With the White House using new Web 2.0 tools with some fanfare, this is beginning to create the informal “permission” to expand its use in agencies. It is leadership by example. While agencies and employees have been increasingly, yet tentatively, piloting Web 2.0 tools over the past two years, adoption of their use seems to be picking up quickly. In addition, there seems to be a new energy around tackling some of the legal, administrative, and cultural barriers to their use.
This new “permission” is coming in various forms. For example, one of the Administration’s point persons on this is the new federal CIO, Vivek Kundra. He testified before a congressional committee last week, saying that government should take advantage of existing online technologies and social networks rather than creating its own. He noted that by using existing networks, it has the side benefit of making government more transparent to the public and provides the public an opportunity to provide feedback.
And the new Administration is beginning to do this. Both DOD and NASA are piloting the use of Twitter, an online social network, as a way of getting their messages out to the public. They are also creating Facebook pages to attract younger audiences.
The White House is joining these networks as well, but it is also sponsoring its own social media efforts. A month ago, the President participated in an on-line chat session and answered questions that had been developed and voted upon by citizens in advance. While this was a nice symbol, there was a more substantive use piloted last week when the White House and the Recovery Act Transparency Board co-hosted an on-line “national dialogue” to solicit ideas for improving www.recovery.gov, a website devoted to ensuring transparency in the use of Recovery Act monies. That effort resulted in more than 4.2 million visits and over 550 ideas for how the website could be made more useful for citizens and government users.
Parallel to these more institutional efforts are efforts by employees themselves to better collaborate and network. Probably the most prominent of these inside the federal government is the MAX Community, which is largely comprised of about 13,000 budget, finance, and grant professionals. It has closed membership to government employees only. Another network is more informal and outside the government. It is GovLoop, created by a federal employee on his own time, and it now has more than 10,000 members. This network, sometimes dubbed the “Facebook for Feds,” has a series of vibrant forums on a wide range of topics. What’s nice about GovLoop is that membership is not closed, and it has a number of state and local government members as well. Maybe this network will serve as an inspiration for a more formal federal government-sponsored network, or may expand into such a network on its own. . . after all, CIO Kundra is recommending using what’s already there!