Policy and technology: a "longue durée" view

Random thoughts on policy for technology and on technology for policy


September 2010

Enterprise 2.0: the interim results

Tuesday 14th September we presented the results of the E20 study to the EC.
The workshop provided not only validation but real insight. All the presentations are available on Slideshare .
My take-out from the workshop (on top of the study findings) were:
– Ken Ducatel, EC lead on the digital strategy, provided the big picture and stressed that the study was actually more important than the EC originally thought
– it’s quite clear that E20 has not yet delivered large scale impact. Lee Bryant described the current status as early, patchy and tool centric. In our study, we struggled to find SME cases of E20. Employee adoption is viral in some cases, more difficult in others. Incentives to participation and sharing are not always effective.
– the market is very small but growing fast, Europe lagging behind both in supply and demand. EU start-ups cannot compete with US counterparts also because they have much less ressources from VC.
– together with VC, public procurement is a key are of policy activity. Current procurement approaches still are ineffective to leverage the growth of successful SMEs. New approaches to procurement have to be
designed, as well as to research and innovation policy, in order to reach out to real innovators.
– the software market is changing, margins are much lower and vendors should offer services on top of tools in order to be profitable. It’s therefore important to experiment with new business models
– E20 is an important area of attention but certainly not a key policy issue for governments. But the picture changes when you consider E20 as a specific case of innovation in software. The question then is: why did Europe miss out on this trend just as in many others? Why are EU companies much slower in adoption than US ones? Why did such innovation not come out of EU research? In general, this makes me think: is EU research funding more suitable for hardware and infrastructure rather than software? Is there evidence of this?
– success stories in open innovation such as 100%open were only possible because NESTA was arm’s length from government, otherwise it would have been difficult to justify politically to work mainly with large companies. In the end, SMEs benefit from this because they can participate in open innovation value chain, selling to large companies. This shows the importance of arm’s length body and trust in innovation policy.

The workshop went very well also because we invited 3 external, real-life speaker: Mart Van Der Kerkhof from Allen and Overy, a legal company who uses E20; Antoine Perdaens from KnowledgePlaza, a small E20 startup; and Roland Harwood from 100%open, the UK open innovation agency. This made the workshop much more meaningful and exciting, so I will keep on doing this. On top of this , we had two very insightful peer reviewers, prof Steinmuller from SPRI and Wim de Waele, CEO of IBBT.

My goal for the final report is to streamline the evidence, make a good business case for e20, but most of all looking at lessons learnt from the study that can help EU innovation policy switching from sevendipity to serendipity.

Co-building the research roadmap on ICT for governance and policy modeling

We just finished our consultation workshop on ICT for governance and policy modeling: really good, packed room, high-quality interventions.
The first version of the research roadmap is out for consultation .
Here’s a word cloud of the draft roadmap. Please help us making it better.

oops I did it again… my first unKeynote

Some time ago I blogged about not doing keynotes anymore, because I was frustrated by the futility of words towards generating action and change. So when the Swiss government invited me to give a talk at its Communication people, I said yes but only if we do it together with an interactive workshop where we actually address real-life daily problems and try to build gov20 solutions. Luckily, they accepted.
I’m just out of the workshop now, and it was a really good experience.

The preparatory effort was significant: we use google moderator to collect questions and concrete problems to be solved with gov20. Here’s my introductory talk, based on the question proposed.

After the talk, we started the interactive workshop:

  • We picked one specific problem, among the five that were proposed by the audience, and we discussed on possible 2.0 solutions for 30 mins.
  • We then split into groups for 30 mins, and each groups had one problem to address.
  • Finally we reconvened for 20 mins to discuss the solutions reached by the group and propose improvements.

The effect of this interactivity was twofold.
On the one hand, it generated excitement and raised attention level, because it located the learning process into the real context of the audience. I know this is an obvious pedagogic technique, but hey I’m not a teacher and never used it before.
On the other hand, it showed clearly the benefits of horizontal collaboration: participants realized hands-on the benefits they could gain by sharing the process, and how much insight you can get from colleagues. The greatest satisfaction was that it was a participant who at the end proposed to follow up this event through online collaboration.
Another lesson learnt is that the equilibrium between top-down and bottom-up was good: the introductory talk provided the big picture, the first joint exercise offered a lead into the collaboration effort, so that the bottom-up working groups were fully able to work autonomously. The final reconvening offered the opportunity to bring it all back together.
The level of the debate was very good, and all the key issues of government 2.0 that I generally address in my long talks were addressed by participants during the interactive workshop, located in specific concrete problems.
In the end, we all went away with the energizing feeling and motivation to kickstart new projects.
So thank you very much to Marcel for setting this up and for the 50 participants who really provided good debate, ideas and motivation. I hope we can follow this up!

Net neutrality policy: necessary hypocrisy?

Reading through Net neutrality issue, a question comes to my mind.
Why now?
Why today we see the freedom of the net being directly attacked?
I refer to two issues:
– copyright infringement. Now government are becoming serious about applying copyright rules. Up to now, they closed an eye.
– net neutrality. Government in EU are quite open to having telecom to charge service providers for the transport service through the so-called tiered access, for example making youtube pay for a guaranteed level of service
Why this coincidence in time?
Well for me it’s clear. Government kept a blind eye on copyright infringement because they wanted to promote broadband. And the main driver of broadband adoption has been downloading music for free.
Now that broadband is widespread, they can “open the eye” and act upon it.
Actually, for all our work on proactive policies to promote ICT take-up, the real policy lever has been: don’t prosecute copyright infringement.
I am actually not sure this is a bad choice. It could have been beneficial for the society and the economy.

Yet a questions come to mind: if this was the most effective choice, how could it be done in a fully trasnparent way? Well it couldn’t. Does this prove trasnparency unfeasable? Certainly not, but sheds light on what we can and might achieve as gov20 evangelists.

Open data in italy: making it happen

Following the example of the US, and originally of DC, many government agencies are taking the lead towards open data by building data catalogues for reuse. But in most countries, this is not happening thanks to government only. Instead, bottom-up initiative are flourishing to create data catalogues: as a data repository, we can refer to CKAN . For repositories of open data initiatives and good practice, we can find them on

Italy is certainly not at the forefront of the open data movement, yet things are happening.
Alberto with other friends is now collecting publicly available dataset. Basically, just post links to public datasets that you know as a comment to his blog entry, or here.

That’s a small step for a blogger, a potentially big leap for trasnparency in Italy. Or as Tom Steinberg says, “chinks in the armour where improvements are possible, whether with the consent of government or not”

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