The sponsor interviews – GOVIS

We’re pleased to have GOVIS on board as a sponsor as they were instrumental in helping the initial Webstock conference. We talked recently with GOVIS President, Mike Pearson.

Webstock: What is GOVIS? What’s its history and what does it do?

Mike: GOVIS was established in 1992. The catalyst for its formation was a suggestion that government IT managers implement GOSIP (Government Open Systems Interconnectivity Protocols), as a standard for interdepartmental electronic communications. At that time, GCS (Government Computing Service) had been disestablished and there was no co–ordination of IT in Government. Managing IT, particularly in a small department could be a lonely place. GOVIS was a mutual support group, so that IT managers from the Government sector could get together and share knowledge.

GOVIS Inc. exists today, to encourage discussion on IT related topics, to improve the cost effectiveness and use of government IT and to encourage a common approach to open systems. It does this by promoting an environment for the free and frank expression of opinions and exchange of information, promoting and facilitating networking, liaison and cooperation between members through activities such as a website/mailing lists, regular forums and special events, including conferences.

Webstock: The next GOVIS conference is happening in May. What’s the theme of the conference and who are some of the speakers that will appeal to Webstockers?

Mike: GOVIS 2009 will be on 20th-22nd May at the Wellington Town Hall. It is widely recognised as the premier Information and Communication Technologies event for the New Zealand government sector, and is open to anyone.

The theme for the 2009 conference is “User-Centred Government; More than meets the eye”.

The theme is based on the State Services Development Goal milestone that by 2015, New Zealanders will see increased efficiency and effectiveness throughout the State Services, with their experience transformed through technology, to be characterised by practical and personalised service delivery that meets their diverse circumstances.

Keynote speakers include:

  • W. David Stephenson: A leading e-government (especially transparent government), Web 2.0, and crisis management strategist and theorist. He focuses on ways to directly involve the public in policy and services debate and delivery.
  • Tom Steinberg: The founder and director of mySociety, a non-profit, open source organisation that runs many of the best-known democracy websites in the UK. These include the Parliamentary transparency website TheyWorkForYou and the somewhat self-explanatory FixMyStreet.
  • Elizabeth F Churchill: Takes a human centred approach to design and innovation, and believes that lasting innovations derive from a deep understanding of how technologies are woven into everyday lives. Her work at Yahoo! Research explores the threads of mediated collaboration, mobile connectivity, transmedia technologies, digital archive and memory, and the development of emplaced media.
  • Nat Torkington: Chair of the O’Reilly Open Source Convention and a former editor for O’Reilly and Associates. He has returned to New Zealand from the USA, and is looking to build networks of open source innovators, entrepreneurs, and emerging technologists in New Zealand.
  • Stephen Collins: Looks at trends in social media and networking, knowledge work and the knowledge economy and issues of management and leadership, focusing on their respective influences and applicability as we build understanding of the disruptive nature of these tools and the power they place in the hands of consumers and workers.
  • Fergus Hogarth: The Manager of Information and Knowledge Management in the Department for Families and Communities for the Government of South Australia, responsible for online services, a Geographic Information Systems Unit, two libraries and records management. He maintains a strong interest in how technology is changing the world and especially how it is being used to share, connect and engage.

Preceeding the conference on Tuesday 19 May 2009 there will be a workshop series with several of the keynote speakers. Like the conference, the workshops will be open to anyone.

Webstock: How would you rate the NZ government’s use of the internet and the potential it offers compared to other countries?

Mike: Comparing our government’s use of the Internet with that of governments in other countries, is pretty much meaningless. There’s an underlying false assumption that the social, economic and political context is the same in each country.

The Kiwis Count survey found that the drivers that have the greatest impact on New Zealanders’ satisfaction with public services were completely different from Canadians. The best thing is to ignore the rankings and get on with addressing our specific needs and wants in innovative ways.

Webstock: What are the major online challenges for government departments in the next 5 years?

When we first started planning GOVIS 2009, we talked about challenges like:

  • How can we shift to a State Services system that can work flexibly and effectively in networked ways across organisational boundaries?
  • How can we develop more tailored and personalised services and policies by working innovatively with communities of interest in their design, development and delivery?

In light of the recent Stuff article, “Heat on public sector bosses to cut spending”, I believe the major challenge is a wetware (human) one, i.e. not enough people in this town believe that the current economic climate is an opportunity to drive innovation.

There are plenty of ideas about better ways of doing business or developing new or improved products and services that add value for New Zealanders. We need to debate these ideas, pick the likely winners and get them out in production, ASAP.

Change is not a comfortable process, but if we can cut costs by 25% or increase value by 50%, we should be be rising to the challenge. We have to do it while still raising New Zealanders’ satisfaction with public services.

Webstock: What speaker are you most looking forward to seeing at Webstock?

Mike: This year there’s going to be a lot of activity around Government Information and Data Re-use , so I think a lot of the speakers, like Tom Coates and Adrian Holovaty will be relevant to what we’re doing/thinking.

If I was wearing my “innovation” hat, then I’d say I’m most looking forward to catching up with Jane McGonigal again. Her talk at SXSW gave me a lot of ideas about making your government more fun … she does a cool Solja Boy Dance too. I hope the Webstock organisers are practising, so you can accompany her.

Webstock: Thanks Mike. I think it’s fair to say the chances of the Webstock organisers doing Soulja boy dances on stage are remote! But here’s Jane’s SXSW dance …

Jane Mcgonigal Soulja Boy dance