Innovation in the Public Sector? You Betcha!

  By Paula Klein, TechWeb

Contrary to what many believe, lots of public-sector agencies and governments are very innovative when it comes to IT. That’s the finding of research conducted by Dr. Mark W.S. Chun, director of the Center for Applied Research and associate professor of information systems, Graziadio School of Business and Management, Pepperdine University in Los Angeles.

Chun says that local governments in particular are sometimes more innovative and agile than many private-sector businesses. While lower funding and transient management teams are usually business inhibitors, Chun says that when you’re small and open to innovation, you take risks and adopt new ideas quickly — before the next administration, budget cuts or political shift occurs. That may be why mobile technologies and cloud services are being widely embraced by governments and their agencies, he says.

Some agencies successfully tap into their constituents and outside sources for ideas. Among the examples he cites are: a smartphone app that allows riders the ability to rate New York City taxi drivers based on cab driver information provided by the state; a pothole alert system in Fort Worth, Texas; and a broader case where the government of Taiwan is opening some of its databases to citizen access for traffic control and parking convenience.

“The customer of the public CIO is the public [constituents],” Chun says, and IT has to listen to them to effectively do its job. Using social media can lower the cost of entry and ease some of the constraints IT faces. In addition, “letting outsiders in helps IT be more creative and innovative,” he says.

Similarly, cloud computing will allow smaller organizations and public agencies to compete and innovate at lower price points, but, he says, “We have yet to see where that takes us.”

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