‘Integrated’ is the new ‘open’ for government

37signals points out Apple’s use of the word ‘integrated’ as opposed to ‘open’ in the ongoing ‘open’ versus ‘closed’ debate (Apple changes words in order to change the debate), and it has important relevance to the open government movement.

Here’s what Apple CEO Steve Jobs said at a recent shareholder meeting:

We think the open versus closed argument is just a smokescreen to try and hide the real issue, which is, “What’s best for the customer – fragmented versus integrated?” We think Android is very, very fragmented, and becoming more fragmented by the day. And as you know, Apple strives for the integrated model so that the user isn’t forced to be the systems integrator. We see tremendous value at having Apple, rather than our users, be the systems integrator. We think this a huge strength of our approach compared to Google’s: when selling the users who want their devices to just work, we believe that integrated will trump fragmented every time.

…So we are very committed to the integrated approach, no matter how many times Google tries to characterize it as “closed.” And we are confident that it will triumph over Google’s fragmented approach, no matter how many times Google tries to characterize it as “open.”

Government is very fragmented (I’ve discussed this here before) and that’s part of the problem with the open government message. We can create more disparate .gov citizen Websites or mobile applications, but what citizens want at the end of the day is integration.

I’ve said before government needs a Chief Marketing Officer, but what it really needs is a Chief Experience Officer.

Government may not be a business, but it should think more like one when it comes to citizen adoption (satisfaction), especially given a recent study that Americans give low marks to Obama transparency effort at agencies. It’s no surprise Facebook has 500 million users or that Apple’s iPhone is so popular and responsible for a large percentage of mobile app downloads. Both are simple platforms that easily integrate everything we need in our daily lives.

Government would do good to excerpt Jobs and make his statement their own:

When selling the citizens who want their government to just work, we believe that integrated will trump fragmented every time.

When government becomes more integrated, citizens will see it as more open.

About Luke Fretwell

Luke Fretwell is the founder of GovFresh, co-founder/CEO of ProudCity and co-host of the podcast, The Government We Need. Connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn or email at luke@govfresh.com.

7 Responses

  1. Luke, I agree with you and think of integration on two fronts.

    First, cross-agency integration and coordination needs to improve. The challenge here is that no one is responsible for this/incentivised to do this (from a budgetary perspective this is not funded).

    The second is re-integration of government and citizens. The disconnect between us (citizens) and them (The Government) goes against the founding principles of our country. Emerging tools and technologies are tremendous enablers for this re-integration.

  2. Justin Herman

    Luke, you once again demonstrate why GovFresh plays a critical role in the community. You wrote the words we’ve been discussing in Federal Open Gov programs for so long – and now you made my day easier by giving me ammo for my next presentation. Thanks!

    And PS: You’re right about integration.

  3. Andrea Schneider

    Hi Luke,

    I agree and go one step further and think the principles of practice of Open Gov and the best of Gov 2.0 needs to be embedded wherever possible. As you know I am working on re-vising the federal grant making system to seemlessly embed core concepts while building capacity from the very beginning.

    This is where experience and wisdom will augment the tremendous push from technology. I’ve taken on the grant system, while not cool or sexy, because it is the main distributor of federal/public allocations for programs in the US. I will be writing more about this endeavor and love the dialog about thinking way out of the box about integration. I don’t think it has to be as hard as it may seem.

    We also need to re-think how we spend the same dollar over and over again, producing redundancy and duplication of effort which gets to what Maxine is talking about. Doing this will threaten the current “silo” systems existing in federal and state systems. This is one arena we can count on resistance.

    Nice post Luke

  4. I wonder what software developers out there think of the 311 concept? We’ve checked it out but it seems lacking. Is it the blank canvas to create this integrated system? I’d like to hear others views on this.

    Regarding “us” vs. “them” comment, we hear it frequently when requesting data. What are you going to do with “our data?” A great first step would be a single web portal to chat about who is finding what and where.

    Thanks Luke!


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