Innovation. Sometimes innovation lies in process. And that’s what I want to mention today. And I promise, at the risk of starting to flow like the Hon. Senator Joe Biden, it’ll be simply a mention.

I recently blogged about a way of thinking about the work we’re doing at the OSDV Foundation. It was buried in my blather recently about the Yin-Yang of our approach. Someone
informed me off-line that they thought it was the tip of a big idea. So I’m going to toss it out here: What we’re
really doing at the Open Source Digital Voting Foundation amounts to (ready?) …a
digital public works project.

We all know
about public works projects – they’ve historically been those things we think
of as public services (sometimes even
rising to the category of critical infrastructure
). These are services such as the electric grid,
the public water and sewer systems, public roadways, federal highways, and
transportation systems, and even (more
recently) public telecommunications such as municipal Wi-Fi.

Public Works are hugely
important infrastructure fundamental to our functioning as a society, and
generally we task our government with ensuring their delivery. Sometimes these things simply have too much
vested public interest for the private sector to fund, build, and provide,
although reasonable minds sometimes differ and we’ve seen “privatization” of
public works before, and will again.

We believe
that the cornerstone of a digital democracy (hec, any democracy) is the process
and systems used to conduct elections. We
believe this particular public infrastructure has far too much public vested interest to
be controlled entirely by the private sector (even in partnership with government). And we believe that what we’re doing amounts
to a public digital works project.

Where it
importantly differs from other public works projects is in financing and
administration. For now, our government
(maybe not in years gone by or perhaps at some point in the future) is
stretched far too thinly to properly attack this very large problem.

To be sure, government is serving a vital
role through the Elections Assistance Commission (EAC)
with the support of the National Institute of Science & Technology (NIST) to provide a clearing house for
information, education, assistance and support of and for elections (polls,
services, technology, and workers). And
they are producing important certification processes to ensure that any voting
technology withstands a muster from voluntary guidelines they have developed.

To this
extent, the work of the OSDV can be very useful to the efforts of the EAC and
NIST. Therefore, OSDV works will be
vetted through their processes, as well as the public processes of our open
source operation.

However, the
OSDV Foundation efforts are a public digital works project, but they are funded
through private donation and grants (both
private and potentially some federal
) and managed by technology
professionals deeply experienced in marshalling large scale technology
developments. And the OSDV Foundation is doing so employing open source methods
and processes while adhering to the discipline and rigors of high assurance

This is
necessarily different from the processes Government must employ and the means
of funding they must rely on to even attempt to do the same. And their agendas, mandates, and frankly,
politics make it difficult if not impossible to even emulate the environment of
the OSDV Foundation. Government relies
on tax dollars and constitutionally mandated and legislatively enabled
administrative processes (think: government
). And there was no way
around that necessary evil… until the advent of the OSDV Foundation. The OSDV Foundation is here to perform the
“heavy lifting” of re-inventing how America can conduct trustworthy
elections using digital voting technology.

Think of
the work of the OSDV Foundation as a unique and essential public digital works
project… on a publicly funded volunteer (not taxed) basis, and moving at the speed of any
entrepreneurial digital venture (and not of a typical government bureaucracy).

In other words, the difference is that unlike
government public works projects (even with private sector contractors) the
work of the OSDV Foundation proceeds under an open source mandate, using strict
engineering methodologies, and to every extent possible, on the pace of an
Internet age, without the constraints of government processes.

Your ball.
Please tell me what you think.

Happy Holidaze!