CeDEM15 – Opening

„Knowledge grows by sharing“ – Opening of CeDEM15 and Wednesday Keynotes

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Sharing, openness and networking, according to university rector Faulhammer, are key terms of this years conference. In his opening words, he also emphasised the importance of peer review and that focusing on those paradigms adds to increased knowledge via sharing.

Phil Archer from W3C explained the Share PSI workshops as this years part of CeDEM15.  Relevant questions of the workshops are: How can members states of the EU implement the revised PSI directive? What should be open and what should be restricted, and in particular: what we can do with it? The workshop at CeDEM15 focused on the business models.

Dr. Peter Parycek, Head of Centre for E-Governance, presented a short overview about the CeDEM programme and figures. Submission facts: Still, we receive a hell lot of submissions in the e-democracy and e-participation field, but topics like open data and open access are as big. On Friday there will also be an „Open Space“ format, where participants will discuss topics in the format of an unconference.

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Keynotes

Shauneen Furlong, Professor and ICT and eGovernment Consultant, Universities Toronto and Ottawa: „International Challenges to Transformational eGovernment“

„Do something risky“

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Furlong is one of Canadas key e-government drivers, sharing her experiences all over the world from both a practical and research perspective. In her talk, she mentioned democratic participation, social harmony and economic sustainability as the hopes and promises we had of transformantional e-government in 2000. However e-government in 2015 remains more transactional than transformational, meaning that it is mostly easy, short term service orientated and non-theratening to organisational and human environments.

If knowledge is limited to one silo-based department, there is often a dis-incentive to do something effective, f.i. if it effects people’s career. In the transactional world, things are simpler to grasp and easier understood. As opposed to this paradigma, transformational e-government should be threatening and new, difficult, a high risk activit with unclear expectations. Why has our transformationall e-government proces been impeded today? Furlong puts this down to risk and fear of feailure, professional and financial disgrace, immature levels of creativity and ineffective collaboration, interoperability and knowledge transfer.

How can we use technology in a tranformational means? We can now all do our taxes from home in our pyjamas, but we have been less successful in taking a risk – we protect ourselves. In terms of a financial and professional disgrace we have seen a lot of failure rates – with those there is not a lot of incentive to make a risk and to be creative. „Be save and grey“ seems to be the impetus of the public sector. The public sector senior executive group, that has not had support in order to have the professional creativity required for e-government, is more of a problem that the citizens, who would want those services anyways.

„Serving the wrong master“

We are surrounded with technology, and yet within our own sector we often don’t have technology that would help us to make it happen. What we have is technology that „feeds the beast“ – where we are reporting to somebody else who is not involved in that particular project. Furlong emphasised that it is important to think about the role of project management as a science – as opposed to a checklist.

„We need the right to fail“.

Besides that, we need bridges between the acedemic and public and private sector world in order to be more successful. Working on a compendium of e-government challenges, Furlong thinks that business models should reward people for being more creative. (I personally wonder whether that is a new thing, or whether it just has not arrived in the domain of public administration?)

Alon Peled, Associate Professor and Political Scientist at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem: „Wazing the Information Super Highway: Linking the World’s Open Data Resources“

Failure by government agencies to share information can have bad results. Peled looks at building better information highways between agencies and information departments and the problems that can arise, and at the promises and potentials of data extraction from government agency data.

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Peled looked on the potential of visualisation of open government data and at the additional economic potential of open government data. In visualisations, f.i., certain thresholds become visible, e.g. a threshold after a country releases qualitative data and not just quantitative one. Maybe the biggest problem to exploit the potential of open government data is that agencies don’t like open data: They want something for it. That sometimes results in some agencies pretending to release open data. Where we apparently need to be is a cycle where citizens are finding it more easy to read and find data, and governments are thus releasing more and so on.

In the discussion it was criticised that public agencies, at least in some sectors, actually foster the argument for making open data freely available, and that it would be very easy to convey the related benefits. Peled replied that empirically, less than 1% of data is released though and agencies still, as a tendency, want incentives to release it.

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