Last Thursday I spoke to 100 Italians in Rome at the Forum PA annual conference about Govloop, social media, and innovation in government. I got to wear one of those Janet-Jackson headsets and even had a translator (pretty surreal experience)
ForumPA is basically their big IT annual event with over 8,000 attendees from Italy and across Europe. I spent some time roaming the halls, attending sessions, and even participated in a barcamp for 2 hours with 100+ Italians.
As such here are my 5 lessons from my trip to Italy:
1) Open Government is Big - I was surprised to see the theme of the conference was "Open Government" - the logo even was a big pop can with "click to open." It was impressive to see open government get such a shine - in some ways I found it very similar to the Open Government Initiative conference and Government 2.0 Expo conferences in U.S. in 2009/10. Lots of interest, lots of discussions about the possibility, and lots of "first" case studies. For example, they just completed their 1st Apps for Italy contest.
2) Similar key trends/buzzwords - It's amazing to travel across the globe and it's the same key trends and buzzwords - big data, cloud computing, open data all dominated the event
3) Proud to be Public Servants - One of the more refreshing things about being at public sector events in Europe is that government work is considered a good job and people are proud to be public servants. It's still competitive to get in and countries and the EU have special schools to become public servants.
4) It's always about ROI - Almost everyone I talk about new technology always hops right to "what's the ROI?" - I was asked many times about what the ROI of open government was to citizens, agencies, and journalists.
5) Be the Case Study - I always think best practices are a little like high school - everyone thinks everybody is doing it and they are left behind - but nobody is doing it. It's fascinating to go across the globe and find Italians presenting and having slides with regulations.gov, Open Gov ideation examples, and data.gov. I always encourage folks that while it's important to look at others, take a small step and you could be the case study. All of the examples I see, I often know the folks behind it and they are still working hard towards success (and many would say they aren't best practices yet). As one of my mentors once told me, being a thought leader is just sharing your ideas (not necessarily that your ideas are that unique)