[nSLUG] local ns e-govt and oss???

Bob Ashley ax386 at chebucto.ca
Thu Feb 17 20:56:51 AST 2005

Stephen Gregory wrote:
> On Thu, 17 Feb 2005 19:47:20 +0000 M Taylor <mctylr at privacy.nb.ca>
> wrote:
>> a) Overly cautious managers afraid of going with non "corporate
>> standard" solutions.
>>     This hearlds back to the "no one ever got fired for buying IBM"
>>     school of thought from weak management. In reality, private
>>     sector simply  wants results.

> This is a political problem. Public employees are not rewarded for
> taking risks. However they are punished for failures. Especially public
> failures when elected officials are called to task. By using the "IBM"
> style products they minimize the potential for blame. Ofcourse it
> dosen't affect the chance of failure.

'Accountability' is a current buzzword in public administration. Framed 
against the backdrop of what you're saying here, though, 
'accountability' is something of euphemism for 'surveillance'.  And I 
agree with you for the most part.

Rhetoric calling for more accountability in government, especially the 
bureaucratic machinery, tends to reduce to a blame-game. The key 
function of surveillance, of course, is to capture the blameable, 
unequivocably, and to impose accountability, be it getting fired, going 
to jail...ad lib.

Discussion of 'risk' rarely enters to discussion of accountability 
because the latter gets pinned to the regular, everyday things that 
public servants are supposed to be doing. 'Risk' does not enter into 
that everyday lexicon. It's not discussed because it's not relevant.

It should be relevant, though. You point that out nicely. And I think we 
can also associate risk with M. Taylor's salient point about 'gaining 
confidence' in small steps. The perception of risk would be implicit in 
M's point, confidence being that which helps to dissolve or alter the 
perception without any real objective change in the nature of the risk 

'Small steps' or 'pilot project', we would hope, help to offset the 
pathology of risk aversion endemic to a fear prone bureaucracy.

The patterns of the posts tend to converge on consensus that 'soft 
issues' like these, not technical ones, appear to mount the stubbornest 
challenges. It is crucial that policy address that reality lest it be 
nothing more than a damp squib.

Thanks for the thought-provoking input!

If might return to a technically related question. What about human 
resource capacity with open source software in government? What is our 
present capacity? Are the universities, technical colleges and other 
training institutions similarly slow-footed in this climate of 
rethinking the proprietary paradigm?

Wouldn't improved training and research capacity also go towards 
ameliorating risk perception? The 'word' on oss might start to circulate 
  more, hence softening the alien caricature perpetuated by conventional 
'safe' thinking?

In short, would policy have to also address formal education on oss 
across multiple levels and categories of institutions?




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