I was also interviewed for a story in Wired on the US Department of Transportation's Smart City Challenge.
I will be speaking at the Center for Science, Policy & Outcomes in Washington, DC on May 9th.
#IdeasToRetire: Information Systems in Public Management, Public Policy, and Governance
Death of ideas are painful. In his classic 1962 book, Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Thomas Kuhn traces how “normal science” precedes. In normal science, a field evolves based on prior scientific achievements and is built, brick by brick, from an existing paradigm. The current paradigm grows and evolves and gradually an entire community coalesces around this set of beliefs. Scientific practitioners take great pains to defend the set of beliefs and, over time, the scientific community acts to suppress innovations that conflict with the existing paradigm. Further, the community makes no efforts to discover new ways of doing things, performance anomalies are covered up, discarded or ignored and there is no effort to invent new theory. Even worse, there is an active effort to suppress new theories and those who espouse them. It is only when an existing paradigm is utter bereft of value that the community starts to examine the existing paradigm and challenge it.
Information systems are fundamentally transforming how we manage public institutions and conduct public policy. Yet, even a causal glance at the mainstream public management and public policy research outlets reflects a glaring omission of serious research into information systems when it comes to their design, management, governance, and evaluation. This state of affairs is not acceptable given the critical nature of information systems and their potential to impact how we govern. For all of the investments that the public sector has made in technology, we still see dismal failures in IT usage, management and implementation in government. A critical issue that stands in our way to realizing the full potential of IT when it comes to transforming our public agencies, delivery of public services, and the crafting and execution of public policies – antiquated ideas that hold us back. Adherence to these ideas is causing two undesirable outcomes: (1) an unacceptable gap between the promise of technology and its current failure rate and (2) a failure to fully realize the benefits of technology. In this talk, I will share findings from the #IdeasToRetire project. Our conclusion from this project of this is simple: government is stymied by outmoded ideas and can do better. Fixing this requires both thoughtful insight and courage.
I co-designed a new project for the Center for Technology Innovation at the Brookings Institution along with my colleague Gregory Dawson. Ideas to Retire is a TechTank series of blog posts. These posts identify outdated practices in public sector IT management and suggest new ideas for improved outcomes. I am happy to report that the series launched today! You can find the introduction here. We will be featuring two ideas a week for the next 10 weeks.
Of the first two ideas featured, one is by James Keene (City Manager, Palo Alto, CA) co-authored with Jonathan Reichental (CIO, City of Palo Alto, CA). You can read about their idea here. The second idea is from David Bray (CIO, FCC).
Stay tuned for contributions from several other luminaries including Steve Kelman (Harvard University), John L. King (University of Michigan), Ramayya Krishnan (Carnegie Mellon University), Dan Chenok (IBM), Alfred Ho (University of Kansas), Jane Fountain (University of Massachusetts), Marc Ott (City Manager, Austin, TX), Neal Myrick (Tableau Foundation), Ellen Lettvin (US Department of Education), Richard T. Watson (University of Georgia), José Esteves (IE Business School), and Jonathan Liebenau (London School of Economics), Phil Howard (University of Washington), among others.
Thanks to all contributors that participated in this project!
- Learning from IT contracting mistakes in the public sector (Brookings Institution, TechTank Blog)
- CIO-enabled innovation playbook: Lessons for the public sector (Brookings Institution, TechTank Blog)
- “Model Citizens,” Planning, October, 2015, 26-29
- Creating a Balanced Portfolio of Information Technology Metrics was the most downloaded report published by the IBM Center for the Business of Government for 2015.
- I presented at the Flinn-Brown Leadership Academy - Arizona Center for Civic Leadership on Leadership in a Networked World
- I joined the ICMA's Performance Management Advisory Committee for a two-year term beginning on Jan 1, 2016.
Selected Interviews/Press Mentions
- Newcombe, T. “Learning to Share: How Cities Are Benefiting from the Sharing Economy,” Government Technology, December 14, 2015,
- Moore, J. “The 15 Most Innovative Agencies in Government,” NextGov, December 8, 2015,
- Keegan, M. “A Conversation with Dr. Kevin Desouza,” IBM Business of Government Radio Show, December 7, 2015
- Dovey, R. “Will City Regulators Treat Driverless Cars Like They’ve Treated Uber?” Next City, October 28, 2015
- Koma, A. “Hawaii Moves Ahead with Audit of State IT Spending,” StateScoop.com, October 21, 2015
It has been a busy and productive 2015. Best wishes to you and your families for a peaceful and prosperous 2016.
Heading to the University of Alaska Fairbanks today to deliver a talk at the Data to Decisions Visualization Workshop hosted by the NSF Sponsored Alaska EPSCoR (Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research) program.
Beyond Modeling and Visualization: Towards Policy Design and Implementation
In this talk, I will highlight how technologies enable us to visualize policy options and simulate scenarios. Technologies, however, are no panacea when it comes to policy design and implementation. Deliberate decisions need to be made on how to structure the technology-enabled policy simulations to arrive at evidence-driven policy design, implementation, and evaluation.
Please click here for my slides.
I will be visiting the University of Florida later this week. The Bob Graham Center for Public Service is hosting my visit. I will deliver presentations to students across several Colleges including the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering and the College of Journalism and Communications. In addition, I will meet with research leaders and faculty across the University.
Creating a Balanced Portfolio of Information Technology Metrics
Information technology has made possible the availability of real-time data and the tools to display that data, such as dashboards, scorecards, and heat maps. This has boosted the use of data and evidence by government decision makers in meeting their agency and program missions. But what about the use of performance metrics by agency chief information officers themselves?
Typically, CIOs have a good inventory of metrics regarding the performance of their technical infrastructure, such as server down time. Metrics on non-technical elements, however — such as innovation capacity of the IT department and the health of the overall IT organization — are in earlier stages of development. These metrics are critical for CIOs to effectively manage their IT departments, and to convey the strategic value of IT capabilities for attaining agency-wide objectives.
A balanced portfolio of metrics are needed: for project management, for operations management, and for innovation. Based on interviews with over two dozen seasoned government CIOs, the report identifies illustrative metrics that CIOs might consider adopting and offers a set of recommendation for how CIOs might go about designing, implementing, and evaluating the effectiveness of their metrics initiatives.
Local Government 2035: Strategic Trends and Implications of New Technologies has received a lot of press coverage over the last few weeks. Here are a few of the highlights:
I am enjoying two weeks in Melbourne. I have been collaborating with colleagues from Deakin University and the University of Melbourne on research projects. On Tuesday, I will deliver a research seminar at the Faculty of Business and Law on IT Experiments for Social and Policy Innovation: A Design Science Perspective.
Information systems are critical assets that need to be strategically leveraged for social and policy innovation. In this presentation, I will highlight ongoing research projects showcasing how analytical, computational, and visualization technologies can be employed to solve some of the pressing global and public challenges from combating human trafficking to urbanization and sustainability. I will discuss these projects as learning experiments focusing on creating applied IT solutions while furthering evidence-driven policy design, implementation, and evaluation. Finally, a design-science inspired model to co-create innovative IT solutions will be presented.
On Wednesday, I will be spending the entire day meeting with researchers and faculty at the University of Melbourne.
I am looking forward to my visit to the University of Wollongong. On Wed, June 10, I will deliver a research presentation at the School of Management, Operations, and Marketing on IT Experiments for Social Good. I will highlight ongoing research projects on how information technology (IT) can be used to solve some of the pressing global and public challenges from combating human trafficking to urbanization and sustainability. I will discuss these projects as learning experiments that are focused on creating applied IT solutions while furthering evidence-driven policy design, implementation, and evaluation.