One of the stated goals of the Shared Services Canada initiative is “to transition to a single, shared telecommunications network infrastructure, while maintaining required departmental segregation of data through security domains and zones.”
This prompts an interesting question and opportunity – What is meant by a single network? Is it a single supplier, or a single logical environment?
The reason for asking this question is to highlight an identical program from the UK, the PSN: Public Services Network. As highlighted on Wikipedia, the PSN was born from ‘Transformational Government’ work to radically improve government service delivery, and is an architecture for a “network of networks”.
In short it’s a single logical network that is made up of multiple suppliers, like the Internet but intended for a private environment, an “Internet for the Government’ so to speak.
Small Business Innovation through Open Government
This ability to involve multiple suppliers is what makes it so relevant to SSC.
Certainly an initiative to save money through increased efficiencies is always a good idea for government, but to be honest saving some money isn’t really Canada’s primary issue.
Instead the big scary issue is a continual and unabated decline in global innovation rankings, with no policies visible on the horizon to stem this tide and turn it around. Failing to address this issue will have a much, much bigger impact on Canadian citizens than saving a very small percentage of the overall budget, because this is the source of where all the future growth and jobs will come from.
The PSN also throws a critical light on what is Open Government. Publishing Open Data is one implementation of it, but the more fundamentally practical part is making processes like procurement more open.
A successful innovation strategy will help stimulate and support more small businesses, and one of the foundation ways this can be achieved is through leveraging procurement, a process I call Procurement Commercialization.
Governments always face a paradox: They talk about wanting to support local small businesses, but when it actually comes to awarding contracts their fear of risk usually means they buy from a big corporate providers, IBM et al. Models like the PSN resolve this paradox because they create the scale by federating multiple suppliers, making it more accessible for smaller providers to participate while still protecting the government from the risk of having one supplier relationship with that small business.
In short it’s an “Innovation Marketplace” design – It links government procurement to local small business innovation.
Open Gigabit Cities
As we build on this idea we can also imagine it further by considering the role a network of SME suppliers could play in creating “Gigabit Cities”.
Kansas City has teamed up with Google to pioneer this unique model, and last month we participated in a Cisco Telepresence session with them and the Smart + Connected Cities Institute to discuss “Open Government, Big Data, and Innovation.”
So imagine the potential for stimulating more small business innovation if every town in Canada also had a “fibrehood”. imagine the potential for new virtual reality applications and more, and better yet, this was delivered from a locally-owned small business Gigabit broadband provider….