I’ve been monitoring, evaluating, and deploying new technologies for over a quarter of a century. It’s something I love to do. Monitoring emerging technologies gives us an opportunity to imagine the possibilities of the future. Even better, more often than not, deploying emerging technologies gives us the opportunity to positively change millions of lives. As processing power has skyrocketed, technology costs have dropped, and half the world has connected to the Internet (yup – still 50% of the world’s population has no access to the Internet), the rate of new technologies introduced has accelerated. We quickly forget that Facebook didn’t exist 13 years ago or that the iPhone will only be 10 in 2017. It’s worth noting however, that for all the new ideas that are introduced each year, most don’t succeed. That’s sobering if you’re an entrepreneur and a challenge if some of your success depends on trying to figure out and invest in what’s “next.”
Assuming that current trends continue, our future belongs to cities. Already half of all humans on the planet live in cities, and by 2050 a full 70 percent of civilization will live, work, and play in an urban environment.
Video also discusses the role of the Internet of Things in a government and city context.
Successfully implementing knowledge management, which is broadly defined as the identification, retention, effective use, and retirement of institutional insight, has been an elusive goal for most organizations. Some of the smartest people I have worked with have been frustrated by their efforts, not through lack of trying or ability but by the inherent challenges it presents. Now the emergence and impact of social media and the way it democratizes the creation and use of knowledge in the enterprise is forcing us to rethink our assumptions.
The open government podcast, a Canadian duo, interviewed me about the work the City of Palo Alto has been doing around government innovation and more. The interview is in two podcasts. Total time is 30 minutes.
“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”
Antoine de Saint-Exupery
In the world of tech, we recognize that introducing a new product or service is often highly disruptive to an existing market and its competitors. What is relatively new is the speed and scale in which that disruption can take place. The torrent of punditry that pre-empts these introductions is notable alone. It has created an unusually unsettled technology marketplace.
It seems everyone is focused on big data. And why not? Today the world is producing an extraordinary volume of data. Our prolific machines and interactions are now venting a massive scale of data exhaust unprecedented in our short digital history. Big data is spinning up stunning visuals that are providing completely new understandings. Suddenly we’re embedded in the zettabyte era.
On one hot day last June, along with civic hacking events in 83 cities participating in the first-ever National Day of Civic Hacking, the City of Palo Alto, California, held an outdoor festival of civic innovation. Approximately 5000 people showed up to discover and be inspired by a wide range of technology-related talks and solutions for delivering government in completely new ways. While some software hacking took place, the focus was on beginning both the education and conversation on defining civic innovation and answering why it is so important to all our communities. The festival was a success and was highly praised by the community and at a special event at the White House later in the summer.
Ask yourself how much new value did you create for your organization today? Did you suggest a new way to reengineer a common task that could result in a better outcome? Are your work behaviors keeping you relevant? If these questions are not top of mind for you yet, they will be. Your future employment may depend on being able to answer them with a resounding yes. Why? Read on.
In an era of government deficits, it’s comforting to note that there is an abundant surplus of data. But until recently, leveraging value from data beyond its initial creation and use has been difficult. Today, this picture is changing. A combination of new technologies and a more enlightened emerging leadership is finding innovative ways to put data to work. Beyond much desired transparency and accountability, making government data more easily accessible is creating a wave of valuable community applications. In this video, I discuss this topic, explore best practices, and share my thoughts on civic innovation.
My 8-minute talk at CITRIS at the University of California Berkeley on September 12, 2013. The day-long conference was titled, “Can Open Data Improve Democratic Governance?” I was part of the day when we were asked to take a broad view of the opportunities and challenges presented by the massive volume of public data now available. We were asked to consider how governments and citizens can mine the advantages of greater information while also attending to concerns of privacy, equity and access?
Every community makes it their business to know their unique qualities. Great communities systematically leverage these qualities to sustain and improve their city or town. At the City of Palo Alto, California, we are fortunate to have many assets that collectively make our community a desirable place to live, work, and visit. While qualities such as our parks and tree-lined streets are characteristics of our physical environment, Palo Alto is notable for a population with the highest percentage of graduate degrees in the state, an insatiable appetite for entrepreneurship, and a propensity towards technology innovation. This short article focuses on some of our efforts as a municipal government to specifically leverage our technology community.
The following essay was submitted to the Alliance for Innovation by Jonathan Reichental (Chief Information Officer of the City of Palo Alto) and Sheila Tucker (Assistant to the City Manager) as part of the 2013 Transforming Local Government Conference. The essay summarizes work done at the City that resulted in the Thomas H. Muehlenback Award for Excellent in Local Government.
On June 1, 2013, nearly 100 cities throughout the US brought together public and private sectors to use software, technology and ideas to build better communities as part of a National Day of Civic Hacking. In Palo Alto, I was the founder and creator of CityCamp Palo Alto, our event on June 1. Here is a video, produced by HP, that focuses on their important contribution and how it ties into their own strategy.
The City of Palo Alto is creating social and mobile communities, and collaborating with citizens, volunteers, employees, partners and other agencies to change the way government is delivered.
When US Navy warplanes returned to base after bombing missions during World War 2, engineers would use hacksaws to cut pieces off broken aircraft and apply them to good planes to get them to fly again. Thus, it is purported, the word “hacking” was born.
As of early 2013, there are over a billion active monthly users of Facebook and almost 700 million daily users. People from across the world use this social network to share and exchange stories, pictures, ideas, and more. These numbers suggest a compelling platform that is engaging humanity in a manner without precedent. Facebook and its competitors have convincingly demonstrated that people will share and collaborate with each other, and with strangers, in an inclusive manner not just for fun, but to make things happen. And yet, when most of the working population of those users goes to their places of employment, they use technologies that reinforce barriers to collaboration. Email—albeit an important business technology—primarily facilitates sequential and non-inclusive collaboration. Up until recently, the merits of social networking has had the hardest time successfully penetrating the enterprise.
California Forward first reported on the city of Palo Alto’s Open Data Platform in August. The city is using technology to create a more inclusive form of local government. Months after its launch, we wanted to find out how if citizens are answering the call to become more engaged.
Antonio Savarese, journalist for the Italian magazine Data Manager, on a recent trip to Silicon Valley, joined me at City Hall to discuss a wide range of items. His published interview with me is available here. In addition, he recorded an interview which can be found here. His questions allowed me to elaborate on some of the work my team and I are doing at the City of Palo Alto and also for me to provide my thoughts on the future of technology. It is a short 14 minute video.
Data Innovation Day was held on Thursday, January 24, 2013. The purpose of Data Innovation Day is to raise awareness about the benefits and opportunities that come from increased use of information by individuals and the public and private sector. Events were held across the U.S. The following is my lecture at UC Berkeley on that day.
The city of Palo Alto, Calif., is stealing an idea from the commercial technology industry to improve services for its residents. In this video, city CIO Jonathan Reichental offers lessons learned from Palo Alto’s use of Lean Startup principles during several recent technology projects. The Lean Startup approach — which lets users test unfinished versions of new apps and websites — is routine in the commercial space. Now it’s catching on in government.
Making your agency’s data easily accessible to community members and computer applications has the potential to be a public sector game-changer. We call this process and capability: open data. In addition to increasing transparency and accountability–which can lead to greater trust with constituents–open data can enable innovators to build useful applications; analysts to find helpful insights; and innovators to create derivative value. Done right, there is little downside and a high-value upside. Looking across the U.S. today, we’re seeing an increasing number of federal, state, and local agencies embrace an open data future.
In his second guest column for EfficientGov, Palo Alto CIO Jonathan Reichental looks at the Open Data movement, and the criticality of “open government” in the 21st century.
Pete Peterson, Executive Director, Davenport Institute for Public Engagement and Civic Leadership at Pepperdine’s School of Public Policy; his essay on his discussion with Jonathan Reichental on City government innovation and, in particular, his observations on Palo Alto’s open data work so far.
Mashable spoke with Palo Alto’s Chief Information Officer Jonathan Reichental and City Manager James Keene, who are at the forefront of the city’s open data initiative, to learn more about the project.
Luke Fretwell, founder and editor of GovFresh, conducted an interview with me on the work we are doing at the City of Palo Alto in rethinking and reinventing the delivery of local government. In a wide ranging discussion we cover topics such as open data, hackathons, cultural change, and the importance of leadership support.
I am thrilled that our vision for Palo Alto as a leading digital city is a cover story today in the Palo Alto Weekly. The story does a great job of covering the highlights of our work over the past few months. We’re experimenting with new ways of delivering service in local government and it’s getting the attention of media, our community, and other cities. Mayor Yeh, City Manager Keene, and I couldn’t be more pleased with our progress. We’re ready to take this work to the next level. Links to story attached.
The moment that sealed the future of human-computer interaction (HCI) for me happened just a few months ago. I was driving my car, carrying a few friends and their children. One child, an 8-year old, pointed to the small LCD screen on the dashboard and asked me whether the settings were controlled by touching the screen. They were not. The settings were controlled by a rotary button nowhere near the screen. It was placed conveniently between the driver and passenger seats. An obvious location in a car built at the tail-end of an era when humans most frequently interacted with technology through physical switches and levers.
Over the last few years we’ve watched in giddy disbelief as a web-based social network launched from a dorm room at Harvard University unexpectedly found its way to be an enabler of a Middle East uprising. We’ve seen how new types of media have propelled people and events into the spotlight and even helped elect a U.S. president. We’ve looked in awe as mobile devices connected to a ubiquitous network have brought global commerce to the most remote parts of the developing world. We’ve seen 100-year-old businesses vanish as cocky upstarts replace their once unshaken dominance. We’ve delighted as citizens have been empowered by a new ease in which to leverage recently liberated stores of data held by governments.
We are living in amazing times. Technology is changing the way we work and play at a considerable pace and there is no letup in sight. Rather, the change we anticipate ahead will be greater and more profound than anything that has come before. If you, like me, are lucky enough to be part of implementing that change then you’ll likely agree that we are extra fortunate.
With all the attention being paid to both public and private cloud computing these days, it would be easy to believe that it offers a panacea for the woes of every CIO. If only! The reality of designing and implementing a cloud strategy, particularly the public component, is far more complex than any technology vendor or analyst paper would have you believe. Faced with an array of trade-offs, public cloud computing is creating considerable challenges for CIOs and their teams.
Organizations that succeed in consistently converting ideas into value, and then profiting from them — the art and science of innovation — are often those that have balanced rigid process with agility. The reconciliation of predictability and innovation is at the heart of many IT transformations, even if it isn’t an overtly focused intent. In other words, leadership wants more value from IT and more contribution to the bottom line, but they want it without compromising the core business functions that technology supports.
Internal IT innovation is all about converting ideas, those specifically supported by new technologies, into business value. These innovations often focus on needs such as improved internal processes or alternative and creative ways to support market activities. Four years into leading PwC’s IT innovation efforts, I’ve certainly observed enough of what works and what creates challenge to write a book on the subject. For this blog posting I’m going to briefly discuss an element of what I’ve experienced. It’s what I will call the 3 tensions of internal IT innovation.
How much new value did you provide your organization today? Did you suggest creative ways to go about a common task that resulted in better outcomes? Are your work behaviors keeping you relevant? If these questions are not top of mind for you yet, they will be. Your future gainful employment may depend on being able to answer them with resounding positivity. Intrigued? Read on.
Each of us are painfully aware of the new economic reality in which we find ourselves: national, state, and local government debt is skyrocketing. Simply put, it costs a lot more to provide and maintain government services than is taken in through taxes and other sources of revenue and thus we are forced to borrow to cover the difference. Every commentator on this subject offers essentially only three near-term solutions to the problem: raise taxes (some argue for lowering taxes), cut services and programs, and reduce the civil service payroll. And while all of these have historically played an important role in some form of debt remediation, I’m struck by the absence of the role of innovation in this national discourse. I’m not talking about entrepreneurial innovation which of course is a considerable generator of income and taxes; I’m talking specifically about cost-based innovation.
An Apple iPad is currently selling at a rate of one every three seconds. Since its launch in April, over two million have sold. These are numbers for the United States alone! It is only beginning to become available in other countries, so the pace of sales will gather further speed. In a good economy this kind of sales volume would be good. In a bad economy that’s close to phenomenal.
In a recent blog I argued that in order to prosper as an IT professional in the new, sobering world of alternative sourcing, new skills may be necessary. These skills are being necessitated by the changing role of IT within organizations. While it is possible to outsource much of the commodity technology and related services required by organizations, there is an increasing need for creative, complex problem-solving technology skills. This layer of technology need requires high doses of innovation and the attendant right-brained skills to make it happen. Rather than discretionary innovation for both the IT professional and IT organization, I called this essential innovation and coined the term essennovation. While my intent was to bring clarity to a common theme currently being discussed within IT circles and in board rooms across the world, I was delighted by the high degree of new conversation the blog provoked.
It’s likely not lost on many of us that large chunks of the internal information technology (IT) department at businesses are being outsourced. Rather than a new phenomenon, strategic sourcing–a term that covers the myriad ways resources and services can be alternatively provided by vendors– is picking up pace. We’re seeing more and more organizations choosing to move many of their technology functions to an external provider. Among many factors, increasing commoditization of technologies and services make them easier to offload to someone else. When we say commoditization in this context, we mean, for example: standard hardware and software, and services that can be relatively easily documented, then duplicated and repeated. Think about common technology needs such as data storage or software testing. By outsourcing, organizations can take advantage of, for example: lower labor costs; larger pools of scare talent; and the ability to easily increase or decrease needs, and subsequent cost, based on demand. In fact, strategic sourcing has been a boon for these types of business objectives. Only in the long term will we be certain of the wisdom of this strategy, but there is no doubt that short-term value is being recognized. At some point, one could certainly conclude that IT is simply becoming a utility and from a strategic perspective, ‘IT may not matter.’ But this conclusion, in my view, would be wrong.