Enterprise Communications

Powering Collaborative Government

by Brian Cotton 15 Feb 2012
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In last week’s blog, I wrote about the vision of a technology-enabled collaborative government model, in which shared information drives intelligence, policy, and action across bureaucratic boundaries. In an urban context this means an integrated governance strategy that can provide better service to citizens and businesses, and support a more streamlined and fiscally efficient government. The concept is appealing, but how is it actually realized?

The technology cornerstone of collaborative government is an intelligent operations center that is both an information warehouse and an analysis and decision-support system. As a warehouse, the platform gathers data from a large number of sources, including archived data, transactions and events, and real-time streaming data (big data) such as that from sensors deployed across city infrastructure. It processes this data, including removing duplicates and creating master records (single views). It also facilitates securely sharing that data across applications and between city departments. Embedded within the system, other tools can produce reports and dashboard views for city managers and executives.

The platform is truly intelligent, and truly able to power collaborative government, when analytics are applied to correlate events and detect subtle patterns in the ocean of data. Predictive modeling amplifies the utility of the system in simulation activities, enabling complex “what if” planning for operational and budgetary purposes. When these capabilities are coupled with detailed monitoring of critical factors, such as weather, traffic, healthcare, or economic conditions, city managers are much better equipped to understand and direct services and operations across an entire city. It can be even more robust by facilitating cross-agency communication and collaboration for integrated infrastructure maintenance and incident response to natural disasters and other events.

The system can be housed in the heart of a city’s management domain, providing managers and officials with a city-wide visibility across a web of interdependent city services and stakeholders, as illustrated in the IBM figure below.

An Intelligent Operations Center for Collaborative Urban Government


Source: IBM


City operations centers are not new concepts, but they have tended to be focused on discrete domains, such as emergency services or traffic operations. Recently, however, the technology has been applied by companies such as IBM to encompass and enable complex interdependencies around a wide set of governance domains. Cities such as Rio de Janeiro and Incheon are leading the charge by piloting platforms to realize integrated, collaborative governance models.

Although an intelligent operations center supporting collaborative government seems to be suited only for large cities with massive IT budgets, it can be deployed in a number of ways to address the needs of a wide range of municipalities. For larger cities, an on-premise deployment gives city managers extensive flexibility over the center’s configuration and operation. For medium sized cities or clusters of suburbs in a metropolitan area, it can be deployed in a shared service arrangement so that many jurisdictions can collaborate on a regional basis. For smaller cities, it can be hosted in the cloud to free the city from the time and expense of buying and managing it themselves.

However it is deployed, an intelligent operations center can transform and modernize government structures, and enhance governance capabilities. It can add a great deal of value to a city by supporting collaboration across government departments with a digital infrastructure linking city services and stakeholders. Managers and leaders are able to see in detail what is happening with their city, through cause-and-effect relationships made visible by the technology. Importantly, by streamlining processes, managers can reduce unnecessary delays in service delivery, improve the quality of services and reduce waste.

Special thanks to Greg Milwid of IBM Software Group Industry Marketing – Government, for his insightful feedback on a draft of this blog entry. Stay tuned for future blogs exploring some empirical evidence about why collaboration makes government better. A new paper looking at collaborative government, intelligent operations centers, and intelligent transportation systems will be released soon, and follow me on Twitter @BrianCotton1 for an announcement of its release.

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