One of the new Presidential Innovation Fellows project is Project MyGov:
Reimagining the relationship between the federal government and its citizens through an online footprint developed not just for the people, but also by the people. myGov will rapidly prototype a streamlined and intuitive system for presenting information and accepting feedback around the needs of citizens.
I have a lot of ideas on the topic so I thought I’d use my Friday afternoon to write my 7 ideas on Project MyGov:
1) Think Me-gov vs We-gov – I’m a huge fan of Scott’s “Me-Gov” concept (yes I’m biased as we work together) but I think too often we focus on theoretical “engagement” of the ideal collaborative citizens instead of improving the “Me Government” services that affect most Americans every day: from road closure updates that inform citizens to use alternate routes to severe weather alerts that notify the public to seek safe shelter.
Think of your sister, cousin, father – do they really want to engage in government? Or do they want to quickly get information they need on the services that impact their lives (recall information for a toy, how to renew the passport)? Or simply get the transaction with government done as quickly and easily as possible (renew online, quickly do their taxes)?
2) Optimize the Big Traffic
Most agencies have 3-5 big tasks that get almost all of the website traffic. Find what those are in each agency and across government (usa.gov has a good list – theirs includes jobs, grants, list of agencies) and prioritize how that information is experienced. Once people land on those pages, how are we presenting other information that is relevant to them? How are we signing them up to a recurring relation (such as Facebook, email, etc)? How are we leaving them feeling excited about the process?
See how utah.gov presents information on one of their big tasks (drivers license) – its great to see the services available, key forms, and ways to engage (phone #, application)
3) Search Search Search – When citizens need information, by far #1 they go to google and not to a government website – they search for h1n1 information, passport renewal, product recalls. If you want to improve how most citizens get information, make sure all information is getting in search the right way (luckily gov’t has an advantage as google loves .gov urls). And then optimize those pages like crazy to present the key information
4) Show Related Information –
If you buy at amazon, it shows other recommended products. If you read any story atCNN, you see recommended stories from across CNN as well as across the web. This is an awesome presentation layer government lacks. If via search, you ask about H1N1 and get to the H1N1 CDC page it would be amazing if at the bottom, it showed other related links from CDC on the topic and on the other column related information across government websites.
There are a couple companies like Outbrain that already do this (that’s what CNN uses to the left) that could be leverage or government could create their own Outbrain style network to recommend content “From around government” section instead of “From around the web”
5) Don’t iGoogle – Over the last decade, there’s been a lot of talk of having one citizen account with all their services. While it makes sense, that trend has failed on the web with one clear example beingiGoogle closing lately. Also you can talk to government website creators like NIC and CivicPlus who have similar functionality but my gut says while sounds good in theory, most people just aren’t that motivated to created “a citizen profile” – they just want their problem solved (pay taxes, renew license, get passport info)
6) Easy to Share/Embed Government Information –
The great part about government websites is unlike media it doesn’t matter how many page views we get – all we want is people to consumer our great info. So instead of just focusing on making sure people get to our website – make it easier for others to embed our great government information. Government has had luck with widgets before (EPA on Oil Spill).
How about continuing that idea with something like Quora’s embed feature where you can easily take government information on a site and embed it elsewhere. It is already legally allowable but people have to do it by scraping or cutting/paste. Much like sites like Slideshare/Scribd have made it easy for journalists to include documents it would be great if it was easy for non-profits, journalists, website owners to quickly embed key gov’t info on topics.
7) What Feedback Does Government Want
One of the pieces of myGov is to “accepting feedback around the needs of citizens.” There are already tons of feedback channels being used by government from Foresee which provides surveys of government websites (pop-up to left) to sites like Ideascale/Spigit/MindMixer/Uservoice where citizens can submit suggestions to WeThePeople for petition submissions to blog comments at TSA’s Blog.
The question would be – what feedback does government want that it is not getting? And why is it not getting it? Is it because of lack of promotion, lack of a social reason to provide feedback, too high burden of effort.
Also I would think – do we want feedback on information? Feedback on service delivery? And how are we going to incorporate the feedback (often the biggest problem)?
There’s my 7 ideas (and I haven’t even gotten into some of the basics like plain language) – what’s your idea?