International Public Software (SPI) Revival -> SPI 2.0?

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After a an apparently very quiet 2013, interest in SPI seems to be making a big comeback.

Most of the people that were involved in SPI 1.0 have moved on, including the staff at Brazil’s Ministry of Planning (MP). New staff, under the supervision of a former director who has rejoined the Ministry, have picked up the project mostly focusing on Brazil’s own National Public Software initiative which still is a government priority.

Last March, ECLAC organized a workshop on Software Publico (SP) and invited 9 countries in the region (see  http://bit.ly/1hWADri. In addition, Red Gealc (Latin American E- Government Network) is also pushing the idea and even taking some of the credit for its creation (see http://bit.ly/1hWBfgx) – which is fine with me.

More recently, IDB has allocated close to 500,000 USD to fund SPI at the regional level. The project will be executed by a Uruguayan NGO based in Montevideo. The draft project document is here. I am not sure the project has already started but it does involve most of the country partners that were working with us under SPI 1.0.

So what is Brazil thinking of doing? The change of guard at MP has also brought a dramatic change in vision. Whereas before the emphasis seems to be more on the software side of the SP equation, now the concern is more on the “public” angle and the public benefit of having such an initiative. In this context, Brazil is now proposing a international knowledge bank and has identified a local university to be the main national partner.  The concept for the knowledge bank, which by the way is not really a new idea, is here and some concrete examples on how it should work can be found in this file. The knowledge bank apparently requires USD 200,00 to develop its web presence. That sounds like a lot of money to my hole-less pockets.

Being that is may, UNDP RSC now  involved in the process. A conference call took place last 13 December (I was not invited to join). The minutes of the meeting are here. It seems UNDESA is also in the picture, according to the minutes. UNDP’s roles in the process is still not cleat as the  suggestions presented in the minutes are not really relevant. More surprising is that the experience, lessons learned and failures from SPI 1.0 are not taken into account. It seems as it SPI 1.0 never happened!

I am now in informal contact with colleagues at the Brazilian Government exploring ways in which we can bring all these efforts together and ensure we build on the work previously done.

At any rate, it seems that in less than one year we have gone from almost total oblivion to now a 5 horse race, each  running on its own private track for a public initiative. Odd.

Cheers, Raúl