For stocks that fall under the sell category, we actually bring in the project manager and we conduct an Oxford Union-style debate, where the project manager of that initiative has to argue in the affirmative for keeping the project going and somebody on my team argues in the negative, to close it down. That way, we can see what's going on with that project. Based on the outcome, we decide to buy, sell or hold those projects. Recently we just "sold" one and saved $3 million. For another that was in a lot of trouble, we put in an emergency team to take over.

To give you an example, in contrast to this model, of what was happening before: Three years ago, D.C. public schools spent $25 million deploying PeopleSoft applications. Now this project failed. Not a single person was fired, and not a single company was sued. They just flushed $25 million of hard-earned taxpayer dollars down the toilet. And what this stock-market model allows us to do is rethink IT governance.

Q: Radically increased transparency really ties into what you mean by a shift in philosophy. Can you elaborate on that?

A: It's a very personal thing for me because I grew up in Africa, in Tanzania to be specific. I grew up in an environment where there were scarce resources and you had to get by with very little in life. Those early years really shaped my thinking about surviving on very little. But more important than that, it left a lasting impression of the difference between good and bad government, and what bad governance looks like.

When you have corruption, when you have a system that's broken, when you have people in the public sector who care more about themselves rather than "we the people," you end up with a failed state or failed organization. I brought that with me when I moved to the United States at the age of 11. And our bedrock principles of democracy -- freedom of the press, open government, sunlight -- all those resonate with me. You realize that government and democracy die behind closed doors. It's very important that government is practiced in the public square, so to speak, and not in the halls of power behind closed doors amongst just a few people. By democratizing data and information and public processes, making them open and available, you are able to engage citizens in a way you never could before. I think the information revolution has enabled a lot of that.

Q: What are some examples of the kind of public data that you have now made available?

A: A few examples: One is on every consultant I hire in the government, I've actually put out as a data feed who in the government hired that consultant, how much we are paying that consultant and an hourly rate, which company he or she works for, and the company's address. That's to democratize information about procurement in the public sector. A second example: Every 311 call that comes into the District of Columbia -- a service request -- we actually publish that. So whether that has to do with a broken parking meter, potholes or crime -- all that is published and put into the public domain. A third example is a lot of the crime data, whether it's assaults, burglaries or homicides. All that data is put out there, available to the public in real time. A fourth one: When we were deploying computers to the public school system, as the computers were being deployed, there was a live data feed that showed where they were deployed, which school and a [phone] number for the principal.

Q: Your approach is to treat citizens as partners in government, rather than simply as customers to

Blake Harris  |  Editor