Thanks for getting this network started - now for difficult part in making it sustainable
I would like to thank Douglas and Christian for getting this initiative started and this is a great platform to establish this community of practice for ICT in local government, something that has been lacking for too long. Whereas GovTech has served the needs of the national and provincial governments, local government was never fully integrated into that community - the needs of local government are too specialised and require their own forum.
The largest single problem at this time is sustaining the initiative, and I have started many such communities which failed through lack of continuity, in spite of being great ideas and with promise of involvement. I see that starting such a community is much like getting a mexican wave started at a soccer match. There are many attempts to get everyone involved until at some tipping point everyone is involved. This tipping point will be based upon the level of involvement of members rather than anything else.
My suggestion is that everyone who joins this immediately becomes an active member, and does not simply sit back and observe what is going on. Finally we have a forum in which we can talk, and can challenge others in dialogue in an open manner, and in real time rather than in the context of those rare conferences we all attend.
There are many vendors and providers of services to this sector, including ourselves, who have difficulty getting noticed, and who offer specialised offerings that may be of interest to municipalities. Here is a way in which these can be positioned so that municipalities can find the rull range of potential solutions available, although I fully subscribe to the position that a community such as this should be largely based upon the sharing information than on sales and marketing of individual organisations, and it will be important to establish clear guidelines on promotion and sponsorship to avoid overt selling within this community. For those in the public sector it is important to have a single point of reference to potential solutions, and for us in the private sector it is important to have people who can share their knowledge and experience in one municipality with others that may benefit. There is the potential for an all-win situation based upon information sharing.
"If you build it, they will come" was the single phrase that captures the essence of the movie "Field of Dreams" and many have considering this be a general rule - if we build a web site then everyone will come. Historical reality shows that this is not the case and for something to be successful then we need to bring people in to participate. It has been built and now we need to help others to come, and for this a simple case of viral communication will be useful. Tell others and tell them to tell others etc.. until this critical mass is created and this becomes the digital home that we all visit every day for our daily dose of news our our sector and for responding to issues that we feel strongly about in healthy debates.
I have already informed my colleagues of this initiative and invited them to join.
Please do the same with yours.