Crafting the Yukon’s Killer App: GovOS

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.

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6 thoughts on “Crafting the Yukon’s Killer App: GovOS

  1. Ah, just joking 🙂

    The first thought that came to mind was that it shouldn’t be a traditional installation, rather a hosted service. Being able to maintain a single base of operations, with updates deployable to all clients in one swoop, would greatly decrease desk to desk IT support. Still, you’d have to maintain the service, but no more house-calls.

  2. Now there you go, putting solutions before requirements again. Let’s take a step back before we presuppose what the technical make-up of the end product would be. It’s why I’m suggesting that a group of non-technologists get posted to the “IT ombudsman” board. We need to know what kind of house society wants to live in before we go buying the lumber.

  3. I did it to see if you’d react as expected. Mission accomplished. I’m still a little brother at heart.

    But to further my statements, I can’t see a relevant business case behind the development of said GovOS. Beyond creating jobs and developing an exportable product, what’s the value proposition?

    Beyond function, what’s the plain language selling features – why would I purchase this GovOS over time-proven systems such as Windows, Mac OS X or Linux?

  4. You don’t consider job creation and the development of an export product a sufficient value proposition? It’s more than the industry’s been able to do to date!

    But, anyway, you want more? You got more!

    GovOS would:

    -improve quality of life of citizenry by optimizing and significantly improving the quality and variety of services their government provides

    -improve methods of communication between citizens and their governmental representatives

    -enable government to better understand the wants and needs of their constituents

    -make government directly accountable for the investments they make in infrastructure by directly linking efforts to requirements

    -make the protection of the environment a key measure of success in every endeavour

    -improve direct accesss to imformation, technology, skills and education for every citizen, especially those less fortunate

    -establish and expand a globally-unique industry with a unique knowledge base

    Those are just some points off the top of my head.

    Remember, this product has a very specific market and has an extremely niche value proposition. It’s meant to improve the quality of public service by leveraging technology in an effective and meaningful manner.

    Why is it better than taking advantage of a standard OS? Well, I never said it wouldn’t be based on a standard OS, that was a supposition you made.

    But assume for the moment that the requirements indicated that the design path lead away from building the system in a standard OS environment and demanded a more customized platform, I would guess the reason for this would be the fact that modern OSs are not always optimal environments for niche tasks.

    What percentage of an OS like Mac OS X or XP does any one user actually utilize? 10%? 15%? It’s this line of reasoning that led Negroponte’s team to design their Imperialistic Laptop for Kids with a slimmed-down, customized Linux OS: they didn’t need the bloat.

    If the requirements indicated that the GovOS should move in the same direction, I would assume it would be for the same reasons.

  5. Job creation and the development of an export product are sufficient value propositions for selling the concept to internal stakeholders and the public. You’ve done a solid job outlining these.

    I’m asking what the value proposition is to the other governments – in plain, non-bureacratic language, how would you sell the product to the market?

    You’ve answered this question a few times in the list above, but I’d continue down this path if I was pushing the idea forward. Focus on product differentiation and what makes it unique; makes me want to spend my gov’t budget on your o/s.

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