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Senior executives who are presented with a request to invest in Cloud computing need to see clear links between this new technology capability and their own strategic goals and policies.

This is a relatively straight forward proposition for government executives because Cloud computing brings together a number of very powerful drivers of business value. It represents the intersection of a number of the latest best practices in technology with the latest in organizational science and also government policy too.

Crowd Computing

Recently MIT published a paper ‘Harnessing Crowds: Mapping the Genome of Collective Intelligence‘ (20-page PDF), that distills the key mechanics of this science that is also referred to as “Crowdsourcing“.

It also represents the core ethos of the principles involved in ‘Open Government‘, the policy announced by Barak Obama to make government more transparent and accountable to the public.

They recommend policies that transform government processes to be inherently participative and that harness the public as a collective intelligence the same way, proposing that agencies build ‘Public Participation Plans’ to engage their local communities more proatively in setting and reporting on policy performance.

To achieve this through Cloud computing there are a number of dimensions to ‘Open’:

  • Open Source
  • Open Innovation
  • Open Identity

Open Source

On its own Cloud computing can radically reduce costs for government. Similarly on its own FOSS (Free and Open Source Software) can also do the same, but often difficulty in implementation or a lack of skills holds this up. Their combination is the ideal way to accelerate uptake of both, as Cloud based services minimize the on-site skills needed from agencies.

In particular applications like Drupal and Plone are ideal for building these collaborative web sites, and Cloud providers can also build and operate hosting platforms to run them using tools like Eucalyptus or

Open Innovation

The Open Government program is led by Beth Noveck, who pioneered one of the flagship examples of how powerful it can be.

As her Peer to Patent portal project illustrates, this is not simply about connecting an existing IT system to a web interface or just publishing the reporting data online, but rather utilizing the nature of the web to re-invent the process itself.

The full case study is documented in this 40 page Harvard white paper. In essence it transforms the process from ‘closed’ to ‘open’, in terms of who and how others can participate, utilizing the best practice of ‘Open Innovation‘ to break the gridlock that had occured due the constraints caused by private, traditional ways of working.

The USPTO had built up a backlog of over 1 million patent applications, the most literal form of ‘Innovation Gridlock‘ there is, and are unblocking this log jam by moving it to a Web 2.0 environment where Collective Intelligence can be harnessed.

Open Identity Metasystem

Open Government is also the name of a technical framework for governments to adopt OpenID, known as “Trust Frameworks“. In the USA they have the program and the UK has offered innovation funding to accelerate their progress.

Widespread adoption would engender an ‘Identity Metasystem‘, what is also described as ‘Identity 2.0′, effectively described in this well known presentation from Dick Hardt.

This will greatly streamline the efficiencies of online processes, eliminating the need to repeatedly provide the same customer data over and over, and so also contribute to paperwork-elimination programs.

This aligns with slide 15 of the Canadian Target Architecture, ‘Government 2.0′.

In conclusion Cloud computing can therefore be seen to offer multi-dimensional ROI business benefits, a significant reduction of costs while simultaneously improving business process performance through reduced bureaucracy, and achieving greater participation the public in governmental democracy.

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