The Future of SaaS is GaaS: Government as a Service

by: Dan Genduso

A little over 20 years ago, companies started to move from on-premise software — where a company owned and managed all the infrastructure — to cloud-based Software as a Service (SaaS) — where a company subscribed to access different components of the technology infrastructure that were largely developed and managed by a service provider that had domain expertise. This was an important shift for several reasons. It allowed companies to:

  • Re-Focus on their core purpose, rather than try to be a technology company
  • Re-Use proven components across companies and industries, rather than re-create the wheel
  • Re-Invest cost savings back into the company to create more value

Looking at the current state of our union, there is a glaring need for our government to become a technology organization. Many of our current problems are originating with individual state or local communities piecing together similar technology stacks and re-building the same functional components over and over, albeit in silos without sufficient overarching policy and inconsistent protocols, standards, and vendors. These issues mirror some of those that foreshadowed a new wave of SaaS products. If we can create consistency and continuity to get cities, states, and nations operating in unison as a well-oiled machine, we can start to improve the quality of our services and the overall citizen experience. We can then expand and export the technology to other nations, thereby migrating the entire United Nations (and eventual space nations) to a shared open source tech stack, allowing us to meaningfully address global issues, like climate change, at citizen and local community levels. We need to get government up to speed with all the highly automated companies that are operating within the nation and enter the digital age to better serve and protect our citizens. We need to be at the forefront of innovation and policies, not lagging decades behind, leaving companies to create their own policies that favor their shareholders over our shareholders — the citizens.

We also need to consider what is happening with the base stock of our parent community — the dollar. Just take a quick look at the stock market and you will see that the values of the companies operating within our communities are rapidly rising against the value of the dollar. This metric is not necessarily a good thing when values massively deviate from reasonable proportions, even though many of our leaders have recently pointed to it as a sign of success. There is serious misalignment with the valuation of these companies, and the value they are providing to our communities. This is more than a tax problem — it is a strategy and operations problem. This is an investment and ownership problem. Our community should operate as a technology accelerator and investment vehicle. San Francisco is an interesting example of misalignment - and potentially a pilot community that is ripe for technology transformation. We need to re-align incentives around the needs of citizens, while better rooting the success of companies in the success of the surrounding community.

There are some big concerns when thinking about a large technological transformation of our government (a government known for grand, expensive plans with layers of administrators that syphon funds and fail to deliver an acceptable product or solution time and time again), and we can discuss these in more detail in future articles. The four main concerns are:

  • Personnel: Our government is not currently filled with technologists. We have not been hiring with this future system in mind. We likely do not have the knowhow to do this with our current administration and in the last several years, we have not taken the CTO role seriously. We are decades behind the curve from a technology planning and implementation perspective.
  • Alignment: Current technologies are built to support the needs of companies over customers. Our government is a different kind of “company.” We are not customers or users whose value is extracted until nothing remains. We are citizens — a decentralized board of directors. We need a system that supports our needs and enables us to live remotely and independently while being actively engaged as essential workers and learners. We need products that are citizen-centric.
  • Cost: The subscription cost for SaaS capabilities when scaled to include local and national communities is substantial. Any reasonable build vs buy analysis would have us strongly consider a build, rent-to-own, or outright buy for sustainability and leverage purposes. We cannot rely on for-profit companies to not hike up prices once switching costs get too high. These companies are always going to want to grow and generate more revenue each year to increase shareholder profits. Their business model is not aligned. In future articles, I will discuss how buy decisions and acquisitions will be handled within this public utility.
  • Trust: It is difficult to trust the motives of for-profit companies, particularly when their systems and algorithms are closed or classified and ownership shares are not clear. If information and data are redacted and we cannot see what is happening, seeds of doubt are sown in our minds. Once there is doubt, trust is nearly impossible to rebuild. We saw this problem on full display with voting machines. We see it happening with apps, social networks, and hardware, unaware of the extent of surveillance and data mining. We need systems that are transparent — systems we can trust.

Understanding these concerns, I propose Government as a Service (GaaS), which is a collection of open-source, blockchain-enabled capabilities that collectively allow decentralized and independent communities to automate operations, including judicial, legislative, and executive workflows, while accelerating growth and managing, among other things:

  • Citizenship & Access
  • Credentials (IDs, licenses, passports, certificates, degrees, etc.)
  • Campaigns & Incentives
  • Elections & Polls
  • Local Currencies
  • Taxes & Fees
  • Bonds, Funds, & Fundraising
  • Policies, Principles, and Rules
  • Standards & Protocols
  • Roles & Positions
  • Content & Knowledge
  • Data, Documents & Digital Assets
  • Events & Calendars
  • Programs, Projects, & Activities
  • Feedback & Ratings
  • Social Services (education, healthcare, mail, police, welfare, job training, policy research, etc.)

GaaS provides a transparent, scalable, and decentralized technology stack that any community or network can freely migrate to from legacy systems as part of their technology transformation, while customizing components to meet local needs and still maintaining continuity throughout a universal system of government. An ability to freely migrate means that there are no barriers to using the public operating network (no up-front-fees or subscriptions), but rather a small, value-add tax (VAT) to generate a sustainable operating revenue for the open-source community.

Colleges/universities and companies, particularly social networks, can quickly migrate and activate governing workflows with a tax-based business model, while leveraging local currencies, unique asset tokens, “social services,” crowdfunding mechanisms, and polling to engage with citizens. My belief is that this can provide online communities with the foundational components of thriving, healthy communities, while re-aligning incentives and creating a universal income for citizens through data/content licensing. We are dealing with humans, not unknowing test subjects or manipulated slaves to consumerism and corporate profits. We need to treat them as such and be responsible for their growth and mental health without swindling them and extracting all their value in the name of shareholder profits — leaving them and our communities struggling to survive as automation increases and stock values rise. Transaction-based models with licensing contracts help citizens visualize and agree to that value extraction through community tax rates and offered incentives.

This technology ecosystem will be managed through a non-profit, citizen-governed foundation. In future articles we will discuss how this decentralized foundation will work and the purpose it serves. By managing this through a non-profit, we can work together towards a common vision as the future-focused organization for government technologies and systems. This allows the current government to:

  • Re-Focus on its core purpose, which is to meet the needs of the citizen
  • Re-Use capabilities across neighborhoods, cities, states, territories, nations, planets, or universes
  • Re-Invest the cost savings into new public or social services that unlock citizen earning potential and increase value

Over the next several months and beyond, I will do deeper dives into topics mentioned in this article, while presenting frameworks, operating models, business cases, feature roadmaps, and open-source product specs for the GaaS competencies and capabilities that make up a complete, end-to-end citizen engagement system. In the end, my hope is that we can build this Decentralized Autonomous Nation (DAN) in public with complete transparency as a united community. In an upcoming article, I will discuss the flagship capability area, which is a new form of CRM: Citizen Relationship Management.