Oakland Public Ethics Commission: Transparency, Open Data, and Gov as Platform


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I spoke at the Oakland Public Ethics commission on June 25, 2013. I was trying to set some context about how the ideas of transparency, open data, and government platform should shape their thinking. This is a PDF with notes on my talking points below each slide.

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Oakland Public Ethics Commission: Transparency, Open Data, and Gov as Platform

  1. Government as a Platform Oakland Public Ethics Commission Transparency Hearing June 25, 2013 Tim O’Reilly O’Reilly Media Thursday, June 27, 13 I’d like to start by thanking Whitney Barazoto for inviting me here and for all that she’s doing to build the Oakland Public Ethics Commission into a model of 21st century government. Oakland is really lucky to have her, Eddie Tejada, Aspen Baker, Ben Kimberly. But I also want to respond a bit to the passion that I heard in the public comments just now. I understand how frustrated many of you are. But I also want to say that in my history as a technology activist, I’ve seen that change seems to happen very slowly, and then it happens all at once. It was like that with the world wide web, and with open source software, and it’s that way now with open government. I’m incredibly excited about what’s happening, and I can tell you that change IS happening.
  2. @timoreilly #pecmtg “The skill of writing is to create a context in which other people can think.” -Edwin Schlossberg Thursday, June 27, 13 Edwin Schlossberg once said... In this case, I want to give you some context for understanding why what the Public Ethics Commission is doing here is so important, why every Public Ethics commission will be following its lead, and some of the big technology and social trends that it exemplifies.
  3. @timoreilly #pecmtg Thursday, June 27, 13 Let’s start with the consumer experience on the web. Some of you may be old enough to remember how you did travel research before the web. You read guidebooks. You sent away for brochures. But most places weren’t listed, and it was hard to find out what was good. Now, you get listings for virtually every place to stay, rated by thousands of travelers like you.
  4. @timoreilly #pecmtg Thursday, June 27, 13 When it comes to flying, you can comparison shop airfares and times.
  5. @timoreilly #pecmtg What we see here • A standard platform for publishing and consuming data and services • Data standards enabling aggregation • Customer self-service reducing cost and increasing choice • Multiple interfaces by third parties, increasing innovation and consumer choice • Interfaces that are “simple, beautiful, and easy to use” • Added value from user participation Thursday, June 27, 13
  6. @timoreilly #pecmtg Thursday, June 27, 13 When it comes to government, we’re still in the early stages of this revolution, which you can see in part as a change from the business of delivering web pages to the business of delivering open data and web services that allow third parties better access to build new interfaces and applications.
  7. @timoreilly #pecmtg 2005 2007 Thursday, June 27, 13 Another area of technology that has lessons for government is the change in mobile phones. With the introduction of the iPhone in 2007, we saw a revolution in ease of use. Multi-touch screens, beautiful interfaces. And yes, there’s a lesson here that we want to build interfaces to government that are simple, beautiful, and easy to use. But that’s just the beginning.
  8. @timoreilly #pecmtg The iPhone App Store Almost 900,000 iPhone/iPad applications, fewer than 20 of them provided by Apple 2008-2013 2013: Almost 900,000 iPhone/iPad applications, fewer than 20 of them provided by Apple Thursday, June 27, 13 But the real revolution started a year later, in 2008, when Apple introduced the App store.
  9. @timoreilly #pecmtg A Lot Like Government Systems • Pre App Store: Phone companies get together with handset manufacturers, decide what applications and interfaces to offer. Limited choice, limited functionality. • Pre-Gov 2.0: Governments put out RFPs, get together with contractors and integrators, decide what applications and interfaces to offer. Limited choice, limited functionality. • Post App Store: Apple creates a platform, and harnesses the power of the market to create applications. Abundance. • Can we do the same thing for government? Thursday, June 27, 13 The phone market before the App Store was a lot like government procurement. The phone market after the App Store should be the world we are aiming for with open government.
  10. @timoreilly #pecmtg Getting away from “vending machine” government Vending Machine Gov concept from Donald Kettl: The Next Government of the United States Thursday, June 27, 13 The idea that government ought to be in the business of creating platforms rather than just delivering services crystallized for me when I heard about the notion from Donald Kettl’s book The Next American Government, of “vending machine government”
  11. @timoreilly #pecmtg Thursday, June 27, 13 Contrast this with the cornucopia of a true marketplace.
  12. @timoreilly #pecmtg Participation means more than shaking the vending machine http://image06.webshots.com/6/2/57/50/190125750NgQXwu_ph.jpg Thursday, June 27, 13 And there’s another element. Understanding that open data leads to platforms helps us get away from the notion that simply adding social media to government leads to fundamental change. If government is just a vending machine, social media is just another way to shake the vending machine when it doesn’t give us what we want. We want government to be more open than that, a true marketplace.
  13. @timoreilly #pecmtg Thursday, June 27, 13 I want to move on to another topic that tells us something important about how modern technology platforms work: they are *instrumented* with data that helps the people running them to make them better. Consider Google. Their breakthrough in advertising was their ability to predict which ads people were more likely to click on. But in search, for example, they measure “long clicks” vs. “short clicks.” A short click means someone clicked on a search result, then came right back to the results page. A long click means that the customer went away and didn’t come back. A short click thus means the result wasn’t satisfying, a long click means it was. So Google uses this information to improve search results.
  14. @timoreilly #pecmtg If Moneyball Can Work for the As, It Can Work for Oakland “Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game is a book by Michael Lewis, published in 2003, about the Oakland Athletics baseball team and its general manager Billy Beane. Its focus is the team's analytical, evidence-based, sabermetric approach to assembling a competitive baseball team, despite Oakland's disadvantaged revenue situation.” Thursday, June 27, 13 This whole approach has been called “Moneyball” after the title of Michael Lewis’ book about the Oakland As.
  15. @timoreilly #pecmtg Thursday, June 27, 13 John Bridgeland and Peter Orszag (who was Obama’s first budget director) recently wrote an article in the Atlantic asking if government could apply Moneyball principles. Aside: if any government should apply moneyball, it ought to be Oakland, the home of the concept!
  16. @timoreilly #pecmtg Thursday, June 27, 13 Louisville is a great example of a city that is combining open data and “moneyball” thinking to drive both transparency and effectiveness. They publish all kinds of internal statistics.
  17. @timoreilly #pecmtg Thursday, June 27, 13 Louisville publishes their goals, their results against goal. This is government transparency at a very detailed level - publishing everything, not waiting for FOIA requests - but it turns into a management tool for government itself.
  18. @timoreilly #pecmtg “What I saw in Louisville was that it isn’t about holding government accountable. It’s about giving government the tools to make itself better.” Jen Pahlka Thursday, June 27, 13 Jen Pahlka, the founder of Code for America (now on leave as Deputy CTO for Government Innovation at the White House), talked about what she saw when she visited Louisville. (Louisville is a 2013 Code for America Fellowship city.)
  19. @timoreilly #pecmtg • Over the last year using LouieStat, the Louisville Metro Government has removed more than 200 days from key administrative processes like hiring, and reduced unscheduled overtime and workers comp expenditures by over $2.0 million. • Baltimore implemented CitiStat, a comprehensive data tracking and performance management tool in 2000... By 2007 they had used data to strategically reduce and control workers’ overtime to save more than $30.9 million Thursday, June 27, 13 Here are some of the results of this approach.
  20. @timoreilly #pecmtg What Does All This Have To Do With Public Ethics? • Open data reduces costs and improves outcomes • Getting beyond “gotcha” to performance improvement • Harnessing platform dynamics to support innovation from the outside • How all public ethics commissions will be working ten years from now. Thursday, June 27, 13 We’re at the beginning of a great journey. I’m optimistic that great things are happening in open government, and I’m proud to now be an Oakland resident, where groups like this one, and community groups like Open Oakland and the Code for America Brigade.