It’s been a tough few months for old school government IT outsourcing initiatives. Projects in Virginia, Texas and elsewhere are under increased scrutiny, or just plain in trouble.
Over the last year and a 1/2, a handful of forward thinking governments have started to lay the groundwork for a new way of outsourcing IT work to the private sector — releasing public data sets for developers to build useful applications with. This “new school” outsourcing provides a number of benefits over the old method, and focuses governments on what they do better than anyone else — aggregating data and releasing it to the public in highly usable formats.
This new school outsourcing movement is still in its infancy, and while I have heard some complain about the quality of data made available in some places, there is no doubt that this new approach will provide enormous benefits for governments and the citizens they serve.
It will be especially interesting to see what benefits accrue from efforts like Open311, which is focused on developing standards for interfacing with municipal non-emergency services. Big cities, like San Francisco, are jumping on board.