Notes from the Digital Governance Forum (#DGF15)


Hey folks, so I got back from my 10-day Vipassana Meditation Retreat last week and must say i feel fully re-charged, super-positive and healthier than ever. Overall it was an absolutely life-changing experience. For any of you interested in finding out more about what it was like, I’d be more than happy to chat about it offline.

In the meantime, I wanted to share my rough notes with you from the Digital Governance Forum, which I attended this past week here in Ottawa.

What was the event about?

It brought together citizens, elected officials, academics, public servants, and industry leaders to shape the direction and help map newly emerging governance possibilities, identify digital disruptions already in the making, and anticipate possible futures. Five applied domains were covered including: democratic governance, policy-making, service delivery, regulation, and risk and accountability. Other topics discussed included information superabundance, personal data collection, hyper-accountability, the disintermediation of governing institutions, the appearance of new governance actors, the challenges of multi-level governance, and the proliferation of multi-sector delivery models.

What did I think of it?

One of the best events I have attended in a long time. Granted, the topic of governance in the modern digital era is something I am very passionate about and comprises the majority of my consulting work these days. Nonetheless I think anyone with a progressive mindset in these sectors would have enjoyed it.

All of my event related tweets can be found here

Notes from Session #1 – Digital Governance 101: Democracy in a Digital Era – Justin Ling [Moderator] -Parliamentary Correspondent, VICE News ; Tim Powers – Vice-Chairman, Summa Strategies; Brad Lavigne – VP, H+K Strategies; Gerald Butts – Principal Advisor to Justin Trudeau

  • Technology is almost always amoral
  • It has increased opportunities for engagement but also for isolation
  • It has created enormous complexity in how we manage information
  • Traditionally private information now going into the public realm
  • There was a recent serious breach of info through the Ontario co-op system
  • Governments don’t lead in this era, they are following
  • In the short term it’s always a good idea to not provide information, in the long term it’s no longer a sustainable strategy
  • Good discussion as to whether or not the #BellLetsTalk initiative is an example of corporatism or true digital governance /advocacy?
  • The new currency is data through public engagement
  • The current government is clearly holding information
  • Intimacy of Twitter is both a blessing and a curse
  • Media amplifies bozo eruptions of politicians
  • Political parties can have many special exemptions
  • Good question asked as to how predictive data will change the will of leaders to lead
  • All good political leaders have a few core items that they care deeply about (they then use technology to sway opinion in their favour)
  • Need to read Susan Delacourt’s “Shopping for Votes” book
  • Important point about how hard it is to have a family in the political insitution unless spouse stays at home
Notes from Co-Chair’s Address – Anthony D Williams, President and Co-Founder, DEEP Centre
  • Take a look at the website
  • Look up story about phd student that had to classify 50K galaxies as part of his Phd thesis
  • Ended up posting online and crowdsourcing task-built Galaxyzoo
  • Next morning there were 275K people contributing…literally melted cable to the server there was so much traffic
  • First 50K images were classfied by end of a few weeks
  • Professional astronomy community ended up participating, not just amateurs
  • There are now 1.1 million people on Zooniverse…born out of the initial initiative
  • Another great example to look at is “Global Forrest Watch 2.0” – went to Google and NASA to use it
  • Exploring the surface of Mars – Planet Four Initiative.
  • US and UK government will be sharing code across jurisdictions…just re formalized their agreement
  • Key Points:
    1. Digital Governance is about transforming systems and processes
    2. Digital innovation does not require a large budget – they do leverage enormous amounts of talent
    3. Digital innovation does require taking risks
    4. People need to read the Lean Startup
    5. Digital leaders design for participation
    6. Digital leaders give employees permission to innovate
    7. Digital leaders have overcome organizational and disciplinary barriers
    8. Digital innovation is constant
Notes from Session #2 – Policy Analysis and Advising Elected Leaders: Searching for Relevance in a Dis-Intermediated World – Jesse Hirsch [Moderator]; Rob Fonberg, Trudeau Mentor; Hershell Ezrin, Professor, Ryerson University; Justin Longo, Post-Doctoral Fellow, Arizona State University; Chris Froggatt, Managing Partner, NATIONAL Public Relations; Ann Pappert, CAO, City of Guelph
  • Shared leadership challenge is changing mindsets
  • This statement is untrue and mindsets need to be shifted: “Conceding the table to other parties gets rid of your authority”
  • The nature and the quality of the public discourse has shifted
  • What is the role of the political parties in terms of policy making? They are usually last to find out in reality what is going on in the leader’s office
  • Government online is a system that is provided to us but is using the traditional rules
  • Read Hershell Ezrin’s “Ethics of Political Leadership”
  • 3 types of opinions: values, preference, and expert
  • Some of us in this room will own a driverless car within 3 yrs
  • There is a wealth of information online for public servants and political leaders
  • The engagement model is one of co-production
  • Certain politicians believe in a different role for government
  • Anyone can be an expert these days as it based on trust in their authority
  • People believe that the current system corrupts politicians
  • How do we bring respect back into the political process
  • Great debate on whether or not anonymity is a good thing or bad thing for the democratic process
  • Dark data is data that is not accessible but you have it
  • Need a 21st century network model for research
  • Need a more human public servant
  • Everyone in government has their roles merging so stop complaining
  • Instead we should be coming to the table and offering solutions…even if you have an ego
  • There is a strong need for some primary research into the barriers of digital democracy within government
Notes from Session #3 – Citizen Choice, Service Delivery and Retail Governance: Who looks out for the public good? –Christopher Waddell [Moderator], Associate Professor, School of Journalism and Communication, Carleton University; Chantal Bernier, Counsel, Dentons; Susan Delacourt, Political Writer; Alejandro Pareja, Modernization of the State Specialist, Inter-American Development Bank; Bette-Jo Hughes, ADM & CIO, Government of British Columbia; Amanda Clarke, Assistant Professor, School of Public Policy & Administration, Carleton University
  • UK government brought in “hacker likes” instead of public servants to re-do their digital presence (good and bad in this)
  • Very transactional in nature. Get in and get out mentality
  • Agility ,innovation, room for experimentation, great but we need to ensure core democratic values are present in this culture as well
  • Go slow, build trust first when starting online service delivery
  • Need to incorporate privacy by design
  • BC ADM and CIO says that their citizens didn’t want geo-location information and financial information shared (Note to self: do they realize what turning it off will do the apps they use daily? Question was likely flawed)
  • Use of cloud based services…need to ensure we are keeping up with privacy
  • Allows gov to focus less on infrastructure and more on information needs to be secure
  • Cloud service providers are not yet able to meet all gov standards surrounding privacy
  • Citizens have high expectations for service delivery because of their expectations of private sector
  • Basic model of service delivery is the multi-channel model
  • Latin America is still behind – 55% access to the internet vs. 88% in Canada and US
  • Starting to work with data though
  • Very interesting discussion on privacy from lawyer Chantal Bernier
  • The supreme court test is what does the information reveal
  • Queen vs. Theroy…police picked up a smartphone without password and they could use data as evidence…messages relevant to the arrest
  • Right to be forgotten exists
  • Whether ISP’s are in Canada or US is not the issue
  • Technologically cloud service providers actually are more secure than local data servers
  • Bringing old paradigms to new platforms
  • According to Susan Delacourt, it’s not a coincidence the government became more secretive as a result of social media impact…action reaction
  • BC prohibits storing of personal data outside of Canada
  • ISO standard 27018 addresses all cloud needs
  • Organizations formerly know as newspapers are now news organizations
  • Some governments are moving to digital by default mindset
  • UK gov is even moving towards providing service standard for the 80yr old grandma to train her how to use the online stuff
  • Need to come up with new language
  • Chantal- no opposition between privacy and progress
  • Where are the digitally invisible?
  • I raised a question to the panel surrounding these topics:
    • Fascinated how concerned people are about privacy given how easily they give it up in exchange for convenience- there is a knowledge gap
    • Social network analysis mapping and visualization – need to educate and demonstrate value
    • Media not helping with uniformed amateur headlines like “Public servants spying on Canadians”
  • Read the new OPC (Office of the Privacy Commissioner) report and survey on privacy released this morning
  • Tech companies have outpaced legal law surrounding privacy
  • Electronic counter measures project mentioned by Jesse Hirsch
  • According to lawyer Chantal ..there is no opposition to privacy and progression (or did she say innovation)
Notes from Opening Keynote on Day 2 – Don Tapscott, President & CEO, The Tapscott Group
  • It’s been 20 years since Don wrote The Digital Economy
  • Government is still all about command and control
  • Tim Berners-Lee got an audience to chant “raw data” at a recent TED talk. Its importance cannot be over emphasized enough
  • Don ended up selling New Paradigm and creating Global Solution Networks
  • Protecting the rights of minorities is crucial in a democracy…not just majority rules
  • 2 main buckets: Transformation of Government and Transformation of Governance
  • The focus of his presentation is on sharing the results of a 4 million dollar research project
  • 44 Victors of WWII started their global agreements in Bretton Woods, NH (World Bank and IMF)
  • Anne Marie Slaughter– wrote the definitive book on government
  • The technological revolution is essentially comprised of:
    • Social web
    • Mobility
    • Big Data
    • Internet of Things (IOT)
    • The Cloud
    • Robotics
  • Everything that has an IP address is part of IOT
  • We’re all programming the internet these days;-Humanity is building a machine
  • Wrote growing up digital 1997 then grown up digital 2007
  • 4 main drivers for change — The tech revolution – The net generation – The social revolution – The economic revolution
  • Obama created a platform where 35000 communities of which happened to be the Wikinomics community
  • There is a crisis of legitimacy
  • Legitimacy is: “The capacity of a political system to engender and maintain the belief that existing political institutions are the most appropriate and proper ones for the society” – Seymour Martin Lipset
  • Obama went from yes we can to we already know you (using big data)…sad
  • In Tunisia students were using triangulation to pin point sniper locations
  • Don used CartoDB for some of his data visualizations
  • Ronald Coase (1910-2013) – The economics of collaboration: New competitive space
  • Asked a powerful question: Why do firms exists? Answer: Transactional
  • Don coined the concept of Global Solutions Network (a GSM), which is a new kind of entity comprised of:
    1. Diverse stakeholders: The four pillars of society (state, private sector, civil society, and individual)
    2. Addresses a global problem
    3. Exploits the digital revolution
    4. Self organized governance
  • Taxonomy of Global Solution Networks (10 Types):
    1. Knowledge networks (e.g. Stockholm international research peace institute, Wikipedia)
    2. Operational & delivery networks (e.g crisis-commons, code for america)
    3. Policy networks (international competition network, urban futures)
    4. Advocacy networks (kony 2012,the climate reality project, alliance for climate protection)
    5. Watchdog networks (human rights watch, sunlight foundation)
    6. Platforms (, Kiva, Avaaz, Burning Man, Ushahidi, SoJo) I like the sojo site layout in terms of calls to action
    7. Global standards networks (ISO, W3C, Global Footprint Network,)
    8. Networked institutions (Clinton global initiative , BSR, United Nations Global Compact [not controlled by the UN], world economic forum)
    9. Diasporas (4 I’s – Israel, Ireland, …, onevietnam, )
    10. Governance networks (e.g. Ican, Internet society, internet governance forum, netMundial initiative, world economic forum)
  • Internet Governance Ecosystem – read this paper by Don, Tim Berners Lee, and a bunch of others)
  • Issues regarding multi-stakeholder networks
    1. Legitimacy
    2. Accountability
    3. Representation
    4. Relationships
    5. [missed this]
  • New models of citizen engagement
  • Companies increasingly have to be good
  • Don’s working on 4 main topic areas: climate and planet, health and security, employment and prosperity and cities. These will all have apps as a key outcome
  • Played the famous Starlings Murmuration video at the end
Notes from Session #4 – Big Data, Open Government and Digital Era Regulation – Evan Soloman [Moderator], Host, ‘Power & Politics’ & ‘The House’ CBC; Colin McKay, Head of Public Policy and Government Relations, Google Canada; Hon. Konrad von Finckenstein, Q.C., Arbitrator; Lawrence Hanson, Assistant Deputy Minister, Science and Innovation Sector, Industry Canada; Patrice Dutil, Department of Politics and Public Administration, Ryerson University
  • Discussion started off talking about how a company like Uber is a major disruptor to a very regulated industry…agreement that this will be a key telling story as it unfolds
  • Block parents were essentially a crowd sourced security system organized by government
  • Governments starting to use crowd-funding…following the lead of citizens in terms of how much they should donate as a country
  • Konrad very much understands that regulation needs to change
  • Big focus on importance of data emphasiszed by Konrad
  • Colin had a taxi issue solved after 1hr (instant feedback) with Uber vs 4 weeks with regular cab
  • Colin brought up a valid point in that regulators are not empowered to challenge the existing regulatory regime
  • Big problem right now is that government is not cleaning out the barns of outdated regulation
At this point I had to head out to a client meeting, therefore unfortunately I missed the discussion and final two panels. That being said, if you’re interested in finding out more you can just browse the #DGF15 tweet stream using Topsy.

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