I don’t think anyone would disagree with the idea that the Yukon’s largest industry is government. Information technology, though it may surprise some, is also one of the Territory’s largest. According to government statistics, IT contributes almost as much to the Yukon’s GDP as tourism.
Unfortunately, the structure of the local IT industry is a bit wobbly and manifests as little more than a fractured external service arm for the government. Indeed, without government’s seeming never-ending stream of generally private and sole-sourced technology development contracts, there wouldn’t be much of a local IT industry to talk about.
One solution to this economic dead end, as I mentioned last week, is the partnering of IT industry and government to create a “social industry”. Instead of IT being inherently dependant on the closed, sporadic funnelling of the government’s fiscal goodwill, the two could work together to improve the overall quality of society even as they expand the economy.
The development of an IT-based social industry would permit government to directly recoup its investments into the community’s technology infrastructure and provide the Yukon IT industry with a sustainable export marketplace.
I’ve spent the last couple of weeks describing what would be the bare-minimum essentials to develop a platform upon which a stable, sustainable, and exportable IT industry could be established. We need a significantly improved technology infrastructure; we need a better educated and technologically-capable citizen base; and most of all, we need a comprehensive, well-coordinated public technology strategy that a government is willing to support and foster.
Once these things are in place then industry and government could move forward to develop an economic environment in which technology would work to directly benefit Yukon’s social and economic state.
The relationship would be directly reciprocal: the government would benefit from an expanded intelligence workforce capable of leveraging communications technologies to enable its mandate and programs in the community; and the industry would gain insight and access to information required to create a “killer app”.
In geek parlance, a “killer app” is a totally unique, creative technology solution to a common problem. Many people would agree that a huge aspect of government could generally be described as a “problem”. By government partnering directly with IT, the Yukon could be the birthing ground for the “Government Operating System” (or, heck, let’s be geek-hip and call it GovOS): a totally unique killer app.
The development of GovOS would occur within the local industry based upon those open government technology standards I’ve been mentioning in combination with the government’s mandate which is, theoretically, based on community needs.
In a sense, the Yukon Territory would become a software company developing a very unique product that is constantly being tested and improved thanks to the small yet varied population base we have.
The centralized “IT ombudsman” office would act as the design, analysis, architecture and testing hub for all development in direct co-operation with the private IT industry. This local industry would serve as a collection of dedicated development teams that would likely over time splinter into factions of specialized skills and knowledge.
Government itself would perform as a sort of board of directors, ensuring that the development of the GovOS continues to support and benefit its investors (also known as the electorate).
The citizen population is, clearly, the general user base that would most directly benefit from an improved government service environment that’s been enabled by an intelligent and effective application of information technology.
Once this situation is achieved, the GovOS could be marketed to other governments and major corporations around the world, either through the arms-length “IT ombudsman” or some other form of collective marketing body. Licensing revenues would be distributed among government and members of the local IT community to support the ongoing development efforts of GovOS (which, inherently, would support social programs, public works, and pretty much every other government office).
Many governments use technology to their advantage, but few have taken the next step and make technology integral to their overall processes and policies. GovOS would make technology do what government wants it to do: serve the people. In too many instances today, government and, hence, the populace, are slaves to the machine. We need to turn that equation around.
Beyond this creative and effective development of a unique product-based export industry, the Yukon would come to be globally regarded as the source of expertise for integrating modern technology into matters of governance.
Our local IT industry would be sought-after for its unique understanding of the relationship between information technology and the processes of government. Our members of government and their staff would be recognized for their courageous adaptation of technology into the overall government system.
And, if the Yukon’s really lucky, maybe one day it’ll get bought by Microsoft. Actually, that’d kind of suck; we’d all have to move to Redmond. Let’s stay independent.
First published in the Yukon News on Friday, October 6, 2006.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Canada License.