Taxi Cabs Debates and What’s the Role of Gov – Plus the 7 Gov Stories

On GovLoop Insights’ DorobekINSIDER:

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But up front: What is the role of government? The question is evolving – and becoming more real.

The world is changing — and that includes government. And yes, that includes the way government does its work — particularly around regulation. And, like so many things, the pace of that change seems to be only increasing.

I have been reminded of that this week. One comes from a book that I just started this week titled The Fourth Revolution: The Global Race to Reinvent the State. The other was highlighted recently when I got to emcee Startup Government Day sponsored by 1776, a D.C. start-up incubator.

One of the more interesting evolutions is how governments are being forced to change is coming from so-called “disruptive” technologies — up-starts like Uber, the car service, and Airbnb, the house share company, and Tesla, the automaker, just to name a few. [Editor’s note: I own a Tesla.]

Uber is not really a taxi and Airbnb is not really a hotel. What is government’s role in regulating these business which are transforming – disrupting – innovating — you choose your word — some of these traditional businesses?

From Slate recently: Uber and Airbnb Cut Out the Middleman. Why Are Governments So Rattled?:

Companies like Uber and Airbnb provide technology allowing users and buyers to transact without mediation by the powers that have traditionally controlled those transactions. So Airbnb matches those with rooms to those seeking to rent rooms; Uber matches cars and drivers with those seeking to hire cars and drivers; and so on. In a sense, Bitcoin serves a similar function, providing a direct means of exchange for any set of buyers and sellers anywhere in the world, with clear pricing and no involvement by banks or payment companies.

The government’s reaction to these up-start disruptors has been interesting to see. Most have done varying levels of… well, freaking out.

New Jersey has passed a law banning direct sales of cars — ie, Tesla sales. Seattle is looking at limiting the number of rideshare cars. And Madison, WI is looking at ways to put ridesharing companies on “a pathway to operate legally in the city.”

Here in D.C., taxi cab companies have fought against Uber, and raised the ire of the growing legion of Uber users. And the fight here in D.C., where the Taxicab Commission sought to restrict Uber-like services, spurred questions about whether something like a taxicab commission is antiquated and even necessary. During te Start-up Government Day, there was a telling exchange on this specific subject:

Uber’s Regional General Manager Rachel Holt said that Uber demonstrates itself “on the ground versus asking permission beforehand.” Why? Because disrupting an entrenched industry—such as taxi commissions—means changing the establishment, Uber relies on consumers to support and validate its presence.

According to Chris Murphy, chief of staff for the mayor of District of Columbia, it isn’t that cities don’t want startups such as Uber to enter their market. Rather, city officials are in a tough position: walking the line between fostering startups and ensuring public safety. “That line moves and shifts depending on the industry,” he said.

Murphy argued that D.C. was working to protect safety, yet some pushed back saying that the suggestion that D.C. cabs were in any way safer than Uber vehicles seemed specious. Instead, it felt like the D.C. government was stepping in to prevent innovation… to prevent competition.

These days, it isn’t good to be a middleman… nor a control freak. And in some ways, government is sitting in the middle — and trying to impose control.

Jennifer Bradley, a fellow and senior adviser at The Brookings Institution and co-author of the book The Metropolitan Revolution: How Cities and Metros Are Fixing Our Broken Politics and Fragile Economy said governments are having to re-code rules and regulations. As 1776 writes: Bradley “noted that no city seems to have found the right balance yet. Although tools like design thinking can help cities be more open and experimental, no one in government likes to “move fast and break things,” she said. And it may require sacrifices on both sides. Because everyone likes the idea of disruption until it happens to them, startups will have to build regulatory lag-time into their business models, Bradley said.”

Again, from Slate:

It’s comforting to imagine that, in the end, the power of innovative technologies and business models will win out over status-quo thinking and entrenched interests, all for the public good.

I’d put it simply: Add value or wither. That is the challenge for everybody these days, including government organizations.

There is also competition coming at government on a global scale, according to John Micklethwait, Editor- in-chief of The Economist, and Adrian Wooldridge, management editor there. They are authors of the new book The Fourth Revolution: The Global Race to Reinvent the State. They argue that there have been four revolutions in governing — and those have been led by the West, but they argue that the 21st century has seen western democracies under greater competition. And specifically they talk about Britain’s Victorian period, where government was reduced yet services were improved. (NOTE — I’ve posted an interview with Micklethwait and Wooldridge with PBS’s Charlie Rose below. I should also note I have just started the book. It is on my Memorial Day reading list.)

The SEVEN stories that impact your life

  1. Washington Post: Agencies Have Taken Steps to Improve Suspension and Debarment Programs – “For years, the GAO has lamented that many government agencies continue to work with contractors that act unethically, commit fraud or perform poorly. But as the U.S. government has tried to crack down on wasteful spending, the number of companies suspended and prohibited from contracting with federal agencies has grown significantly.”

  2. Washington Post: Obama’s revamp of anti-terror policies stalls – “A year after President Obama announced a major new counterterrorism strategy to take the country beyond the threats that flowed directly from the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, much of the agenda he outlined remains unfinished or not even begun. In an ambitious address delivered a year ago Friday at the National Defense University, Obama said that the core of al-Qaeda was “on the path to defeat” and that the upcoming end of the war in Afghanistan had brought America to a “crossroads.”

  3. Federal News Radio: DARPA launches challenge to help create hacker-proof software – “The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency developed the technologies that eventually turned into the Internet. Forty-five years later, DARPA is consumed with figuring out how to make the technologies it unleashed more secure. It showed off more than 100 separate projects with that goal in mind in a demonstration at the Pentagon Wednesday.”

  4. Federal Times: Senate committee approves Burwell for HHS – “The Senate Finance Committee voted 21 to 3 to approve Office of Management and Budget Director Sylvia Burwell as the new secretary of the Health and Human Services Department. Burwell would replace outgoing secretary Kathleen Sebelius.”

  5. FCW: DOD turns to FedRAMP and cloud brokering – “The Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program provides a standardized approach to security assessments, authorizations and continuous monitoring for cloud products and services. Before FedRAMP, individual agencies managed their own assessment methodologies following guidance loosely set by the Federal Information Security Management Act of 2002.”

  6. NextGov: Marine Corp Bi-Passes Mobile Plan – “While the Defense Information Systems Agency slowly rolls out its custom-built mobile phone system that offers secure access to defense agencies and the military services, the Marine Corps is seeking a cheaper, quicker commercial alternative. The Marines are counting on three phone companies, Verizon, AT&T and Sprint, to manage the military-grade security of the smartphones and tablets its members use.”

  7. GovExec: House OKs 1.8 Percent Pay Raise for Troops, Officer Pay Freeze – “The House passed legislation Thursday that tacitly approves a 1.8 percent pay raise for military service members next year, and includes a number of other pay, benefits and workforce provisions.The 1.8 percent pay bump for troops is in line with the automatic fiscal 2015 cost-of-living adjustment scheduled for the military.”

DorobekINSIDER water-cooler fodder… yes, we’re trying to help you make your water-cooler time better too…

  • The Consumer Revolution of Enterprise Computing [The New York Times]: As CIOs know, software developed by newer enterprise technology companies like Salesforce.com Inc. more closely resemble the work of consumer-facing companies like Google Inc. than traditional business software developers. By now, it’s axiomatic that these younger companies tend to issue more frequent product updates and develop features that are more in tune with customer needs, hastening adoption. “Their fast development is a proxy for a whole range of approaches to products and customers, and will dictate the terms by which the two sides fight for sales.”

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