Want to Innovate in Government–Overcome these seven challenges

innovation in government

(Photo credit)

If you are an Officer in Government  who wants to find a solution to a challenge or address a pain point in his working, he turns to technology to derive a solution. But not all initiatives reach a critical milestone or scale up to full fledged solutions. Despite the passion to make a difference why only a few of the efforts work and produce outcomes. To understand this you can find out which among the following is the challenge you face and find a solution accordingly. Here we go.

1. More often than not rules prevent Officers from trying out something new. One gets punished if something goes wrong but nothing is done if one doesn’t even perform at normal levels. When ever you discuss a possible solution to a problem the common reply you will get is “ there is no provision for that”. You have to actually convince those who matter that what you say is actually doable and it is worth doing it.

2. Funding a pilot is hard because there is no earmarked scheme or source kept for new projects. Most of the time innovative projects are difficult to be justified under existing norms because the basic aim of innovation is to redefine the norms and improve them. The funding authority may not believe that your solution will actually help. Or worse she may think “why the hell should I do this?” . So it leads to point no. 1.

3. One has to depend on specialized departments which are not always enthusiastic about your demand for their resources. You are not a priority to them. The mandated departmentally approved project is. For example if I want to use a particular Content Management System (CMS) to manage my Office website its not possible for a variety of reasons. Here are some:

    • The server is windows based, so the open source Linux based CMS will not be compatible.
    • Maintenance of all websites have been contracted off to an agency so you need to contact them to make any changes. It will take you two days and ten phone calls to just reach the agency.
    • You can make your own website and update but we will not provide official domain names.
    • If you want to install your own system it has to be security audited but we will not make it easy to do it.
    • There is no policy for updation by the user office. Make a written request to the IT department. Most probably you will get a reply that it cant be done stating one of the reasons above.

4. Innovation is seen as something happening is special labs and dedicated institutions and incubators. Rather innovation is a natural and evolutionary phenomenon that happens everyday and everywhere in the organization. The need is to identify, pick and scale the right innovation that contributes to the achievement of organizational objectives. The answer: Evangelize your idea and work like a Govpreneur.

5. Lack of sharing and collaboration leads to multiple reinvention of wheel. On a given issue there are multiple experiments and innovations going on all over the country and the knowledge and experience are not shared. So everyone moves from 0 to 10 on a given issue, but nobody takes a 10 and makes it 15.

For example Many states are working on reducing dropout rates and tracking a child throughout school years with multiple projects going on simultaneously. There is no visible effort to cumulate the results and pick the best features of each approach and find the best model. Its even difficult to find out if any such project is happening elsewhere.

6. Connecting with the right people is a challenge. For example when an officer wants to explore and adopt opengov ideas and open data practices his IT department may not have the expertise or interest in such an initiative. And technology experts who are interested in such issues discuss in closed email groups and forums. So finding and accessing their expertise is difficult and when it happens, it is more a coincidence than a thoughtful effort.

7. Even if anyone succeeds in creating a worthwhile solution by working with a technical partner you cannot contract work to the  partner to directly because the financial rules come into play. One cannot favor a partner just because he has worked to create a solution for you. Then why would a private organization/person commit resources/time for you.

Most of these challenges are small but can make your next big idea remain just an idea. Once you start putting time and effort on an issue you will encounter a modified version of the challenges discussed. One needs to still work at it because all innovations in any walk of life was made by those who dared to dream and worked at it consistently no matter what. Consistency beats all odds. Good luck.

The following two tabs change content below.
Bureaucrat exploring the intersection of Technology,Society and Soul. Government 2.0 Advocate, Open Gov believer, Open Source enthusiast, Father, Husband. *** A Knowledge sharing initivative. Opinions are personal ********

About Nagarajan M

Bureaucrat exploring the intersection of Technology,Society and Soul. Government 2.0 Advocate, Open Gov believer, Open Source enthusiast, Father, Husband. *** A Knowledge sharing initivative. Opinions are personal ********

2 thoughts on “Want to Innovate in Government–Overcome these seven challenges

  1. You are right. There are other issues too.
    1. The employees are unwilling to use any new technology. They will make every effort to make it fail. Only official pressure can make them use the technology.
    2. Officers are transferred frequently. If an officer introduces any technology and is transferred, the technology is discarded within one month.
    3. Policy makers are different than implementers. Any policy is introduced and revoked at very short notice. It is very difficult for any private body to keep pace with these policies.
    4. All the above makes implementing any technology at lower levels of heirarchy impossible.
    5. A good development company can still make a technology meeting above requirements. The technology needs to be made very modular and flexible, so that any changes can be made easily and changes anywhere does not make the whole thing unusable. But the cost may increase to find better a company and will have to be tied with the project till the lifetime of the technology.
    6. 5 has other issues too. Any other technology to be developed requiring parts of previous technology will have to be made by the same company. So we are tied up with only one company for all projects.
    7. All the above issues can be tackled at the top most levels only. Every government organization should have a separate IT department to deal with the above issues and it should be responsible only at the top most level. Any policy changes should be made only after feasibility study by this IT department.

    Indian Railways has a seperate and independent body CRIS (Centre for Railway Information Systems) specifically to tackle these issues.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Fill this....please * Time limit is exhausted. Please reload the CAPTCHA.