Aneesh Chopra

GovFest organizers decompress, look to the future

Former U.S. CTO Aneesh Chopra at GovFest (Photo: Amr Mounib Photography)

Former U.S. CTO Aneesh Chopra at GovFest (Photo: Amr Mounib Photography)

This past September, more than 1,400 DC-area entrepreneurs and government innovators gathered for GovFest.

Organizer Adam Zuckerman shares what he learned and plans for the future.

What is GovFest?

#GovFest was an event built around the idea of bringing together entrepreneurs from both the private sector and government. Our focus was to address a single question: How can we innovate and collaborate together in more effective ways? It was held at the Half Yard Fairgrounds next to Nationals Stadium, and with over 1,400 people registered for the event, was a terrific evening filled with conversation and new ideas.

What were the highlights?

  • Aneesh Chopra leading our headline panel, with representatives from NASA, Treasury and SBA.
  • Two Quick Chat tracks, each addressing questions about government (e.g. innovation, intellectual property, government contracting, etc.).
  • Over 1,400 people registered from all over the region.
  • The Innovation and Collaboration Expo, with over 30 businesses and government agencies represented.

What did you learn from organizing such a big event?

  • This is an event the DC area wants and needs. With a plethora of talent in both sectors, DC is rife with opportunities for both disruption and new businesses.
  • While our turnout was terrific, if we want more government personnel to attend, we should hold the event earlier or later (not so close to the end of the government’s fiscal year).
  • People will wait in line for massage chairs.
  • Always bring lots of gaffers tape. That stuff will hold down everything it touches.

What are your future plans with GovFest?

As with our annual Day of Fosterly event, we’re taking time after the event to assess what worked, what didn’t, and what we should do next time. We are definitely interested in making this an annual event, but we want to make sure we gather all of the feedback we can before deciding what to focus on improving for next year.

Top 7 ‘Minds in the Cloud’ cloud computing videos

FedScoop recently wrapped up its Minds in the Cloud video series. MITC featured interviews with 23 government and industry leaders discussing the benefits, challenges and future of cloud computing. Here’s my seven favorite (#1 being US Navy SCSC CIO Susan Hess).

US Navy SCSC CIO Susan Hess:

U.S. CTO Aneesh Chopra:

Linda Cureton, NASA CIO

U.S. CIO Vivek Kundra:

Interior Department CIO Sonny Bhagowalia:

FCC, Chief Data Officer, Greg Elin:

NASA Ames Research Center CIO Chris Kemp:

Why is the Grateful Dead like USSOUTHCOM when it comes to open government?

Despite contemporary wisdom that traditional journalism is in decline, the 150+ year-old publication known as The Atlantic hasn’t lost its edge for writing substantive and thoughtful news commentary. I love this month’s article, Management Secrets of the Grateful Dead, where Joshua Green argues that the Grateful Dead pioneered Internet business models before there was an Internet.

If you are interested in understanding how open and collaborative communities form across distances, look to the legions of Deadheads who connected, followed and enabled one of the most culturally and financially successful bands in history. The Grateful Dead gave their music away for free and it elevated demand, innovation and participation.

This same phenomenon is what the Obama Administration is striving for with open government – give the data away freely and allow innovation and participation to follow.

What I liked best about the Grateful Dead analogy and its application to open government is the concept of ‘strategic improvisation.’ The Dead thrived and survived for decades by constantly improvising on their strategy, which they could do because their openness enabled a unique flexibility. They were responsive to their fans and changing business conditions in the same way we hope government can be responsive to citizens and changing agency mission conditions. Strategic improvisation is a critical concept to embrace. The Grateful Dead contradicted industry practice and forfeited major revenue streams by allowing their loyal fan base to tape live performances, but it generated even greater success through community adoption.

So what does this have to do with the U.S. Military’s Southern Command? USSOUTHCOM certainly doesn’t come to mind when thinking about the Grateful Dead or open government … or disaster relief for that matter. But recently United States Southern Command contradicted strict interpretation of mission strategy when it decided to re-purpose its cloud based Defense Connect Online system as a local emergency response platform within hours after the Haiti earthquake. USSOUTHCOM’s collaborative and adaptive response harnessed critical resources and expertise to the region more quickly than anyone thought possible.

Aneesh Chopra described the inspirational response as “a function of commonwealth that is the foundation of open government.” He made these remarks during his keynote at the State of the Union for Technology event Tuesday, coincidentally hosted by the Atlantic (and not so coincidentally sponsored by Adobe). Aneesh did not use the term strategic improvisation or cite the Grateful Dead, but the significance of the behavior is the same. USSOUTHCOM is not trained for earthquake response, they provide force protection and logistics support in the southern region of the globe. But the community and technology they have developed to support their core mission made them well suited to adapt to the changing mission requirements of the region.

When government agencies begin to view their community as an improvisational amplifier of their mission strategy, great things can happen. I doubt USSOUTHCOM or Chopra would expect to find parity with the Grateful Dead, but if the traditionally conservative management consultants are finding value there, then why not? To borrow from the title of the Grateful Dead’s popular album, open government through strategic improvisation could become an American Beauty.

You can read more about Defense Connect Online here. I recorded a brief video of my thoughts on Chopra’s keynote at the Atlantic event here:

Minds in the Cloud: Government gets its head right

FedScoop has launched Minds in the Cloud, a new cloud computing video series featuring ‘technologists from the government, non-profit, and private sectors discussing their views on the importance of the cloud.’ Initial interviews include U.S. CTO Aneesh Chopra and NASA CIO Linda Cureton. The series will run once a week for 25 weeks and is sponsored by Intel and Microsoft.

U.S. CTO Aneesh Chopra:

NASA CIO Linda Cureton:

White House announces ‘Open Government Directive’

The White House today announced its Open Government Directive, instructing agencies to open their operations to the public and providing a framework for doing so. The directive was accompanied by an Open Government Progress Report to the American People.

From the White House:

The three principles of transparency, participation, and collaboration are at the heart of this directive. Transparency promotes accountability. Participation allows members of the public to contribute ideas and expertise to government initiatives. Collaboration improves the effectiveness of government by encouraging partnerships and cooperation within the federal government, across levels of government, and between the government and private institutions.

Video announcement and Q&A: