Are we there yet? Gov 2.0 is still… 2.0

Note: This is an edited version from my blog

Just think. The iPhone is getting ready to release its fourth generation. Microsoft has launched its third Windows OS in five years, and we’re into a third tech-savvy US President, but Gov 2.0 is still Gov 2.0.

Having spent many years in this field called online government or e-government, particularly Gov 2.0, I’ve attended and participated in many of its related events and have been an evangelist for this incredible transformation. While I find these venues stimulating to discuss ideas and initiatives, it seems we continue to discuss this subject to the point that it’s become almost a chant; and I think there is a general wearing of patience and a leveling off of what I used to consider as a sense of urgency. Let’s face it: for a technology, we’ve been at this for a long time.

Communication technology has the ability to change systems rapidly, sometimes regardless of the system’s culture. Realistically, in this case, our system is not necessarily about culture, but about an institution. It’s defined as a bureaucracy and one founded upon and administered by laws. Incrementalism is the creeping component that describes how this system advances.

Still, there seems to be a consensus that the historical and traditional forms of communication and information sharing among governments and the public requires radical changes to meet the emerging needs and preferences of citizens and employees about how they want to collaborate. And while we’ve been at this Gov 2.0 for some time now, no one has yet to come up with a new concept for us to warrant an upgrade version of e-government.

We’ve been at a turning point for some time and for the folks who have been pushing and implementing Gov 2.0-type solutions in the public sector –those govies right here on GovLoop, the ones in the trenches, daily, slugging it out with unconvinced superiors, unaware IT folks and uninterested citizens– continue to persevere. But they also continue to ask when we are going to turn that corner.

There are also the thousands of private sector technologists that work in concert with these government enablers. But since starting down this long road, we are still missing four key elements that prevent us from reaching home.

Three are technical, the other is human: Structure, Standards and Non-Proprietary. Or, how does it operate? Does everyone’s work the same way? And can everyone adopt it and implement it regardless of the other systems they use or don’t? After all, we’re talking technology solutions for democratic processes, not customer transactions.

The fourth element is human: citizens. They have to be a part of the solution development. Thus far, they are missing in action. Or, they are on the receiving end of solutions that they were not a part of visioning or building but are expected to adopt.

Gov 2.0 can and should be divided into two distinct tracks: technology and citizen adoption. They should be formalized, emphasized and include strategies to develop and solve both. Because I don’t believe you can advance Gov 2.0 to its next level without addressing both concurrently.

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