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5 Things We’ve Learned This Year — From Smartphones to Transparency (Opinion)

Cloud computing and IT consolidation were also hot in 2010.

by / December 2, 2010

This was the year of the comeback for Father Guido Sarducci, the fake cleric played by comedian Don Novello made famous as a recurring character on both the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour and Saturday Night Live in the ’70s.  He was in front of a huge congregation … err, crowd … at the civic temple that’s the National Mall in Washington, D.C.  Sadly his uneven benediction at the John Stewart-Stephen Colbert Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear on the eve of the November election will soon be forgotten.  That’s a little ironic because this is the same fake cleric who gave us Father Guido Sarducci’s 5-Minute University, the genius of which was its promise to teach only those very few things that will still matter five years after the fact.  

For 10 years, this page has taken a 5-Minute U approach to what we’ve learned this year. Here are the five things we’re likely to remember about 2010 five years from now.

1. Third Screen Became the Primary Screen.

IPhone. Droid. Windows Phone 7. BlackBerry. Nielsen research projects there will be more smartphones than any other kind of mobile phones by the end half of 2011. The ubiquity of smartphones, and a continuing campaign to reclaim spectrum for wireless broadband, means that mobile is no longer an alternative delivery channel — it’s where real people do real business, including using public services if there’s an app for that.

2. The Citizen Can Be Just as Fickle as a Consumer.

Public agencies can design and deploy services that: (a) citizens need; (b) citizens say they want; or (c) citizens respond to. Pick one.  

3. Transparency Succumbs to Malicious Compliance.

As the year ended, the tally of data sets on was pegged at 305,692. Some states seemed engaged in a data arms race too. But apps competitions and communities of true believers are not a substitute for public agencies doing their jobs, which is more than surfacing the data they hold but also providing the context necessary to make it understandable, digestible and usable.

4. The Rains Came.

After years of hit-and-miss forecasts, the skies opened this year with cloud becoming a permanent part of the environment in a growing number of states and localities. Talk of the cloud will likely dissipate, which is the typical pattern when people stop speculating and start doing.

5. IT Met the Budget Borg.

Consolidation rhymes with assimilation. The former was done for efficiency’s sake; the latter is being done for survival. IT is in play (again), either reverting into the agencies from which they emerged or rolling forward into newly combined über agencies. The CIO’s span of control will contract or expand accordingly.


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Paul W. Taylor Contributing Writer

Paul W. Taylor, Ph.D., is the editor-at-large of Governing magazine. He also serves as the chief content officer of e.Republic, Governing’s parent organization, as well as senior advisor to the Governing Institute. Prior to joining e.Republic, Taylor served as deputy Washington state CIO and chief of staff of the state Information Services Board (ISB). Dr. Taylor came to public service following decades of work in media, Internet start-ups and academia. He is also among a number of affiliated experts with the non-profit, non-partisan Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) in Washington, D.C.

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