Issue 1: December 2011

DIGITAL SCOTLAND, COLLABORATION AND GLOBAL OPPORTUNITY - COLLABONOMICS FOR A DIGITAL SCOTLAND

By Zachary Tumin, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

A Digital Vision

Scotland has chartered an ambitious future. The Government’s 2010 “Digital Ambition for Scotland”, its 2011 “Digital Future: A Strategy” and now the “Digital Participation Charter” all turn on a vision for Scotland focused on jobs, education, health, and service delivery.

The key: embracing the digital future, deploying infrastructure, engaging citizens, government and industry, and then delivering results.

Not just any results, but transformative results that position Scotland for prosperity and leadership in decades to come.

That’s a tall order. Transformative results take great investment, from broadband to service redesign, to the time and attention that citizen engagement requires.

That’s precisely what Scotland is calling for: shared investment by all for a shared future.

Which, is good. Visions should be bold. They should represent the blue-sky future that’s possible only by many coming together to achieve results no one could achieve alone.

That’s collaboration.

Today, digital devices and networks makes collaboration possible in ways unthinkable even five years ago.

But people make it happen. And for collaboration to take hold and soar – for people to say "yes" and do 'yes' together - the 'collabonomics' have to be right.

For people to play, collaboration has to pay.

Collabonomics At Work

What do we mean by 'collabonomics'? It’s the political economy of collaboration – all the things that make collaboration possible, desirable, and chosen – so people prefer working together rather than going it alone.

You can see collabonomics at work already in the many ways people have thought about Scotland’s digital future.

The “Customer First” program for example, changes the collabonomics of service delivery. This platform takes friction out of delivering better service and products. It makes collaboration easier. It makes it pay.

Conversely, according to the Technology Strategy Board, the collabonomics are not yet right to support pervasive sensor networks – even though many sectors, from transport to health to energy, could benefit. Issues from data security to uncertainty over standards and interfaces are holding collaboration back. It doesn’t yet pay.

Headwinds

What are some of the headwinds Scotland faces in its move to the digital future?

Mindsets, for one. People often have a status quo bias against giving up the comfortable and the known for change, for example – even if the future promises much higher value. They can have a 'not invented here' attitude, or a feeling that 'no one does it better – and it doesn’t get better than this'.

Collaborations need platforms – digital or physical clearings where people can find each other, and bring their unique contributions to the table, adding to the mix, making it potent. Platforms should take the friction out of collaboration. But they can slow it down. Devices that don’t talk to each other, data that’s difficult to share, or legal rules that make sharing hard, can turn people off from collaborating.

Politics should be the grease of collaboration, but they can just as easily be the glue. Having support for the move forward, keeping resourced long enough to deliver results and value - that takes keen awareness of where the beams of support lie. Staying in those headlamps is critical.

Politics should be the grease of collaboration, but they can just as easily be the glue. Having support for the move forward, keeping resourced long enough to deliver results and value – that takes keen awareness of where the beams of support lie. Staying in those headlamps is critical.

The Way Forward to Digital Scotland

Scotland is ready to move. It has its vision - it’s called its 'digital public' into existence and mobilized partisans for change. It has A-Team level talent.

But to get the collabonomics right – to go up against the headwinds and make collaboration pay - it has to show results. It has to get value into the hands of users fast.

That means right-sizing the problems it tackles so that Digital Scotland can quickly show its investors gain that matter, hold their support, keep moving – and bring new investors in.

It means making sure that people who need to collaborate have platforms they can find, get to, and use to give and get – whether it’s a school building, email, texting, or an online portal.

It means having clear measures and metrics so that collaboration pays back in the currencies that matter – whether financially, or politically, or in the joy of solving problems together.

In the networked world, where everyone is connected, collaboration is the difference maker. If it were only about the technology the one with the most toys would always win. Getting people to say “Yes” together, and to do 'yes' – that’s all about the collabonomics.

 

Zachary Tumin is Special Assistant to the Faculty Chair of Harvard Kennedy School’s Science, Technology, and Public Policy Program. With co-author William Bratton, his book, “Collaborate or Perish!” will be published by Crown/Random House January 17, 2012
       

By Zachary Tumin, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

Issue 1: December 2011

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