Tag Archives: obama

Open data: Italia Data Drink, an event in Parliament, and news from America

The week begins under the star of open data. Tonight – Monday, April 18th – the Spaghetti Open Data group meets up for the first Italian Data Drink to enjoy an happy hour together; symbolically, we are going to meet at Mokarabia in Piazza Fiume, where it all began. Everybody is welcome (map). Many of us are in Rome to participate in an event organized by the fine folks at Agorà Digitale in Parliament for Tuesday 19th. As fond of our spectacular mailing list as I am, I look forward to a physical gathering, and to strengthen our links with the global open data movement thanks to the many guests from abroad.

Meanwhile, in the U.S., the Obama administration is revising its strategy on networked participation of citizens to policy making. Over two years after the famous presidential memorandum, the “open government” denomination itself is being abandoned for a new one: Good Government (official site). Beth Noveck, former deputy CIO at the White House, agrees (I recommend reading the full post):

In retrospect, “open government” was a bad choice. It has generated too much confusion. Many people, even in the White House, still assume that open government means transparency about government [and lose sight of] collaboration informed by data.

On Tuesday 19th I’ll also find the time to do a little thing of my own: I am presenting my book Wikicrazia in Rome, in an event called “Coffee with…”. The format is intriguing: we meet up at 8.30 a.m. and discuss over breakfast, on the spectacular terrace of Reti‘s headquarters. It’s by invitation only: if you want to join us, let me know and I’ll try to get you invited.

Open data: Italian Data Drink, incontro alla Camera e notizie dall’America

La settimana comincia nel segno degli open data. Stasera – lunedì 18 aprile – il gruppo di Spaghetti Open Data si ritrova al primo Italian Data Drink per un aperitivo; simbolicamente, ci troviamo al Mokarabia di Piazza Fiume, dove tutto è cominciato. Chiunque voglia unirsi è benvenuto (mappa). La ragione per cui molti di noi “spaghettari” sono a Roma è che martedì 19 aprile partecipiamo in massa a un evento, organizzato alla Camera dei Deputati da Agorà digitale. Per quanto mi piaccia la nostra favolosa mailing list, sono contento di ritrovarci fisicamente e, vista la forte presenza di esponenti internazionali, di fare squadra con il movimento europeo degli open data.

Negli USA, intanto, l’amministrazione Obama sta rivedendo la sua strategia sulla partecipazione in rete dei cittadini alle politiche pubbliche. Sono passati oltre due anni dal famoso memorandum presidenziale; la stessa denominazione “open government” viene accantonata in favore di una nuova, Good Government (sito ufficiale). L’ex vice CIO della Casa Bianca Beth Noveck approva (vale la pena leggersi il post completo):

Con il senno di poi, “open government” è stata una scelta sbagliata. Ha generato troppa confusione. Molta gente, perfino alla Casa Bianca, continua a pensare che open government voglia dire trasparenza su ciò che fa il governo, [trascurando] la collaborazione informata dai dati tra amministrazioni e cittadini

Martedì 19 troverò il tempo anche per fare una cosa più mia: presento il mio libro Wikicrazia a Roma, in un evento della serie “Caffè con…” organizzato a Reti. Il formato è insolito e molto intrigante: ci si trova alle 8.30 e si fa colazione insieme sulla spettacolare terrazza della sede di Reti. La partecipazione è solo a invito: se volete venire datemi una voce e vedrò che posso fare.

Obama’s data and Clarke’s first law

As was expected, Wired’s June issue has a story about Vivek Kundra, the first-ever White House Chief Information Officer. The Obama administration’s vision on federal data release in a machine-readable, user-rateable and taggable form is indeed very fascinating.

Towards the end of the interview, almost as a side to the main topic, the interviewer asks this question:

As CTO of Washington, you moved tens of thousands of employees from Microsoft Office to Google Apps to save money. Part of your new agenda is shifting the government to cloud computing and using free software. How will that happen?

I had missed it: in October 2008, as Obama was busy with his campaign, Kundra worked as Chief Technology Officer of District of Columbia. In that capacity, he moved 38,000 employees of the District’s administration from Microsoft Office to the Google cloud suite, obviously saving quite a lot of taxpayer money.

The problem with this story is that it looks like a theoretical impossibility. Incrementalist thinking – Yale’s Charles Lindblom being its most prestigious academic – is extremely influential in the American political science tradition. Incrementalists looked up deep, important reforms like the introduction of the Federal budget under the Roosevelt administration, and concluded that reform happens in small steps, aiming for what is possible, i.e. “the present situation plus or minus five per cent”. Migrate 38,000 employees from a system to another, mister Kundra? What about trade unions? And suppliers? How can we train employees for the new system? How can we get the middle management’s consensus? Trust us, mister Kundra, it can’t be done. Let’s do a pilot project instead, or a feasibility study. Something more… realistic. Incremental.

The incrementalist position – which I respect deeply – remind me of Clarke’s first law: when a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong. Did Kundra ever read Lindblom? Did he know his reform was impossible whan he went ahead and did it? He made it happen anyway. I wonder whether a little less of scientific realism and a little more healthy recklessness would not be a better recipe for reformers all over the world.