Technology is key to more participatory and unified urban governments worldwide, according to one of the World Bank's top executives.
"As we begin to prepare to set the post-2015 development agenda, technology is the enabler of business as [unusual]," wrote Chris Vein, chief innovation officer for Global Information and Communications Technology Development at the World Bank, in a recent blog. "Seven billion mobile phones create the possibility to reshape delivery and the way that governments and citizens interact with one another."
Chris Vein, Chief Innovation Officer for Global Information and Communications Technology Development at the World Bank.
(Source: US Department of Agriculture, via Flickr)
Vein is also the former US Deputy Chief Technology Officer for Government Innovation at the White House. He was on board September 2011, when President Barack Obama and seven other world leaders launched the Open Government Partnership to focus on collaboration between government and civil society. The goals: to promote transparency, empower citizens, share new technologies, and engage citizen involvement in government decisions.
The White House wants to "manage government data as a strategic asset," "open disaster-related data to support prevention and recovery efforts," improve US Freedom of Information Act responsiveness, and disclose any information related to management of natural resources.
"In all parts of the world, we see the promise of innovation to make government more open and accountable. And now, we must build on that progress," said President Obama in an address to the UN General Assembly in 2010.
The administration's drive toward more open government data continues, as the following video released this fall makes clear:
I had a chance to catch up with Chris Vein myself during the Smart Cities World Congress in Barcelona last fall. He told me:
We need to find out how we can be transparent so citizens trust their government more, they are willing to participate and take it to the next level of collaboration. If you look at what the Open Government [initiative] is trying to do, and to some extent what smart cities do, it is figuring out how to invite more participation by citizens in their government. We need to find out how we can be transparent so citizens trust their government more, they are willing to participate and take it to the next level of collaboration.
Technology is the key to unite the different government agencies, Vein thinks. Previously, many government organizations, including ones within cities, have been focused on one task each, with only basic collaboration outside their boundaries. "We are now able to unify the workings of government agencies using tools such as cloud computing. But governments need to retool to take advantage of current and future technologies," he told me.
Chris Vein, World Bank Host and MC, with US Agriculture Undersecretary for Research, Education, and Economics (REE) Dr. Catherine Woteki, during the G-8 International Conference on Open Data for Agriculture Washington, DC, on April 29, 2013.
(Source: USDAgov, via Wikimedia Commons)
As 2014 dawns, there is no time to waste: We now create more data every single year than was collected during the whole of the last century. And the possible uses for that data are endless. That is why data collected by government agencies, both local and national, needs to be freely accessible for individuals and organizations to develop services, create awareness, and help solve pressing problems.
— Pablo Valerio, International Business & IT Consultant