I recently attended a Web 2.0 for Business conference, which had a track focusing on government. I’ve never been to one of these kinds of events. There was a lot of excitement. There were dozens of vendor booths with lots of trinkets. Business cards were flying faster than confetti at a political convention. Tall, young men with fedoras and serious looks wandered the floor (they must be important bloggers).
The sessions on Web 2.0 in Government were packed. And of course, this caused me to reflect: what might be the threads of the next President’s technology agenda? There are probably at least three different dimensions that will need to be developed, and each draws on a different subculture within the government.
Hardware, software, standards, staff. The first covers the basics: the technological capacity, the extent of interoperability, privacy and security, and ensuring access to users. This is the core purview of agency chief information officers. This includes:
- Cybersecurity and privacy issues
- Enterprise architectures
- Development of standards to ensure interoperability, quality information, no cookies, 508 compliant
- Project justification and management of new systems
- The IT workforce
E-government. The second covers the E-government agenda: enabling customer-centric transactions on the internet and cross-agency efforts. These tend to be in the purview of both chief information officers and/or agency chief technology officers and include initiatives such as:
Web-based transactions, such as the 24 E-Gov projects
- The development of single-entry portals to government such as USA.gov
- The move toward the use of shared services, both internally (such as the financial management line of business) and externally (such as Services Canada).
The third covers the growing area loosely called “Web 2.0 Government.” This growth is being driven both by employees and citizens and is largely participatory in nature. This seems to be the purview of younger line employees and advocates of cross-agency collaboration.
Web 2.0. The Web 2.0 phenomenon seems to be growing quickly in the broader web community and in corporations. However, there seems to be a much slower adoption rate in government, at all levels. In addition, it can be seen as a threat by traditional chief information officers because the Web 2.0 tools are user-driven and users often go outside their agencies’ technology systems to “grab” free services off the internet if the agency doesn’t provide that functionality itself. This is happening in state and local governments, where employees are creating wikis in WordPress and posting training materials on YouTube because their own agency operations do not support Web 2.0 tools. In addition, citizens are beginning to create their own interactions with government using Web 2.0 tools, such as the blogger in California who designed an alternative downtown redevelopment proposal for his community using SecondLife. These tools – which were the subject of several of the conference panels – include:
blogs, wikis, and social network sites
- citizen-facing dialogue around policy and regulatory development
- three-dimensional social networks such as Second Life and America’s Army.
Each of these three dimensions put innumerable opportunities on the table. Sorting out some of the options out in advance of the next Administration may be a helpful exercise in setting some early priorities. What are some of the options and issues that you think should be put on the agenda?