Guest blog by Eric Jaye
The Blockbuster video store down the street from my house in San Francisco is now shuttered. I’m unsure of the exact day it closed, or even month. Because our family’s regular trip to the video store to argue over what movie to rent came to an end last year when we signed up for on-demand streaming from Netflix.
That’s the story of California’s economy. The fast – which almost always means the broadband enabled – survive. And the brick and mortar economy continues to whither.
Just a mile down the road from the now-shuttered Blockbuster, the City and County of San Francisco is preparing to open a new “green” office building. The cost of the building on a square foot basis makes it one of the most expensive ever built in the city. But it is not the cost of the brick and mortar that matters most – it is a government still trapped in a brick and mortar mindset.
The Productivity Surge
Driven in large part by investment in information technology, the average American worker is now 80% more productive then at the dawn of the personal computer era. But while productivity has soared in the private sector, analysis shows productivity in the public sector is flat, or even falling.
As demands on government services grow during the lingering recession the productivity of the government workforce is an increasingly important issue. And it is an issue that will not be addressed until government workers can fully employ information technology to do their jobs.
But unlike Netflix and other broadband-enabled innovators, productivity in government requires more than just technical advancement. True Gov 2.0 also requires that we make sure no one is left behind by this technical change, which means the vital step of guaranteeing Universal Internet Access.
Government Can’t Leave Constituents Behind
When Netflix grows at the expense of Blockbuster, it is a boon for the broadband enabled and a loss for those without. But movie choice is one thing – the vital services performed by government another story.
Because government must, and should, serve everyone in a way that everyone can access, government will not be able to fully embrace the staggering efficiencies of the web while our state remains separated by a digital divide.
According to a recent analysis, the savings generated by a more productive government workforce on a national basis measures in the trillions of dollars. In California there are tens of billions of dollars to be gained by helping government workers use technology to match the productivity of their private sector counterparts.
And in a world in which students need the Internet to complete their homework and in which their parents can only apply for most jobs online – there is a growing recognition that Universal Internet Access is more than an efficiency tool, it is a civil right.
To address both this equality imperative and to gain the effectiveness dividends that an investment in Universal Access will generate – a new generation of web-savvy leaders are starting to make this part of their policy platforms.
Ting, with his business and civil rights background, may be one of the first to embrace this issue but there will soon be many others. With basic civil rights and billions and billions of dollars of savings at stake, this is an idea ready to launch.