As this issue of Government Technology went to press, I had a chance to hear New York Times Columnist Thomas Friedman speak at an event here in Sacramento, Calif. Among other things, Friedman is one of the nation’s most astute observers of how all of our lives are being changed by the combination of globalization and IT transformation.
The world, Friedman argues, has gone from being merely connected to hyperconnected — a place where citizens in the smallest villages in the most remote corners of the globe are linked to the Web via mobile phone, where revolutions unfold in real time on Twitter and YouTube, where even the summit of Mount Everest has 4G connectivity.
One implication of this new environment is a dramatic increase in performance expectations for nearly all of us, no matter what we do. “Average is officially over,” Friedman said. “Everyone needs to identify and nurture their unique value. Everyone needs to find their ‘extra.’” In other words, competition for your job no longer comes from the person across town, it comes from nearly anywhere on the face of the Earth — and that’s raising the bar dramatically for education, creativity, innovation, problem-solving and all the other skills employers find important.
But the hyperconnected world isn’t just changing the game for individuals — it has similar implications for communities. Increasingly, employees — especially the brightest and most skilled — can work from anywhere. The same is true for many businesses, which are no longer tied to a geographical area. More and more of these talented folks and desirable employers can choose where they locate, based on factors that are important to them. That raises the bar for cities and states, which will compete against global rivals on workforce readiness, infrastructure availability, quality of life and other factors.
All of this helps explain the emergence of chief innovation officers — and similar positions — in state and local governments. In Louisville and Philadelphia, for example, innovation officers are leading efforts to modernize IT infrastructure to attract and support businesses. They’re also engaging and nurturing tech startups through various initiatives — often built around government data and solving community challenges.
Our cover story this month looks at where these new CIO positions are popping up, what they’re trying to do and why those activities are important.
Woody Allen’s famous line “90 percent of life is simply showing up” may have been true once. But that’s not good enough today — for individuals or communities. I would argue that the emergence of government chief innovation officers is one sign that cities and states are equipping themselves to compete in a hyperconnected world.