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Can collaboration help you do your job better? — Part 1

The Labor Department’s Office of Disability Employment hosted a webcast, Policy Development Think Tank Webcast: New Strategies for Successful Collaboration, as part of the ePolicyWorks initiative. DorobekINSIDER’s Chris Dorobek hosted the panel. The panelists outlined their perspectives on the use of new and innovative open government strategies for policy developments.

On the Panel:

  • GB: Gadi Ben-Yehuda, Director of Innovation and Social Media, The Center for the Business of Government at IBM
  • AC: Anthony Cossa, Acting Chief Technology Officer and Director of Emerging Technology, Federal Acquisition Service, Office of the Chief Information Officer, General Services Administration
  • GE: Greg Elin, Chief Data Officer, Federal Communications Commission
  • BH: Bryna Helfer, Director of Public Engagement, U.S. Department of Transportation

Defining Gov 2.0

BH:Open government tools are ways to engage, early, continuous and often. The tools allow you to have an ebb and flow of interaction overtime. Some of the tools have amazing analytic features. So picking the right tools for the right engagement is very critical.

GB: What we call gov 2.0 is the government’s activities in and the regulation of the digital landscape. It’s a bit of an umbrella term. Define open government in two parts. 1.) External open up agencies to comments and collaboration with people on the outside. 2.) Open up the processes internally, filter ideas up through leadership and back down more seamlessly.

GE:Job is to make data more usable. At the FCC created data officers within all the bureaus and offices. I come from a developer and technologist background. The government has always had the notion of openness but what we’ve seen is there have been a lot of rules of how you participate because there are only so many people that can have the mic at once. But when you get digital communications it’s actually possible to talk simultaneously and people can still follow the conversation.

AC:One word: innovation. It’s really all about collaborating as a community.

Why is Data Important?

GE:Information has become electronic structured data now in electronic form but now or conventions have been geared towards paper. Open data is updating and shifting things so the traditions we’ve had are open information applies to information in structured fields.

Early Stages?

GB:I think we are still in the bottom of the 1st inning when it comes to gov 2.0. There area agencies who have been through a full cycle. There are also agencies who have done it really well and then there are other agencies have lots of lessons learned. We’ve discovered some tools don’t really work well. Like email.

BH:I think we are further ahead than that. 2 years ago we started thinking about how to use online dialogues, collaborative workspaces. We have weaved these dialogues into the way we work.


BH:Our Secretary blogs and tweets himself. We keep thinking of these tools on a policy level. We need to figure out the value exchange. 2.0 allows you to have a 2-way conversation then need to garner insight to make data useful.

Replacement Tools

BH:This morning we hosted a round table with the Secretary then immediately launched the dialogue so everyone who was in person will go out and amplify the dialogue. A continumum of dialogue is important.

Role of Data

GE:Majority of the public has experience using computational devices. More and more people are even carrying them in their pockets. The FCC has always had a lot of data. We are actually one of the larger collectors of data. Now we are doing more projects where we crowdsource data collection directly from the public. Broadband.gov and Measuring Broadband America.

GB:Made people feel like they have something meaningful to contribute. Social media allows people to feel apart of it. Take the State Department they have created this internal network called Corridor. People within the group want to help view themselves as a tool.


GB:Wiki’s are making a big difference. They are editable by community members. They are strongly self-policed.

GE:Wiki’s 1.) Way links work on a Wiki is you can basically bracket a word to indicate that this word is a link to a page about this word. It can create links before you create a target page. Very profound because all of us can create links to thinks that don’t yet exist. You don’t have to figure out what the entire structure is for the document before you jump into it. 2.) Keep a complete version of the pages that have been edited. Have a stored electronic history. Easy to fix mistakes. Lowers the barriers of risk.

AC:With social media we have been able to a tool called Chatter. It allows us to identify experts in the field. Helps make connections, target specific expertise and allow for procurement folks to re-use information.

What’s Next?

BH:We want to make sure that data is transparent, meets with the needs of policy makers and can help us sove difficult problems. I foresee us no longer having to answer the why is this necessary questions.

GE:The immediate future is to make data exchanges really beneficial to frontline feds so it’s not just pushing data out. It can have a real impact on the efficiencies of government. Needs to have better/clearer data sets. Machine learning. Sensor networks.

GB: When it comes to mobile collaboration I think we are still in the first pitch. We need to help people make better decisions everyday. Data will one day become ubiquitous. Just like you no longer think of a telephone as a technology.

AC: Hope I am not using email anymore but more social tools. Lead us towards a new direction and answer new questions.

Part 2: IdeaFactory – Does crowdsourcing ideas work? Take a look at TSA’s program – Part 2

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