Digital government transformation at scale

The strategy is delivery

While several books have contributed to the knowledge share of the digital government narrative, few have effectively addressed transformation holistically from firsthand experience, and Digital Transformation at Scale: Why the Strategy Is Delivery does just this.

Written by former United Kingdom Government Digital Service founders and leaders, Digital Transformation at Scale provides insights into the steps to take to create a functional, sustainable, accountable, scalable organization that is a conduit for government change. The granularity of advice, such as what to do first — first team, first 100 days, first projects — to sharing the work to ensuring failing projects are stopped to promoting savings are extremely insightful and practical.

As the authors note, digital is more than just technology:

“Digital transformation is not all about technology; it is about changing the way you work. … [It’s] about building a new type of organisation around internet-era principles, not adding technical complexity to try and fix analogue organisations. It means changing how an organisation runs itself in the background at least as much as changing what its users actually see.

“The biggest change is how you deliver. Working in empowered, multidisciplinary teams. Starting with the needs of users. Publishing your work in the open. Iteratively improving what you do. Testing new services with real people. Using tools of the open internet over expensive proprietary options. Writing clearly for a wide audience. Showing prototypes and working code as a substitute for papers and meetings. Building trust between people in your organisation, and those who it works with. Designing with data. Doing the hard work to make things simple.”

GDS had all of the ingredients for success, including a mandate and full empowerment borne from a 2010 government report, Directgov 2010 and beyond: revolution not evolution, particularly:

  • “Absolute control of the overall user experience across all digital channels, commissioning all government online information from other departments”
  • “CEO for Digital” with “absolute authority over the user experience across all government online services (websites and APls) and the power to direct all government online spending”

Key takeaways:

  • Start small
  • Establish political cover
  • Appoint a chief digital officer
  • Prioritize culture (agile, open, flat, together, driven)
  • “No innovation until things work.”
  • Operate under the radar (initially)
  • Establish principles principles, standards, strategy and a manual
  • Focus on shipping early versions of products that meet user needs
  • Socialize work early and often
  • Exact spending controls
  • Have a dedicated team with authority to stop bad projects
  • Show fiscal impact with performance dashboards and efficiency reports
  • Think ‘platform’

In 2013, GDS had 200 employees. Today, there are more than 850 managing delivery, guidance, marketplace and multiple platforms and products. It has inspired much of the digital government organization landscape, and Digital Transformation at Scale is the playbook for anyone — from elected officials to government administrators — sincerely interested in reforming how government serves the people.

Digital Transformation at Scale

Digital Transformation at Scale: Why the Strategy Is Delivery
Andrew Greenway, Ben Terrett, Mike Bracken, Tom Loosemore
232 pages
London Publishing Partnership (8 May 2018)

The security book everyone in government must read in 2019

If we’re ever going to get security right, technologists must embrace the need for policy and government leaders must do the same with technology, which is why Bruce Schneier’s Click Here to Kill Everybody: Security and Survival in a Hyper-connected World is the 2019 must-read book for every government leader, elected and administrative.

Specific security prescriptions range from standards and principles to the creation of a new federal agency, a National Cyber Office, that would advise and hold other agencies accountable, but also manage government-wide security efforts, such as the NIST Cybersecurity Framework.

Click Here to Kill Everybody is accessible to anyone who wants to learn about the problems and potential solutions of our increasingly Internet connected world, without feeling overwhelmed by the nuances and technological details that leave most people paralyzed with confusion.

Key excerpts:

“The admittedly clickbait title of this book refers to the still-science-fictional scenarios of a world so interconnected, with computers and networks so deeply embedded in our most important technical infrastructures, that someone could potentially destroy civilization with a few moue clicks. We’re nowhere near that future, and I’m not convinced we’ll ever get there. But the risks are becoming increasingly catastrophic.”

“It’s easy to discount the more extreme scenarios in the chapter as movie-plot threats. Individually, some of them probably are. But collectively, these are classes of threat that have precursors in the past and will become more common in the future. Some of them are happening now, to a varying degree of frequency. And while I certainly have the details wrong, the broad outlines are correct. As with fighting terrorism, our goal isn’t to play whack-a-mole and stop a few particularly salient threats, but to design systems from the start that are less likely to be successfully attacked.”

“All the blame shouldn’t fall on the technology. Engineers already know how to secure some of the problems I’ve mentioned. Hundreds of companies, and even more academic researchers, are woking on new and better security technologies against the emerging threats … And while nothing is a panacea, there really isn’t any limit to engineers’ creativity in coming up with novel solutions to hard problems. … My pessimism stems primarily from the policy challenges. The current state of Internet security is a direct result of business decisions made by corporations and military/espionage decisions made by governments … What we’ve learned from the past few decades is that computer security is more a human problem that a technical problem. What’s important is the law and economics, and the psychology and sociology — and what’s critical is the politics and governance.”

“I’m not optimistic in the near term. As a society, we haven’t even agreed about any of the big ideas. We understand the symptoms of insecurity better than the actual problems, which makes it hard to discuss solutions. We can’t figure out what the policies should be because we don’t know where we want to go. Even worse, we’re not having any of these big conversations. Aside from forcing tech companies to break encryption to satisfy law enforcement, Internet+ security isn’t an issue that most policy makers are concerned about — apart from the occasional strong words. It’s not debated in the media. It’s not a campaign issue in any country I can think of. We don’t even have a commonly agreed-upon vocabulary for talking about these issues.”

‘Government Digital’ with Canada CIO Alex Benay

Government of Canada Chief Information Officer Alex Benay

Government of Canada Chief Information Officer Alex Benay

Alex Benay is the Chief Information Officer Government of Canada and an open and relentless advocate for digital government innovation.

Benay is also the author of the new book, “Government Digital: The Quest to Regain Public Trust,” so we asked him to share his thoughts on the role of the CIO, Canada’s proactive move to technology modernization, and what it means for government to go digital.

What’s your role as Canada’s chief information officer?

The Office of the Chief Information Officer provides strategic direction and leadership in information management, information technology, security, privacy and access to information across the Government of Canada.

We provide support, guidance and oversight for all digital initiatives within the Government of Canada, and are working to a more cohesive digital strategy for Canada, including an enterprise vision for technology in the GoC, as well as supporting a digital-first service delivery strategy to meet citizens’ needs on any platform or device.

Both nationally and internationally, Canada is emerging as a global leader in digital government? Where are stand out examples we should be paying attention to?

From the My Alberta Digital Identity project (the Province of Alberta, Service Canada and TBS are working together to provide services via a digital identity to residents in Alberta), to the Canada Food Inspection Agency teaming up with Samsung to deliver food recall notices through their smart fridges, there are numerous examples of how government departments are working with partners to seamlessly deliver services to citizens.

In broad strokes, there are a few key policy areas we are looking to affect. These are:

IT procurement/spending

We are working to make procurement practices more agile, by shortening timelines, exploring the implementation of a tech spending cap, and connecting small and medium-sized enterprises and startups to government departments to leverage operational spending to support innovation.

Human resources

The digital economy has changed the nature of work. Government HR policies will need to adapt to better accommodate the ‘gig’ economy, while maintaining rights and benefits accorded to the traditional ‘full time’ employees. We’re working to make it easier for workers to move between the public and private sector, broadening their experience and bringing new perspectives and skills to public sector work.

Radical transparency

The entire Government of Canada system must get better at working in the open in order to do more with less, partner with sectors that possess expertise that we don’t have as a civil service and deliver services where people reside: online. Working in the open means more collaboration, more data shared via the Government of Canada’s open data portal, as well as relying on open source software when possible to deliver greater efficiencies.

Artificial Intelligence- Standards and Ethics

As mentioned previously, the government is currently working with public and private sector stakeholders on the development of ethical AI standards for Canada (both public and private sector) which will ensure that Canadian values are upheld and respected in all AI applications.

Why is ‘Government Digital’ important right now, and who should read it?

The digital revolution has affected every aspect of people’s lives, and governments need to keep up or risk becoming obsolete.

As Canada’s Minister for Digital Government, Scott Brison has said, “…governments cannot be content providing Blockbuster service in a Netflix world.”

Governments must look at leveraging technology to provide seamless services to citizens online, through multiple channels- be it their phone, social media platforms, digital assistance, or even the smart appliances in their home.

Digital service delivery does not care about systems, our hierarchies or our departments. The “Public Service” must learn to work together to succeed in serving citizens who are digital citizens themselves.

This book is for anyone working in the public sector, or any citizen who would like to see how governments can change and adapt to embrace the opportunities of the digital economy. It’s for anyone who’s tired of filling out forms in triplicate, and signing in to multiple user accounts to access government services from different departments.

Change is coming, and this book explores what the future of government will look like.

You differentiate between the old way and the new way. What’s the old way?

The world has problems, and governments have departments. This analogue, linear approach to service delivery needs to change.

The old way is having a citizen visit a service desk to apply in person for employment insurance, or to line up for hours at a passport office to apply for a new passport. The technology now exists for a citizen to use one login to access online services at a municipal, provincial and federal level. Various levels of government must now work together remove legislative barriers to information sharing, in order to provide seamless services to citizens.

And the new?

Governments are moving away from linear, analogue models for service delivery and embracing digital, exponential solutions.

As a nation, we need to think bigger and act quicker. In the startup community, a great deal of emphasis is placed on time to market. Similar thinking must now be adopted by governments.

We can no longer rely on policies and practices from an analogue era that mean it takes four to five years for change to happen. The digital revolution has drastically changed the pace of change, and governments need to adapt. Procurement timelines need to shift from three to five years to six to twelve months, and governments as a whole need to be more agile in their approach.

Internationally, Estonia is a great example of a country that quickly changed their legislation in order to prepare for the digital economy. From a national digital ID program, to encouraging global startups to make Estonia their place of business via e-citizenship, Estonia has established itself as a world leader in digital government. The economic benefits of this approach are easy to see- the small country with a population of 1.3 million currently boasts four ‘unicorns’ (tech companies valued over $1 billion dollars).

You’ve talked a lot about failure and even wrote a book on it? How and when is it O.K. for government to fail?

It’s become a bit of a cliché, but I do think it’s important to emphasize that failure should happen quickly and often.

Public servants who are quick to acknowledge and learn from failure are more likely to produce a higher quality product than workers who live in fear of failure, trying to cover up or airbrush mistakes, rather than frankly acknowledging when something isn’t working and changing it.

When you look at large-scale IT failures in the public service, it is often because problems should have been acknowledged very early in the planning stages, which would have mitigated some of the damage. By embracing a culture where failure is accepted as a part of innovation, the public sector can move away from linear, waterfall approaches to project management, and towards a more agile, and iterative model of product delivery.

You’ve established yourself as a cheerleader of sorts, but also openly and authentically talking about government innovation. What’s your advice to other technology leaders and, in general, an industry that’s typically reserved, behind the scenes and reticent to be as publicly vocal as you are?

As mentioned above, I advocate for a lot more transparency in the public sector. This means adopting a ‘user first’ approach to service delivery- designing services in the open, working with citizens to get their feedback throughout the design process, and relentlessly testing products and services before they are rolled out.

Leaders in government need to encourage their teams to collaborate with other departments, jurisdictions, the private sector and academia in order to ensure all perspectives are included to deliver the best service to citizens.

Government Digital: The Quest to Regain Public TrustGovernment Digital: The Quest to Regain Public Trust
Alex Benay
216 pages

‘Regulatory Hacking’: How startups and governments can work together to change the world

Evan Burfield speaking at Startup Turkey (Photo: Startup Turkey)

Evan Burfield speaking at Startup Turkey (Photo: Startup Turkey)

Silicon Valley’s approach to disruption is often hindered by hubris or naiveté, but neither of these are sustainable business strategies in highly-regulated industries, where bureaucratic, political and legal barriers are inevitable impediments to startup innovation, especially for those who think they can just ‘Uber’ their way to success.

Evan Burfield, cofounder of the government technology venture capital firm 1776 and author of the new book “Regulatory Hacking,” shares how startups can engineer better strategies to work with government and navigate the bureaucratic and legislative process.

Billed as a playbook for startups, “Regulatory Hacking” is a manual for both entrepreneurs and government leaders that can help these seemingly strange bedfellows bridge their culture differences and collaboratively facilitate positive, exponential, societal change.

What is ‘Regulatory Hacking?’

Regulatory hacking is how to build a startup in a complex, regulated market that is deeply intertwined with government.

Silicon Valley has refined a playbook for building startups that works great for dating apps and photo sharing–from the blogs of Paul Graham to Steve Blank’s lean startup methodology. But this playbook offers limited guidance when you’re building a startup in a complex market where you’re ability to navigate around government–or better yet to turn government into an active ally–is the difference between success and failure.

To the extent that Silicon Valley thinks about this challenge, it often reverts to the “Uber playbook” of stacking up a bunch of cash and attempting to “roll government.” But this is a naive way of approaching these markets. In fact, when you are genuinely building a product or service that can meaningfully improve the lives of millions or billions of people, then government can often be your biggest supporter.

Why is the book important now?

The past twenty years of startups and venture capital have radically transformed our lives as consumers–from Amazon to iPhones, Facebook to Uber.

But the next twenty years will look very different. The giant returns–financially and in terms of impact–will come from transforming our lives as citizens. This means interacting with government. We are entering the Regulatory Era for startups and venture capital.

There are five specific trends driving this:

  1. Tech startups are diversifying beyond Silicon Valley to other cities to take advantage of expertise and history in agriculture, manufacturing, or healthcare.
  2. The easy problems in tech have been solved. The next focus is on industries that are still in the early phases of digital transformation.
  3. We’re seeing a backlash against Big Tech, forcing the tech startup ecosystem to adapt to a new reality.
  4. Startups are solving urgent problems that would previously have been left to government or nonprofits, such as sustainable cities and infrastructure.
  5. The technologies of science fiction are becoming a reality. In that the new reality of self-driving cars, brain-computer interfaces and cryptocurrencies, regulators will inevitably play a role much earlier than they did in the consumer-tech world.

To win in the Regulatory Era, founders, funders, executives, and policymakers will need to get smart about regulatory hacking.

How did the inspiration, ideas and thesis for ‘Regulatory Hacking’ come about?

I’ve always been fascinated by the interplay between the worlds of startups and government–and have spent much of my life bouncing between the two. My work with 1776 and our global Challenge Cup program gave me exposure to founders around the world that were struggling to apply the Silicon Valley playbook to industries like health, education, energy, transportation, financial services, food, and security. Over time, we started to evolve a new approach, which became regulatory hacking.  So regulatory hacking was really an organic response to startups adapting to market forces.

The impetus for the book was actually pretty random. I appeared on an a16z podcast and we ended up talking about regulatory hacking. The podcast got a lot of traction and then I got an email from an editor with Portfolio within Penguin Random House. It took 18 months to turn that kernel of an idea into a complete book with startup stories from around the world.

What industries do you see the biggest need for regulatory hacking?

Goodness, it’s hard to just pick a few. As I argue in the book, the significant majority of the global economy operate within these highly regulated sectors. And these are also the sectors that the digital revolution has barely touched. The obvious ones are health, energy, transportation, government services, education, agriculture and food, financial services, and security. But some of the coolest startups that I profile in the book don’t fit neatly into any one of those categories, like HopSkipDrive in Los Angeles or Twiga in Nairobi. They’re improving citizens’ lives in ways that cut across industries.

You’ve mentioned before that Elon Musk is the quintessential regulatory hacker? Can you elaborate?

Elon Musk is absolutely the Ultimate Regulatory Hacker.

Each of the startups he’s helped drive–PayPal, SpaceX, Tesla, SolarCity, The Boring Company, and Neuralink–operate in exceptionally regulated sectors. He’s incredibly good at turning government into an ally for his companies, and in cases where he needs to get around inconvenient regulation he’s been really sophisticated in how he’s done that. In the conclusion of the book, I show how he’s used almost every one of the hacks I talk about throughout the book.

I would argue that the real story of Elon Musk is that he was the first person in the Valley to figure out that the major returns were going to come from interacting with government to improve the public interest, and he got smart about how to do so before anybody else.

What other companies are doing ‘Regulatory Hacking’ right, and how so?

We profile more than forty startups in the book. It includes Silicon Valley stalwarts like Uber, Airbnb, and 23andMe. But we also show how startups all around the world are employing sophisticated regulatory hacks. Startups like Twiga in Nairobi, BitOasis in Dubai, or Nuritas in Dublin.

Nuritas is a great example. They’re using artificial intelligence to analyze genetic data to identify compounds that naturally appear in food, which they can repurpose for health or pharmaceutical purposes. These compounds are highly regulated by organizations such as the US FDA. Nuritas has actually turned this into an advantage though. They’ve loaded up the regulatory standards into their artificial intelligence system, so that they focus on compounds that achieve health benefits and that they know will be easily approved by regulators. This to me is a great example of the kinds of startups that will win in the Regulatory Era.

Who’s doing it wrong, and what’s your advice to them?

That’s a loaded question. You can’t talk about regulatory hacking without engaging with Uber. They are the example that everyone jumps to when you talk about Silicon Valley and government colliding. But as I talk about in the book, they are such a unique outlier in terms of startups engaging with government. First, they were genuinely facing “iron triangles” in each city they entered. Taxi commissions were never going to give them permission if they just asked nicely. Uber had to figure out how to fight. But Uber was also taking on an industry where incumbent taxi operators were usually hated by citizens. And the regulations that Uber was fighting against were pretty esoteric versus the benefits that citizens received from using Uber. So it was easy for Uber to turn early adopter users into vocal citizen armies who would march to their city councils to get regulations changed. Almost no other startup that I’ve found has faced a similar dynamic, which is why the Uber playbook can be so destructive when Silicon Valley applies it as a blanket strategy for how to deal with government.

The idea that a startup can change the world but first they must change government or disrupt policy is intimidating for impatient entrepreneurs and their investors. What’s your practical and inspirational advice to startup founders and venture capitalists wary of getting into markets with high potential for government friction?

If you’re a 25-year-old Stanford grad sitting in San Francisco, then life looks pretty amazing. You can get entertainment, transportation, food, laundry, and even a massage with the push of a button on your iPhone.

But if you’re a single mother in Cincinnati that needs to take a bus to and from two jobs to keep food on the table for your kids, it’s much harder to see how the last twenty years of the digital revolution have actually improved your life. This gap is the current generation of entrepreneurs defining challenge.

This is where you’ll find the next massive financial fortunes. But it’s also where you will genuinely change the world, not just sound cool at your next TedTalk.

And if you want to solve those problems, then you better get really smart about regulatory hacking.

Regulatory Hacking:  A Playbook for StartupsRegulatory Hacking: A Playbook for Startups
Evan Burfield, J.D. Harrison
Hardcover, 320 pages

How government can enable peace through entrepreneurship

Photo: USAID Afghanistan

Photo: USAID Afghanistan

In “Peace Through Entrepreneurship: Investing in a Startup Culture for Security and Development,” former State Department staffer Steven Koltai makes the case that world peace can best be achieved through nonmilitary means, especially entrepreneurship that leads to global job creation.

Koltai, now managing director of Koltai & Co., previously served as senior advisor for entrepreneurship under Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, where he ran the nascent Global Entrepreneurship program. GEP’s mission, and the core of Koltai’s message in “Peace Through Entrepreneurship,” is aimed at creating entrepreneurship ecosystems based on a six pillar framework.

Koltai’s Six+Six Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Model includes identifying entrepreneurs, help get them the training they need to succeed, connect them to all appropriate resources and networks, fund them, enable public policy that supports new ventures, and celebrate their efforts and progress. This model depends of the collective support of governments, investors, academia, foundations, non-governmental organizations and corporations.

Writes Koltai:

“It is only government that has the wherewithal, mandate, and obligation to do entrepreneurship at the large, highly coordinated scale required. It is government that stimulates investment in failing and fragile states, and it is government that can turn sectors safe as a first-in investor. And, most important, it is government that is responsible for the security of its citizens. A government that allows the source of its threats to fester and spread unchecked is negligent, and especially so when a solution to those threats presents itself in the expertise of that government’s citizens. The U.S. government must elevate entrepreneurship as a foreign policy tool.”

Learn more: “Peace Through Entrepreneurship: Investing in a Startup Culture for Security and Development

Government comics

Government Issue: Comics for the People, 1940s-2000s

I serendipitously discovered “Government Issue: Comics for the People, 1940s-2000s” at the local library, and it’s a great compilation and dissertation on how government has used comics to better communicate with the general public.

Published in 2011, “Government Issue” highlights comics on topics ranging from military recruitment to employment, public health and safety to parks and recreation. Some were developed originally by the respective federal and local governments, while others were done in collaboration with popular comic publishers.

For public communications and engagement enthusiasts, “Government Issue” is a great coffee table book and perhaps point of inspiration for government leaders to re-think how to better communicate with constituents.

As author Richard Graham writes in the introduction:

“Official government comics reached their intended audiences by a variety of means, and the intended audience was the American people: comics as civics lessons. The government understood that comics, as a form of popular culture, have the capacity to simplify even the most crucial civic issues and shape public opinion.”

Government Issue” is available at Amazon.

‘You’re More Powerful Than You Think’

Whether you’re an agitated activist frustrated with the current state of politics, a civic hacker, government technology entrepreneur or public servant trying change the foundations of democracy from inside or out, “You’re More Powerful Than You Think” is an accessible guide for helping us all rethink what it means to have power and how to obtain it.

Written by Eric Liu, “You’re More Powerful Than You Think: A Citizen’s Guide to Making Change Happen” is part tutorial, part playbook, part anecdotal, part motivation. With its 9 strategies accompanied by examples from all aspects of the ideological spectrum, Liu’s book is applicable to anyone wanting to impact change who needs empowerment encouragement.

First, to embrace power, we must disassociate the negative connotations around it — i.e. “power hungry” — and accept it is a gift we give. By changing the context in which we discuss it, only then can we fully embrace giving power to others or imagine ourselves being powerful:

“When we see power as a gift, we realize we are perpetually in the position to choose when and whether we will give and to whom — and whether to throw it away or invest it. We perceive anew our own capacity to shape how others respond to us, and thus our capacity to shape the world. We recall that this capacity is ours as humans and citizens, even if circumstances have labeled us second-class humans or citizens. We see that we can remake those circumstances if we share and activate our gift wisely.”

And we must understand its nature in terms of semantics:

“If you are illiterate in power, if you cannot speak the language of who has clout and how it is exercised, you will not even realize you’ve been excluded from the question … Power is a language. It has a grammar and a syntax. It expresses our wants and needs, and is the medium by which those wants and needs are negotiated and addressed. Ignorance of that language is harmful to your aspirations and to your well-being.”

As for justification for the haves, Liu cites research that shows “with greater relative power comes greater sociopathy: more self-centeredness, increased sensitivity to affront, a sense of entitlement, a belief that high status is not just deserved, but natural, deep ignorance about people with less power, a lack of inhibition and respect for social norms.”

And for the have nots:

“People with low power … are more trusting than people with high power. Specifically, they are trusting of the people with high power. Chalk it up to wishful thinking or what psychologists call ‘motivated cognition,’ but when experimental subjects are place in low-power situations, they very much want to believe their high-power counterparts are benevolent and worthy of trust. This hopelessness — not based on any particular evidence — arises mainly out of a desire to evade the discomfort of being at the mercy of the more powerful.”

In order to realize our power potential, we have to experience it firsthand:

“But if we as citizens — and again, here I mean all who are willing to contribute — want to revive the promise of this experiment, we have to get more experience. We have to try power. We have to practice power. We have to practice making power out of thin air.”

Liu closes with a semantic perspective I’ve used many times when people outwardly despise “the government.” Liu says he started replacing “they” with “us.” As I’ve told people in these situations, “we” are “the government.”

“It forces us to admit that we are always the co-creators of the situations we don’t like. It reveals how often and how casually we otherize others. And it reminds us that we are always someone else’s they,” writes Liu.

Practicing “us” and “we” more and executing on the strategies outlined in “You’re More Powerful Than You Think,” in this digital age, any of us can become powerful. We never have to defer to others or accept that it’s unattainable.

As Liu writes, verified by the history of social movements, “it always only takes a few.”

‘Smarter Faster Better’ government

Photo: U.S. Marine Corps

Photo: U.S. Marine Corps

I finished reading Charles Duhigg’s latest book, “Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business,” and in it are two great government-related anecdotes around motivation and agile thinking.

The first shares how the U.S. Marines re-imagined the boot camp experience to inspire self-motivation and leadership in new recruits. The second is the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s well-documented Sentinel project, and it’s subsequent approach to agile development to get the project back on track.

The entire book is worth reading, and these two examples highlight the potential for government to think outside the box and change entrenched ways of thinking, get on a new path to impacting millions of others.

Duhigg is also the author of “The Power of Habit.”

Book: ‘How to Talk to Civic Hackers’

Civic hacker icon Mark Headd has written a book to help government officials best engage with community technologists.

The guide, How to Talk to Civic Hackers, “highlights strategies they can use to collaborate with people doing interesting and valuable work that can benefit or support the mission of government.”

The book is available at

Listen to the GovEx podcast interview with Mark discussing the book.

‘Delivering on Digital’

Delivering on DigitalI finished Bill Eggers latest book, “Delivering on Digital: The Innovators and Technologies That Are Transforming Government,” and highly recommend to public sector technology practitioners, especially governments who don’t have the resources to contract with a high-end consulting firm to build out a holistic strategy on their own.

“Delivering on Digital” emphasizes concepts such as open source technologies, agile methodologies, open data, universal user identification/login and security (making the latter very accessible and required reading). There are a number of anecdotes that perhaps are most applicable to larger cities, states and national governments, but still helpful in providing context on how all of these have been effectively implemented.

The aspects “Delivering on Digital” touch on that I’m not convinced are effective are the approaches to engagement around crowdsourcing, contests and prizes. I’m more bullish on open source communities, as advocated by Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst in “The Open Organization.” Unfortunately, we’ve yet to see government effectively create community or build accessible collaborative environments, which is why I think it defaults to a push-style approach to engagement.

I also think we’ve run the gamut on using Code for America, 18F, U.S. Digital Service and the U.K.’s Government Digital Service as anecdotes and examples of success, especially since they’re very difficult to replicate at scale. Something the government technology community has yet to confront are areas where things haven’t worked so well and would be invaluable to share and learn from. Unfortunately, the nature of the industry doesn’t make it easy for an open discussion of this, and most likely compounded by the book being part of a (brilliant) content marketing strategy for Deloitte.

Having said this, Eggers and his colleagues are adding tremendous value by publishing a resource like “Delivering on Digital.” Even more brilliant and value-add and breaking with traditional publishing rules would be to issue this with a Creative Commons license, much like O’Reilly Media did with “Open Government.”

Accompanying “Delivering on Digital” is a compilation of digital government playbooks, (currently in images that would also be great to see converted into an open format similar to 18F’s guides).

Eggers, recently appointed as the executive director of Deloitte Center for Government Insights, has also authored “The Solution Revolution,” “If We Can Put a Man on the Moon,” “Governing by Network,” “The Public Innovator’s Playbook” and “Government 2.0.”

Buy “Delivering on Digital” on Amazon.