Whole Of Government - Filling The Holes

Over the long history, since governments were first formed, they have been organized around single functions. So, we have the Ministry of Labor, the Department of the Treasury and so forth. In the United States there are 29 major and 60 small agencies all zealously guarding their assigned responsibilities. Today however, with the advent of low cost, high speed communications lines and data base software, the possibilities exist to consolidate and centralize in heretofore unimagined ways. This enables managing horizontally across the individual agency/ministry programs rather than vertically down through the individual pipes of government.

Senior information management officials in governments were the first to see the possibilities. At first, they were able to generate enthusiasm at the highest levels in their government. Across the world, Presidents and Prime Ministers publicly spoke of the possibilities. However, in recent years these leaders have moved on to other issues. At the same time there has been modest success in conveying the vision to lawmakers and to program officials. In fact, there is strong resistance in some governments concerning the whole of government approach and horizontal management.

Public administrators and students of government have a more positive perspective. They conclude that the whole of government approach and horizontal management are inevitable because they allow better service and save money. But, the road ahead will be a rocky road based on the experiences in these early days.

Last year ICA's 39th annual conference in Salzburg, Austria was transitional year as governments began to move in earnest to what will become 'one government' in the years ahead. In Salzburg, we began to hear for the first time that consolidation and centralization are important initiatives in many countries. The year 2005 was the first time that many ICA member countries began to report extensively on these issues. A number of examples were mentioned by delegates. Finland reported on plans to consolidate financial and personnel services from over 100 agencies into a few centers. Canada reported plans to consolidate all of its IT operations and services across government into a single new fee-for-service agency being created.

In 2005, cross government collaboration was already high on the agenda for the first time. Denmark, Sweden, Great Britain, Australia, Canada, Switzerland and Malta were among many with good progress and ambitious plans to ensure collaboration across agencies.

Australia has created a unique Cross Jurisdictional Chief Information officer to support sharing of practices and collaboration across all levels of government. Also, several countries reported that they were working to build cross government management skills.

With this evidence reported, the ICA Program committee recommended and the Board endorsed the proposal that the 40th annual conference look ahead and focus on the "whole of government" theme. In these three days here in Guadalajara, Jalisco, MĂ©xico, we will focus on the many aspects of the whole of government approach to modern governance. In our concluding session on Thursday, each of us will have a special picture of the road ahead and how to get to the government of the future which is when all ministries and agencies are working collaboratively in a whole of government approach.