Policy and technology: a "longue durée" view

Random thoughts on policy for technology and on technology for policy


March 2009

web2.0 in government: interesting workshop in Lisbon

Just got back from Lisbon iGov workshop on web2.0 in public administration. Very well organised, congrats and thanks to the iGov people.
I was pleaseantly surprised by the quality of presentations, despite the fact that I couldnt follow everything as it was in portuguese. But it seems that a lot of interesting stuff is going on in Portugal.
I remark two things:
– the passion and capacity of Anabela Pedroso, leading the national agency for government modernisation.
– a good sign: presenters often included usage data in their presentation. I insist on its importance here.

From my side, I added something new in my presentation. I added some key recommendations for government:


  • don’t hyper-protect public data from re-use
  • don’t launch large scale “facade” web2.0 project
  • don’t forbid web 2.0 in the workplace
  • let bottom-up initiatives flourish as barriers to entry are very low


  • publish reusable and machine readable data (XML, RSS, RDFa) > see W3C work
  • adopt web-oriented architecture
  • create a public data catalogue > see Washington DC


  • ensure pervasive broadband
  • create e-skills in and outside government: digital literacy, media literacy, web2.0 literacy, programming skills
  • fund bottom-up initiatives through public procurement, awards
  • reach out trough key intermediaries trusted by the community
  • listen, experiment and learn-by-doing

Also, in slide 15 and 16, I added a visualisation of the change of power relationship created by web 2.0, and the role of trust, information and attention in this.

does the EU need a cleanup?

Yet another time, I find a wikipedia article on a EU policy which is tagged. This time is e-participation.

So I would suggest the following motto:

The EU policies may require cleanup to meet Wikipedia’s quality standards. Please improve these policies if you can.

Ada Lovelace day – great podcast about gender and ICT

I have always a bit skeptical about gender issue but recently I changed my mind and recognize it’s important, mainly because now developers have greater influence in society than they had before so lack of IT skills by parts of the population will make their voice even less heard in the society overall.
So following the example of Eleonora and Lee, I’d like give my two cents contribution to the Ada Lovelace Day — Bringing women in technology to the fore .
I have no specific role models to indicate but I would like to recommend this great podcasted lecture on this topic by Jan Cuny.

Stimulus bill as a paradigm of government 2.0

I would like to bring together 3 key projects around the US stimulus bill that taken together illustrate a possible new paradigm in government.

Stimulus Watch: Keeping an Eye on Economic Recovery Spending This is a bottom-up project that aim at making public expenditure more intelligent by applying citizens analysis to proposals for funding bottom-up initiative to crowdsource the reading of the full stimulus bill (1588 pages) using the open source principle (many eyes). I am a big fan of commenting/mark-up tools for policy review, now becoming quite common. Good overview of available tools here , and the writetoreply project

RSS Hits the Big Time (Aaron Swartz’s Raw Thought) The US government requires agencies to publish all stimulus bill expenditure data as structured RSS

I am sure there are other interesting initiative related to the bill. Will follow it closely as it seems the policy issue where lots of government 2.0 initiative are converging. Small pieces which together build a new vision of government 2.0

UPDATE: I made a fundamental omission. We’re not talking RSS only. We talk about API, linked data, RDFa and more. Is this the ideal format of government data?


appsfordemocracy in Belgium

One of the reasons I decided to have my own company is to do things I really like.
And after the worskhop on public services 2.0, I’m happy to announce the launch of the INCA competition, which I helped to organize for IBBT, the Flemish research agency for applied ICT. They presented the initiative at the recent workshop on public services 2.0.
The basic question is: why are the example of public services 2.0 we mention only from US and UK? can we promote bottom up initiative like MySociety’s in continental Europe? Let’s encourage developers to do “stuff that matters”, as Tim O’Reilly says.
So the competition is now launched. Developers from all over Europe can participate, although the application must be usable in Flanders. Deadline 27th April, total award 20K Euros.
Hope to have applications from other countries as well!

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Hacking the European Commission

So we had the workshop on public services 2.0. It is impossible to summarize the energy and participation and inspiration and… I ambitiously think the atmosphere was similar to a Social Innovation Camp, or a Kublai Camp, although in a more policy-oriented context.
The quality and quantity of content was very good. I think this will become a repository of ideas for future times. Luckily, nearly everything is captured on our pageflakes page, including twitter messages, blog posts, presentation, fotos and video recordings.

Here are some random thoughts that emerge:
– the gap between web2.0 and EC was very clear and evident. Here we had the hacker spirit meeting the European Commission and EU governments. It was totally different with traditional European workshop. A necessary breath of fresh air. The EC people did not react defensively at all. They were genuinely interested, despite some very frank talks by the speakers. A lot of EC people in the room, and very senior people remained the whole day in the workshop – very rare. Raising awareness: objective met!
– sharing of practice very much happened. Between bottom up projects and between governments. I remember, for example, a great conversation over dinner on if and how can civil servant blog, in different countries. Sharing experiences: objective met!
– the division between micro, meso and macro was very effective and is an effective framing of the policy debate. The meso-level is original and crucial, as Alberto points out.
– remote participation rocked. Lots of people following audio video and quality was great (thanks Gavin and Gallomanor).
– Twitter deserves a special mention. A first for an EC workshop. Unbelievable participation. #eups20 was one of the top 10 issues on twitter worldwide. Yes, this is not a typo.

Overall, the workshop reflected fully the web2.0 spirit. Organised with passion, no money, in 1 1/2 month. It brought together great people, on the same wavelength despite the fact they did not know each other. Generate awareness and new ideas.
Next steps: try to make EU policies more web2.0 like. Starting from i2010 strategy which is being reviewed after 15th May. To collaborate, we keep on using eups20 as a tag in all our content. i will write more on that soon.

We’re drafting the report and would very much like your help, in the spirit of crowdsourcing. So please go on our shared document and write down one or two sentences that you will remember about this workshop. Even if you didn’t make it to Brussels, you can watch the videos on pageflakes and write down things you remember.

Sorry for leaving so many important and interesting things out. I would need too much time so I prefer to scribble something now and leave more ponderated thoughts for the report.

What do you think? Am I overly enthusiastic?

new URL for the workshop agenda

Public services 2.0: How to implement and promote user-driven open innovation in public services | ePractice

ePractice changed platform over the WE and they removed the old URL. Only this one works at the moment. Sorry for that. Hope to settle it asap.

Italy exposes the link between efforts on Internet regulation and industrial interests

There is a brilliant anecdote coming from Italy – unfortunately this happens too often.
An MP has made the usual law proposal for regulating the Internet, aiming at abolishing anonimity. Nothing original, I recently listened to a Member of the European Parliament proposing the same thing.
The argument is of course about protecting children from pedophiles.
What is interesting and oh so very italian is that the MP’s proposal, published as MS Word (!) on her website, clearly indicates as author the president of the DVD production association. The proposal has been completely WRITTEN by industry and passed on to the MP for proposal. See screencap here.
Of course this is nothing new, but what a beautiful anecdote to expose the real issues behind the debate.
Sadly for Italy, it didnt seem to create a big scandal. You cannot even find the news on top of Italy’s newspaper.
Hat tip to the Italian blogosphere for the discovery.

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Obama walks the talk: stimulus bill data available as RSS feed

RSS Hits the Big Time (Aaron Swartz’s Raw Thought)

The Obama administration has long put transparency at the centre of public management. See the recent Memo on transparency and FOI as described by William Heath.
Now we see they walk the talk:
Data on grants given by federal agencies should be released as standard RSS or Atom feed, including details of the recipients.
All I can say is that respects 100% the 8 principles of government data, would make people like Jack Thurston very happy, and would score 100% on my method for benchmarking transparency.
Most of all, it shows a concrete application, it sets an example. And provides another good slide for our presentations 🙂 at the workshop.

Hat tip K-Government through Alorza

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