A sign of things to come?

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Earlier this week IBM and Nokia let go of 31 "eco-patents" and released them to the public. By doing so, the technology giants hope to tap into the wisdom of the crowds. This very web 2.0 move is a sign of their recognition that when it comes to complex issues, such as spurring innovation or identify new business opportunities in the area of clean technologies, the best knowledge may well reside outside their organizational boundaries.

Also recently McKinsey added its voice to the choir of the wikinomics prophets and included "distributing cocreation" and "using consumers as innovators" among the eight emerging trends to watch in business technology. The global consulting firm predicted that "in the US economy alone roughly 12 percent of all labor activity could be transformed by more distributed and networked forms of innovation."

Intuitively, the development sector should be at the avant-garde of the adoption of openness, peering and sharing - the cornerstones of the web 2.0 era. And yet, ironically, the private sector seems to be ahead of the game.

Initiatives such as Eco-Patents Commons, based on "radical collaboration," make the traditional model of development look increasingly self-referential, if not obsolete.

Decisions as to whether a complex community development project is going to be financed still hinge on an opinion of only a handful of people inside a single donor organization.

In the meantime, despite the efforts and laudable initiatives such as Conservation Commons, valuable data, that could inform policy making, are still buried inside closely guarded databases.

In the words of Jeff Hamaoui at Social Edge: "the time for playing small and separate is over."  The question is not so much whether web 2.0 is having an impact on the development sector, but rather whether we need to rethink the development model itself.

"Remixing nonprofits for social change" could well be the slogan for the Development 2.0 era. And, in the long term, it may even help attract the Net Generation talent to the development sector. 

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