Government 2.0

The Clothesline Paradox

Tim O’Reilly is the founder of O’Reilly Media and an open source advocate since 1997. His delivered a talk at Picnic festival in Amsterdam. It started with a paradox, as a metaphor to understand what might have gone wrong with our economy.

When we quantify the energy consumption of a tumble drier, compared to hanging clothes out to dry, we consider the latter option as a zero energy one, as if the human energy needed would suddenly disappear from the system. What really happens is that we don’t monetize it and therefore we don’t consider it a cost. Something similar happens with innovation: real innovators start by doing things that matter to them, investing endless energy and time, but without monetizing. That is how great businesses like Apple or Twitter started: the monetization came afterwards.

What happened in the last decade is that producing monetary value became a primary goal, rather than a means to proceed or a side effect, but in these circumstances innovation is very rarely happening. “An economy is an ecosystem,” continues O’Reilly, “if you take more out than you put in, the ecosystem eventually fails”. He ultimately suggested that the only way to create innovation and keep the system healthy and sustainable is “sharing and creating value for others”.

New Ownership – The Shift from Top Down to Bottom-Up

Picnic is a leading European platform for innovation and creativity that functions as an incubator and accelerator. Every year a group of people including technologists, artists, politicians and economists are called to take on a new challenge during two days of lectures, workshops, labs and more.

This year’s festival happened 17 and 18 September in Amsterdam, with the theme New Ownership: The Shift from Top Down to Bottom-Up. Picnic welcomed more than 3,000 visitors, illuminating how new technologies and connectivity are empowering common people, spreading knowledge and increasing civic engagement. This trend is gaining strength at a time when the loss of trust in traditional top down institutions is increasing, resulting in local and global communities with higher social awareness, engaging in bottom-up strategies.

No matter where you are in the world, you can become an expert on your own, accessing videos of MIT lectures through their website, watching tutorials on or diving in the TED-ED educational library. This openness and democratized spreading of knowledge has created alternatives to mainstream education, hopefully presenting a opportunity for it to improve.

All we need now is a will to do. Everything else is there already.

Sharing and creating value for others is important. As described by Tim O’Reilley in the Clothesline Paradox.

Online services and social networks have increased people’s civic engagement, making them feel connected and heard.

This has ramifications for Citizen-Government Interaction in India.


Ideas distilled from

Listen up Officer – Collaborate or Perish

Collaboration is the new mantra for all governance ills. If there is one area that stands to benefit the most in terms of people,process and outcomes, it is the government sector. When strengths are combined and synergised the outcomes explode.

The emerging web trends has moved through the following stages. Information, transaction, engagement and now to collaboration. Collaboration is a the active version of participation.

Here is simple presentation on the economics of Collaboration. Collaborate or Perish.


New President of India gets his Official Website redesigned

president website home


The President of India is the highest office in India. As the head of the state the President is the first citizen. As an observer of the online trends once can see that the new website of His Excellency has some adopted some modern design trends. The new President Dr. Pranab Mukherjee assumed office on July 25th 2012 and it seems the first thing he did was to order a series of online initiatives. Apart from the redesigned website a new Youtube channel and a fresh facebook page (2361 likes within ten days, accessed on 05 Aug 2012) have been created on July 26.

Though there was a previous facebook page for President of India with 11993 likes (accessed on 05th August 2012) our new President seems to have preffered to start on a fresh slate.The entire excercise may have just been incidental too. Some interesting UI factors in the new webdesign are stylish image sliders showcasing latest photos, some new fonts like Alex, Myriad Pro which looks better than the plain official looking verdana like stock fonts. The new website even uses jQuery which is highly unlikely for a National Informatics Center (NIC) developed site.

The site also has a crisp layout with Events,Press releases and Speeches section on the home page. There is also a social networking box with icons for youtube and facebook page. Twitter is conspicuous by its absence. One can hope that it will soon be included in the Presidents social media gameplan.

However i was left wondering where all the old website contents have gone. There is no link for any archives or old site links. It is not possible to access speeches and other documents of earlier presidents.For nostalgia’s sake i ended up searching for the old looks at Internet Archives and here is what i got.

First capture available during Dr.K.R.Narayanan’s period (circa 2002).


Then the same design was retained during Dr.A.P.J.Abdul Kalam’s tenure till early 2004.


By mid of 2004 the previous design was introduced and was in use upto mid 2007.


By mid of 2007 when Dr.Pratibha Patils tenure began a newer design was adopted and in use till the latest change.


One can see that whenever a new President assumes office there is a change in the webdesign and approach to suit the preferences of the incumbent. The latest change incorporates some newer and citizen friendly elements which is a welcome change.

Open Source Enablers for Open Gov and Open Data

All Data is information, Connected data is knowledge.

To connect data a common language or notation is a must. There are many standards available that can be sued in creating this common notation. Popular among them are Xtensible Markup Language(XML) and Resource Description Framework (RDF). Both have related technologies that extend their functionalities.

Drupal is leading the way in making available technologies that enable Open Gov and Open Data. It is the leading CMS for Government websites, particularly those with data applications. Its no brainer that the Open Government Platform (OGPL) released by Government of India is based on Drupal. The idea and a early implementation of Drupal for data applications came from an award winning paper by Stephane Corlosquet et al. This can revolutionize the way data is handled in Government. The presentation is embedded below:

Norway, UK open up Company Register Data

Open Data is all about providing access to data in easy machine readable formats for further use. Norway and recently UK have released their Company Register data via APIs. Its now possible to find new use cases to Company data. Indian Companies exploring EU markets can now have a better understanding of Businesses there.

Belgium is expected to publish its company register soon. Here is a graph showing countries and their progress in opening up company data, expectedly Norway leads the pack.


India does not figure in the list. These three countries are leading the pack among countries that signed the Open Government Partnership. India though is not a signatory has mode some progress by releasing a Open Government Platform in partnership with USA.

Further reading: