Sunday, July 30, 2006

Consortium for OSS in Public Administration

Some musings have already been written on eGovernment etc., available online. Some people have suggested "eDemocracies", which is a way for local governments to interact better with citizens. Not sure whether full interaction and eVoting on every little issue will actually improve quality of life (lack of information, misinformation or temporary ignorance could make it worse), but this post is more about using Open Source software for governments.

Have a look at COSPA, which is a project in the EU mostly for creating Open Source "Public Administration" software.

The reason for bringing this up because I am starting to think about developing a project in Recife with some colleagues from work. We're working on some presentations, ideas and initiatives in order to improve the quality of life of the environment. Probably at some point, we'll have some interesting learning points for everybody (maybe even writing a paper on it).

Now, already conferences are created on eGovernment, which are very interesting initiatives, especially if this brings more transparency to fight corruption. But then again, software by itself is not likely to make any changes. Venezuela is on OS (or should be by now, according to this statement 2 years ago).

COSPA has identified software used in Public Administration (12MB PDF). There is a very high "observation" in Italy, especially.

The above shows that in the near future, it is a possibility that all software written and used by governments can be custom-written and then evolve from there. What is FSF and a couple of geeks got together to start writing that software for government? Start off with local councils, then expand to whole cities, then expand to provinces & states, then expand to perhaps nations?

Having a code repository with GPL'd code ready for use for each country would be a very good win. And if there are processes available that allows other people to make contributions... This would be a very exciting project.

For now.... we are focusing on a very little area, the area where we work. We wish to improve worker's situations, improve the interaction with the community, clean certain streets (they smell or are dirty) and get rid of older buildings that are literally starting to fall down. (no joke!)

We'll have to organize this together with the city hall/council, people in "administration" @ the university, people in psychology, some software project management, a *LOT* of innovation and hopefully international interaction with other people. Might work out, really... Especially when the city hall is deciding it would be worth to start paying for it!

Very interesting because of this (maybe this can help?).

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Peter Drucker's words...

I've just bought a book with 366 statements, one for each day in the year, which is a collection of various insights and statements from Peter Drücker. This person has written numerous texts on management and everything else it curtails.

The first two articles are already interesting. "Integrity in Leadership" and "Identifying the future".

The arguments are that management needs to have integrity in order to be able to sustain itself, or the rest of the organisation washes away. The second is the importance of not identifying what *will* happen in the future (which is ahead of its time), but identifying what is happening right now in innovation, or has happened without realizing it, so that in business you can turn this into some kind of opportunity.

Is innovation in technology subject to the same philosophy? I see enormous amounts of software come out and only a couple of them getting popular. Many are created from religiously stern beliefs that it will change the whole world.

Can't wait to read the next pages, but I set myself to only read one or two each day to allow sufficient time for reflection.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

More hours in a day?

Would be good to have more hours in a day. Time too little basically to get things done. Not bad planning, just wish to have more time altogether. Then again, having more hours in a day doesn't make much difference, since the passing of time would be the same for everyone.

I've been looking at Google Maps a bit. That functionality is really interesting and very easy to program. Should be doing more with that some time. It's being actively extended.

Java distributed computing, another topic I'm thinking about. I think I may have found a way to make this a lot easier, but just some thoughts at the moment.

That's about it really, for this week. Not much activity in other areas. Will be creating a presentation about effective communication soon, to be shown in an auditorium for probably 5-25 people at most.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Identity, culture, who makes these decisions?

Think about this:

"What and who determines company culture and who makes decisions in a larger company?"

I find myself sometimes confused about impossibilities and assumed ways that a company "works", or its culture and why it exists that way. The reason is that for many things inside that culture, there is not often a conscious decision by anyone backing it up, but rather some kind of "common assumption" that it simply is the way it is. This is detrimental for innovation and creates a certain culture of non-repudiation.

Could you say that the decision is made by anyone in a reasonably high position, which is then communicated and assumed or communicated as truth and reality by others?

To whom belongs (the culture of) the company in the end? Is it truly (fully) hierarchical? Are decisions consciously made?

Who do you talk to when you really feel like doing something, but do not carry out because you feel uncertain? Why do you feel uncertain? Who reflects actual decision authority? What would happen if this feeling is ignored and the idea is persisted anyway?

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Film: The Corporation

I was watching the film "The Corporation" two days ago and can seriously recommend it. The film was produced by a number of top-thinkers in the field, all sort of left-ish.

It's a film about environmental impact, horrible worker's conditions and the responsibilities that the corporation should assume in order to minimize those. The film shows that the only responsibility sought is that "responsibility towards the shareholders", not all the stakeholders that have to do with the corporation, like its employees or customers.

The film opens the whole discussion on ownership of human DNA. While a human by itself cannot be patented ( and therefore 'owned' for an amount of time ), the very DNA sequences that make up your body *can* be patented, at least in the U.S., on discovery. There are certain rules along the lines of this, but clearly this is a worrying issue.

Already in software, the patents create an incredibly difficult legal mine-field to navigate. With the speed that these sequences are patented, if the same thing happens on this field of research, there would not be an end to law-suits in any direction, with only the common society suffering from the flow of money being used in the fights between the companies, not for actual research.

Specifically the company Monsanto was mentioned in the film with respect to their product they are developing to increase cow milk production. The product has not been tested thoroughly, is causing birth defects for cows or other diseases and has not been properly tested if it has adverse consequences for people in consumption.

Monsanto is also involved in the famous Terminator seeds. Another call for common sense here.
In one way, society is going forward. In another, very quickly backwards.

I think the whole issue of the corporation is totally misunderstood and the score-card that the corporation is presented is fatally wrong. At the moment, the only scorecard that the corporation will be evaluated against is making money in absurd amounts. There are now laws governing its waste and production and emissions, but it's not enough, because it doesn't require corporations to innovate on what they are doing wrong. Only if the CEO is really responsible is this ever going to happen.

I also believe there is a lot of ignorance around this issue and too much media-control of the corporation. The media, being privatized, will be likely to gain lots of money of corporations for *not* broadcasting news that may damage their reputation. This happened with Fox News as can be seen in the film. Some former employees of Fox retaliated, won a court case. But then the court case was overturned on the basis that it is not illegal for a news company to lie.