Monday, April 21, 2008

Anthony Williams on Government 2.0

Paula Klein, "How Web 2.0 Can Reinvent Government," CIO Insight Weekly Report, 2008.04.01. URL:

Anthony Williams co-wrote Wikinomics with Donald Tapscott. He says collaborative tech is changing business; gov't needs to catch up!

Q: Are there many differences between Web 2.0 use in the public and private sectors?

Williams: Perhaps the obvious difference is that businesses have customers and employees, but the public sector also has citizens, who are much like shareholders. Citizens and shareholders are similar, but the citizen relationship is arguably deeper: It implies a set of rights and freedoms, as well as a set of obligations and responsibilities to the state. [emph mine]

--government moves more slowly, more cautiously: always an opposition party waiting to pounce; less tolerance for risk than in business
--government "silo" structure like old (in Friedman terms) business structure: time to flatten the world, horizontally integrate

Spectacular list of "G-Webs":
  1. Intellipedia: Wikipedia for spooks!
  2. Politicopia: Utah Rep. Steve Urquhart's experiment in a do-it-yourself CLDS
  3. Neighborhood Knowledge Los Angeles (and statewide counterpart NKCA): big data portal for community improvement activists -- lots of public data and maps intended to help people get info about their communities without sifting through tons of docs at the courthouse. Sure, it's more the government service provider model, but it's providing information with the idea that "consumers" are going to use the info for their own political decision-making and action. It's not G2C; it's G2G!
Top-down management mindset may hold back Govt 2.0 -- those guys don't want to give up their authority. Plus...

[Williams]: There’s considerable skepticism about the role citizens should play in policy-making. Do they have the time and expertise to make meaningful contributions to complex policy deliberations? This debate goes back centuries. In the early 20th century, journalist Walter Lippmann questioned the competency of average citizens, comparing them to a deaf spectator in the back row. By contrast, [philosopher] John Dewey argued against “an oligarchy managed in the interests of the few” and was a proponent of greater citizen participation and democratic education. That debate continues.

What’s different is that citizens now have unprecedented tools to inform themselves, to reach out to others with like interests and to organize as never before. Politicians have tools, too. There’s no excuse not to use them. The infrastructure is there. It’s about political will and a willingness to be open and to incorporate feedback and put it into practice. At the same time, digital communications make geography less relevant and reinforce the need to open up the policy-making process to global participation.

On legitimacy: go 2.0 or die! Seriously!

But is Govt 2.0 practical? Can we actually involve all of us South Dakotans in a policy debate?

[Williams]: Software developers have already figured out how to scale up collaboration technologies to support global business enterprises, so I see no reason why Web 2.0 could not support hundreds of thousands of people in a real-time policy debate. [emph mine]


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