Open Technology Roadmap

Thu, 2005-09-15 22:52.

Openness is at the heart of truly worldchanging systems. Transparency of process, connections and results make open systems more reliable, more accessible, and better able to be connected to other systems; it also encourages collaboration and the input of interested stakeholders. This is perhaps most tangible in the world of technology, particularly information and communication technology (ICT); open ICT systems are increasingly engines of innovation, and are clear catalysts for leapfrogging across the developing world, via reduced costs, potential for customization, and likely interoperability with both legacy and emerging technologies.


Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society has just published something they call the "Roadmap for Open ICT Ecosystems" (PDF), a guidebook for policymakers, business strategists and technical specialists looking to implement open information and communication technologies around the world. The Roadmap doesn't focus on any single type of open ICT, but on the greater value of the open approach, and the ways in which open systems encourage collaboration and innovation using "a potent combination of connectivity, collaboration and transparency."


One aspect of the Roadmap that I find particularly compelling is that, although it speaks only to information and communication technology needs, the majority of the principles and ideas considered could apply more broadly -- to other kinds of technologies (such as biotech and nanotech), and even to political and social systems (such as voting methods and urban planning).


It's this broad approach that allows the concepts to apply to more than ICT. Consider, for example, the Roadmap's list of Guiding Principles of Open ICT Ecosystems:


An open ICT ecosystem should be:


Interoperable – allowing, through open standards, the exchange, reuse, interchangeability and interpretation of data across diverse architectures.


User-Centric – prioritizing services fulfilling user requirements over perceived hardware or software constraints.


Collaborative – permitting governments, industry, and other stakeholders to create, grow and reform communities of interested parties that can leverage strengths, solve common problems, innovate and build upon existing efforts.


Sustainable – maintaining balance and resiliency while addressing organizational, technical, financial and legal issues in a manner that allows an ecosystem to thrive and evolve.


Flexible – adapting seamlessly and quickly to new information, technologies, protocols and relationships while integrating them as warranted into market-making and government processes.


With a few slight adjustments to the phrasing, the same list would apply well as guidelines for a distributed energy network, or as guidelines for a transportation system, or even as guidelines for cooperative biomedical research. This isn't because the guidelines are vague or overly-broad, but because many infrastructure and service systems ultimately have similar needs for sustainable success.


That said, the Roadmap does give ample detail about the particular value of open information and communication technologies. Most useful, perhaps, is the section on how open ICT ecosystems can evolve. The Roadmap authors pointedly do not expect governments and organizations to shift to an open approach in one great leap; rather, the move to openness requires a great deal of rapid prototyping and incremental adjustments, to allow the particulars of the implementation to match the organization's context. That's the corollary to the low-level similarity of needs across disciplines: the specific circumstances of each case will be highly variable. The guidelines and the Roadmap don't tell you the answer, they help you find the answer.


This is one of those documents where the short length -- it's well under 50 pages -- belies the richness of the material. Open ICT systems have a definite value for development efforts, in terms of both leapfrogging and local/regional economic regeneration (it would be useful, for example, for the reconstruction of the Gulf Coast to keep the principles of open systems in mind). Even more useful, at least for me, is the degree to which the Roadmap triggers further consideration of how the open system concept applies outside of the realm of information and communication technology. The core principles of "connectivity, collaboration and transparency" have far broader application than just ICT; they are at the heart of a robust, flexible and sustainable model of society.
Via worldchanging.com

Rhode Island Govtracker Services

Thu, 2005-09-15 14:42.
Currently, government technology often quarantines its data from other agencies and its own citizens. While sensitive government data must be protected, there are many ways that citizens would be better served by making specific public content available through open services.
Web 2.0 applications lean towards making small pieces of data available to users in such a way that the data can easily be married to other small pieces of data from disparate sources. If government is to succeed in serving its citizenry and engaging civic participation, government technology decision makers must find a way to resolve the dissonance between the flexibility of Web 2.0 in the private sector and the legacy of restrictive monolithic applications in government.
It is simply unacceptable at this point in history that a citizen can use web services to track the movies he is renting, the weather around his house, and the books he's recently purchased but cannot as easily monitor data regarding the quality of his drinking water, legislation or regulations that will directly impact his work or personal life, what contracts are currently available to bid on for his state, or what crimes have recently occurred on his street.

 
Full article

Malta and web 2.0

Thu, 2005-09-15 12:00.

I believe Malta is currently witnessing a silent revolution through a growing number of Internet users who are coming to realize that they can have their voices heard without a controlling intermediary. This major paradigm shift is silent because those most active in it are yet to realize the true potential of digital communities and still see themselves as isolated individuals.
Although Malta is a tiny nation dominated by majority rule, embodied in the major political parties and the Roman Catholic church, a small digital community is about to embark on a path of social change which potentially has a much larger effect than any other effort the same social network could attempt without the benefit of the electronic networks of digital telecommunications.
Identity and self-image play an important part in the formation of digital communities. All identities are filtered through the personal experiences and the emotional ups and downs that flow through our interactions with and in everyday life. The Internet goes beyond all other media formats in altering a person's relationship to the so-called 'real' world of everyday life. It offers more possibilities than any other single-medium satellite communication. I don't say this hypothetically or from a position of utopian desire. I've lived on the frontline of Malta's cyberspace for over 10 years.
... Digital communities enable group action and interaction. They also engender constructive contexts and social capital. Reconfiguring the power relationships between ordinary citizens and traditional institutions, digital communities can give a voice to marginalized individuals providing peers who listen and contribute to the development of their unpopular ideas.
This is precisely what many Maltese Internet users are on the verge of discovering.

 
Full article

A World Made of Cities

Thu, 2005-09-15 11:41.

Vast new urban communities is the main event in the world for the present and coming decades. The villages and countrysides of the entire world are emptying out. Why? I was told by Kavita Ramdas, head of the Global Fund for Women, "In the village, all there is for a woman is to obey her husband and family elder, pound grain, and sing. If she moves to town, she can get a job, start a business, and get education for her children. Her independence goes up, and her religious fundamentalism goes down."
So much for the romanticism of villages. In reality, life in the country is dull, backbreaking, impoverished, restricted, exposed, and dangerous. Life in the city is exciting, less grueling, better paid, free, private, and safe.

 
Full article

John Hagel on global process networks and localized modularization

Thu, 2005-09-15 11:07.
Companies that persist in viewing offshoring too narrowly will almost surely destroy significant economic value. The real winners will be those companies with a new perspective. They'll see that global success requires them to reassess the fundamentals of their business strategies and master a new set of management mechanisms that includes dynamic specialization, process-network orchestration, and productive friction. In this way, global success can not only be achieved, but also sustained.

 
Full article

Jane Jacobs: what makes a vital city?

Thu, 2005-09-15 11:01.

Jane Jacobs: Cities are the chief motors of economies. You can't talk about economies without talking, at least obliquely, about cities. Any human settlement is an economic equivalent to a local ecosystem. Just as ecology is the economy of nature. I've just been looking at the same thing from the opposite point of view�”the nature of economies.


Stewart Brand: Presumably that steps you right up to the question of global economy?


Jane Jacobs: Yes. The nature of economies comes to that. But people want these prescriptions. You can't prescribe for a global economy any more than you can get a handle on prescribing for a global ecosystem. Also, if you get too abstract about these things they become meaningless. You can't put everything in one ball of wax without it becoming abstract.

Full article

Archives are at the heart of decentralized communities

Thu, 2005-09-15 10:44.
In decentralized, emergent communities, the community archive defines the community over time. Therefore, designers of such communities need to pay attention to the processes by which these archives emerge. The ongoing debate over folksonomy provides us with a public record of decentralized archiving strategies that do and don't work.

 
Link

Communities and governments

Thu, 2005-09-15 10:35.
Relationships - family and community - preceded governance and markets. This view from Jeremy Rifkin is in an interview published in May 2000:

"What I say to business leaders is "understand that your sector and the government sector are derivatives, not primary institutions." There is no example in history where you first create a government or establish a market, then you create a community. It's always the other way around, although we have lost sight of that lesson. First people establish communities, then they create social exchange, shared metaphors, shared meetings in life. Only when the social capital is well developed do communities create markets for trade and establish governments."

 
The full interview

"Individuals are the engine that makes a healthy local economy grow."

Thu, 2005-09-15 00:09.
Quotings from "A Global Look to the Local" by Colin Hines:
A Focus on the Individual and Taking Control of the Economy

‘Individuals are the engine that makes a healthy local economy grow. It is individuals, working independently and collectively, that form the fabric of community life. It is the skills, abilities, and experience of these individuals that can be mobilized to develop a vibrant local economy.’
Historically, significant community development tends mostly to take place when people in a local community are committed to investing their time, skills and resources in the effort. In the US, John Kretzman and John McKnight summarised successful community-building initiatives in hundreds of neighbourhoods across America.
They found that a key was to ‘map’ their local human, institutional and resource assets and to combine and mobilise these strengths to build stronger, more self-reliant communities and hence local economies. This consists of drawing on individual’s skills, the local associations where people assemble to solve problems or share common interests, and the more formal institutions that are located in the community. These include private businesses and public institutions such as schools, libraries, hospitals and social service agencies.
This drawing on local capacity is the start of a process which reinvigorates local economic and physical assets. Local government officials have been most useful when their role has been to support local problem solvers and strengthen and connect other local assets. The most helpful approach has been one where local government representatives have asked how they can assist local citizens in their development efforts. (The more usual approach has been to ask how local citizens can participate in the government’s efforts.) At a national government level a primary role is to ensure that a substantial part of government expenditures provides direct economic benefits in terms of local jobs, contracts and purchases .

 
A Global Look to the Local - pdf

The Globalist - Beyond the Nation State

Wed, 2005-09-14 23:48.

The ongoing integration of the global economy will lead to an inevitable undermining of the nation state in favor of the region. This is anathema to those who believe that a big, centralized state is the only way to run a territory. In "The Next Global Stage," Kenichi Ohmae argues that nation states are declining because their fixation on borders is not in line with today's transnational world.

Full article