual inventor. Our Kyield system represents a substantial leap forward in the right direction, but it’s only a cornerstone in the foundation (for IP in society-it is a holistic knowledge system).

The chief obstacle to real improvement is that technical gatekeepers are also patent trolls who are threatened by improvements to the system. All decision makers need to think long and hard about this situation, not least of whom are those focused on internal defense instead of solving the problems of others. Eventually this deteriorating situation will have negative consequences for everyone. The most obvious immediate threat is a stagnating global economy. With global market power comes global responsibility. The IT industry has a lot of maturing to do before it can live up to its responsibility in the global economy, as do both developed and developing governments.

I have studied the topic of IP systems in detail with the various hats of a citizen, entrepreneur, consultant, incubator operator, venture capitalist and inventor. I see no viable, sustainable alternative to a functional personal property rights governance structure.

–MM

Unacceptably High Costs of Data Silos


Above is a screen capture of an internal Kyield document that displays an illustration of the high costs of data silos to individual organizations, regions, and society based on actual cases we have studied; in some case based on public information and in others private, confidential information. This is intended for a slide-show type of presentation so does not go into great detail. Suffice to say that human suffering, lives lost–human and otherwise, and wars that could have been prevented that were not are inseparably intertwined with economics and ecology, which is why I have viewed this issue for 15 years as one ultimately of sustainability, particularly when considering the obstacles of silos to scientific discovery, innovation, and learning as well as crisis prevention.

 
Mark Montgomery
Founder & CEO
Kyield
http://www.kyield.com

Semantic enterprise elevator pitch (2 min video)


Diabetes and the American Healthcare System


I am pleased to share our just completed healthcare use case scenario in story telling format.

We selected diabetes mellitus (type 2) as a scenario to demonstrate the value of the Kyield platform to healthcare. Given the very high cost of healthcare in the U.S. currently with an unsustainable economic trajectory, it’s essential that costs be driven lower while improving care. Diabetes type 2 has direct costs exceeding $200 billion annually in the U.S. alone, the majority of which is entirely preventable.

The most obvious method to overcome this significant challenge is with far more intelligent HIT systems. It is not surprising that the legislation appears to be perfectly matched for the Kyield PaaS– nor is it entirely accidental as our mission aligns well with the needs in healthcare; an R&D process that began more than a decade ago.

This was a challenging scenario to develop and write due to the complexity of the disease, large body of regulations, incomplete standards, and varying interests between the partners in the ecosystem.  A bit of extra personal motivation for me was that my father died a few years ago from complications from diabetes, which was diagnosed shortly after my brother died of ALS. Ever since the shocking phone call from my brother informing me of his “death sentence” in the summer of 1997, I have followed ALS research; among the most complex and brutal diseases.

Diabetes type 2 is also complex, but unlike ALS and many other diseases, diabetes type 2 is largely preventable with a relatively modest change in behavior and lifestyle– modest indeed particularly compared to the later stage affects of the disease in absence of prevention, which we highlight in this use case. It’s difficult to understand after watching my father’s disease progress for a decade why anyone would not want to prevent diabetes– it literally destroys the human body.

I hope you find the case interesting and valuable. I am confident that if followed in a similar path as outlined in this scenario, the platform will contribute to significantly more effective prevention and healthcare delivery at a lower cost.

Diabetes Use Case Scenario (PDF)

Mark Montgomery

Systemic Failures in Cyber Security


My reaction to a piece by George Hulme at Information Week’s security blog titled: National Cyber Security: Are we focused on the right stuff?

Clips from George’s post:

“Sensitive information is stolen daily from both government and private sector networks, undermining confidence in our information systems, and in the very information these systems were intended to convey,” said Blair in prepared remarks outlining the U.S. intelligence community’s annual assessment of threats.

“It’s a systemic problem throughout the software industry. Pick a major software maker – any one – and you are going to find security flaws a Navy armada could pass through.”

“As it stands now, it’s the software companies customers that pay the tax in the form of unending patch updates and attacks on their systems.”

“And it’s time to put more ideas on the table. And we should be open to consider anything, as the status quo of software quality can’t stand as it is.”

My response and comment:

I’d like to offer a very important point that most are missing in this and other similar issues.

You correctly describe the problem as systemic, which is a term we’ve been using for well over a decade to describe a myriad of problems, including security in computer networks.

If the problem is truly systemic, and I think it is, then it can only be addressed successfully with a systemic cure. Central to the core of this challenge is the anonymity of the Internet, which identifies computers, networks, and web sites, but not the humans that abuse them.

Despite populism, comfort zones, and conflicting business models, human identity is a corner stone of the Internet that was never built into the system design, and so ever since all manner of temporary brace has been employed to shore up the fragile architecture.

Unfortunately I think part of the cause was the culture the technology emerged from, which then created a large industry of maintenance/security firms, but what we really need is a stronger architectural design from the ground up.

Mark Montgomery
Founder & CEO – Kyield
Web: http://www.kyield.com
Blog: https://kyield.wordpress.com
email: markm@kyield.com
Twitter: @kyield