New firm asks, 'What does the future hold?'

No one has a crystal ball, but with collective intelligence tools, you can come pretty close ? or at least that is what Bruce McConnell, Margaret Anderson and Gordon Haight are hoping for.

The trio has launched Government Futures Inc., a company that will use a variety of collective intelligence tools to help predict where the government will be three years and further into the future. Collective intelligence tools draw on the input of multitudes of people to make better decisions.

Several changes under way in the government market are driving the need for forecasting tools that look beyond the next year or two, said McConnell, a former official with the Office of Management and Budget.

For one, more collaboration is occurring among agencies. And budgets are getting tighter, which slows down typical IT spending, he said. Finally, the government - industry relationship is moving toward more of a partnership, which means more risk is being shifted to contractors.

"These are a set of changes that will accelerate over the next 36 months," McConnell said.

At the same time, next-generation Internet technologies, the so-called Web 2.0, will facilitate wider use of collective intelligence tools, he said.

The company will make money from three sources: the sale of research reports, events and consulting, McConnell said.

The consulting services will be different from what his firm, McConnell International, does, he said. McConnell International focuses on goals that should take less than two years to achieve, while Government Futures will focus on what a company needs to do today to be ready for changes three or more years from today, McConnell said.

One goal for Government Futures is to build "communities of interest" through online polling, bulletin boards and an online predictive market, which will let participants use "reputation points" to bet on the likelihood of future events. The "Bet the Future" part of the company's Web site has not launched yet.

While Government Futures is focused three years out, McConnell said the company will look for early predictions to help win over skeptics of the power of collective intelligence. For example, the company is asking Web site visitors to predict when the 2007 budget will be approved. The responses will be used to create a single prediction.

On Friday, Government Futures will release its first report on what the government will look like in 2008.

About the Author

Nick Wakeman is the editor-in-chief of Washington Technology. Follow him on Twitter: @nick_wakeman.

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