Strategic Concept 4: Information as an Asset

Purpose:  Make information useful (e.g., digital, accessible, searchable, understandable, spatially enabled, shareable)

“Information technology and business are becoming inextricably interwoven.  I don’t think anybody can talk meaningfully about one without talking about the other.” – Bill Gates

If knowledge is power, then it follows that information is the seed of that power.  Much of what we do in state government is about information:  its collection, analysis, generation and publication.  We do this because information that is accurate and encompassing will allow decision-makers to better steward our state and serve the public.  Additionally, information as a tool also keeps the residents of California better informed on the operations of their government.  Ensuring that detailed and nuanced information can be succinctly and meaningfully presented to California constituents allows agencies to advance their agendas within the parameters of good government.  State agencies have a wealth of data and information that, if properly interpreted and mobilized, can be used to better inform the general public about many important events and resources.  There is also a great opportunity to positively influence decisions in other government sectors by providing customized data and informational products derived from agency maintained informational resources.

Strategy 1:  Coordinate and leverage existing state investments in data and information resources

Strategy 2:  Increase the amount of searchable material on state Web sites

Strategy 3:  Eliminate institutional barriers to the sharing of data and information

Strategy 4:  Establish collaborative and cooperative relationships with public and private sector organizations to invest strategically in data and information assets and promote reusability

Strategy 5:  Ensure that public data and information assets are usable and can be accessed when and where they are needed

Strategy 6:  Utilize the Internet as a warehouse to store public information

Bottom Line:  State data and information assets are public resources paid for with public dollars.  State agencies are obligated to properly steward their data and ensure that the full value of their data and information assets is realized.  California’s residents and businesses stand to realize substantial benefits through the sharing of data and other information assets among and between state agencies and their partners in the public and private sectors.  Information resources properly leveraged reduce costs, foster consistency and effective decisions, and bring transparency to government.  Imagine the many benefits that we could realize when heretofore isolated data are combined in new and innovative ways.

The essay that follows explores the idea of information as an asset playing out in the future.

The Value of X Paul W. Taylor, Center for Digital Government
Exchange points shaped and sized for government

Even novice Scrabble players know the letter “X” is worth a much-prized 8 points – and the value multiplies five fold in an officially recognized 8-letter word.  (Of course, the board game disallows acronyms and initials, which effectively rob government and technology workers of half their vocabulary and any advantage in competitive word play.)

The value of X in the public sector IT community has been rising steadily if somewhat stealthily in recent years.  X stands at the beginning of a pair of TLAs (three letter acronyms) that have been added to the cryptic lexicon of government technology – XML and XBI.

While the former is the coin of the realm with even the intrepid if idiosyncratic geeks at, the latter is a worthwhile experiment among a faithful band of converts to wrap their arms around the complex business of building a XML-based platform for governing (in which technology may well be the easy part).

XML - extensible markup language - makes data portable across previously discrete systems, agencies, jurisdictions and sectors of the wider society.  XML makes possible a long anticipated shift in focus from the problems of dissimilar systems to the opportunities of common data. The great lesson here is that it is the exchange point that matters in intergovernmental data sharing.

Enter XBI – a shorthand for cross boundary integration and the working name of a framework for transcending political, organizational and technological boundaries that brings together the essential elements of governance, architecture and organizational change.  In a recent white paper on the promise of XBI from the National Electronic Commerce Coordinating Council (NECCC), its proponents concede that “it won’t be easy” but argue that a coherent and comprehensive model is necessary to realize the transformational potential of digital government.  The hard work begins by fleshing out the framework to provide a common reference point for government executives, program managers, policy makers and IT leaders that tie together the best thinking from their previously discrete disciplines.  That needs to come next.

In its final form, XBI could become a multidisciplinary glue that binds what the British call “joined together government.”  It could also become a catalyst for tipping the balance in the intractable debate between agency autonomy and the needs or interests of the larger enterprise.

XBI’s greatest value may come from its relationship to TLAs imported from the private sector.  ERP, CRM and both flavors of BPM all automate generic business rules – and cause organizations to act like the software, not the other way around.  While allowing for exceptions, XBI is an assault on governments’ claims to having unique needs that cannot be satisfied through commercial software.  In its final form, a XBI framework could provide the context for having that fight within your organization and with your neighbors.

So this X-treme sport now has a name – never mind that “X” stands for “extensible” in XML and “cross” in XBI.  After all, it is only the private language of public sector IT.  Therein lays a cautionary note and a potential lesson from the British where the use of language is concerned.  We are still speaking geek while those whom we seek to persuade (and, in some cases, beat in the competition for scarce public resources) are playing by Scrabble rules.

Go to Strategic Concept #5