December 21, 2008 By Blake Harris
Government Technology's Digital Communities initiative is becoming a real digital community - which it should be. But the implications for us - a media company whose roots go back to the heyday of paper - are new and exciting.
Through the Digital Communities program, our role is positively changing. Although I wouldn't call it an entirely new direction, the program offers expanded opportunities to engage in innovative ways with different sectors involved with local government.
Through the Digital Communities program, collaboration between our various publics is reaching a new plateau. One example is the expanding activities of our Digital Communities Task Forces.
In this issue, we cover an ongoing effort to change how the D block of the 700 MHz spectrum is organized for public safety interoperability. This is a national initiative involving members of the Digital Communities CIO Task Force who collaborated to organize and then ultimately push for a new approach from the federal government.
Concerned vendors also took part in some of these task force discussions. I say this because it aligns with the vision and purpose behind Digital Communities: to create a unique space where partnerships can lead to better solutions.
As the editor most involved in the program, it's exciting to watch. I believe such collaboration is needed, for it's my firm conviction that local governments face unprecedented challenges. Globalization, limited resources, climate change, aging infrastructure and many social and economic issues will require new levels of collaborative action and innovation.
So the idea that vendors and customers are joining to push for more workable solutions for nationwide public safety interoperability fits right into the new paradigm of collaboration - a paradigm that cuts across traditional government silos, as well as public and private organizations.
But who should be imagining and developing the applications that are used in the government space? Software vendors? Tech-savvy users? Governments themselves?
In the collaborative environment of this Internet age, I think the answer is all three. Just look at the sophistication of many open source applications like the free content management system and blog software that now drives many Web sites. Many of the bigger open source applications have spawned vibrant communities of participants involved in development and support - communities that involve software vendors, users, volunteer programmers and designers.
The continuing evolution of Digital Communities is exciting for this fundamental reason: It's becoming a platform for engagement and collaboration where real innovation and problem-solving can occur.
Of course, within the Digital Communities initiative, we still continue to publish timely, helpful and insightful editorial content, in print and online. But the Digital Communities initiative is now more than that, which we think is good news for the future.
This Digital Communities white paper highlights discussions with IT officials in four counties that have adopted shared services models. Our aim was to learn about the obstacles these governments have faced when it comes to shared services and what it takes to overcome those roadblocks. We also spoke with several members of the IT industry who have thought long and hard about these issues. The paper offers some best practices for shared government-to-government services, but also points out challenges that government and industry still must overcome before this model gains widespread adoption.