Can the power of the Web help solve the world’s most pressing problems?

Gov 2.0 has often been defined by its utility to help citizens or agencies solve problems, either for individuals or the commons. That’s what the giants of the Web 2.0 era have been able to do successfully outside of the government world, and that’s the paradigm that many Gov 2.0 events have been exploring.

In that vein, Gov 2.0 is not defined by social media any more than Web 2.0 is. Collaborative software — including blogs, wikis, RSS, interactive video and social networks — is an elemental feature of Gov 2.0, but it does not encompass all of it. For example, a congressional hearing this summer defined Government 2.0 in the context of Web 2.0 technologies, balancing potential security and privacy issues against innovation and cost savings.

So what does Web 2.0 mean to Gov 2.0? Many aspects cannot be discerned at this point, but one thing is certainly clear: It’s about all of us. Creating a smarter, more innovative government matters to every citizen.

In their analysis of “Web 2.0 five years on, John Battelle and Tim O’Reilly wrote that “if we are going to solve the world’s most pressing problems, we must put the power of the web to work — its technologies, its business models, and perhaps most importantly, its philosophies of openness, collective intelligence, and transparency. And to do that, we must take the web to another level. We can’t afford incremental evolution anymore.”

In his advice on the direction of the first Government 2.0 Summit, federal CTO Aneesh Chopra urged the technology community gathering for the Gov 2.0 Summit not to focus on the successes of Web 2.0 in government, but rather on the unsolved problems that confront the country.

That community that Chopra has looked to for ideas came together at the Web 2.0 Expo last week in New York City. In no particular order, I’ve shared 10 lessons from Web 2.0 that could be applied to Gov 2.0 over on Radar. If you also attended the conference or have been thinking about the topic, please share your thoughts in the comments.

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Andrew Krzmarzick

Great post here and over on Radar, Alex. One of the 10 lessons that stood out for me was the “Live in the future.” It echoed one of the points in a keynote by Jared Spool at the National Association of Government Webmasters (NAGW) annual event a couple weeks ago (right after Manor.Govfresh). He recommended the webmasters think about the user experience “five years from now.” I said that seemed like a long time horizon given the speed of web and mobile technology, but he emphasized the word “experience” vs. design. Good future thinking exercise.


I’m particularly interested in the question of what web 2.0 can be applied to gov 2.0.

My sense is that web 2.0 generally took 3-4 years off the ground to get real traction and start delivering lots of value (vs hype). So guessing gov 2.0 is the same & potentially longer as incentive structures different.

I’d love to see a post on what could learn from gov 1.0 (e-gov). What worked? What didn’t? How long really took? Etc

Alexander B. Howard

Thanks for the comments, fellas. Making investments for a future that’s by definition years away is difficult, particularly given the pace of technical change. Lawmakers and regulators have an even tougher row to hoe, in some respects. It sounds like Spool is thinking ahead.

Steve, my sense of Web 2.0 isn’t so different; many of the titans of today focused on building users and scale before profit. That hasn’t worked for everyone. If you look back to the mid-2000s, though, the Web 2.0 community already had traction as the hype cycle began. I’m thinking about the growth of craigslist or eBay, as opposed to relatively recent entrants like Facebook and Twitter. That said, I suspect that integrating the same elements, from big data to collaborative software to platform approaches, is going to take longer for government. Social media is a relatively low hanging fruit, which may be one reason it’s so linked to Gov 2.0 instead of some of the “plumbing” technologies which underly today’s Web behemoths. You’re certainly spot on with respect to incentive structures.

With respect to Gov 1.0, I’d posit that’s probably somewhere before e-government took hold. Maybe it’s just because I’ve been joking with friends about “Book 1.0” or thinking about playing Civilization again, but I’d probably think that “1.0” for this country rest somewhere back in the 18th century, with versioning ever since. To some extent, I see the idea of versioning at all getting a lot of pushback, and I understand that. Our lives and the evolution of government and technology are all on a continuum, and not subject to release dates in the same way that software might be. In many ways, we’re all living in a perpetual beta. Perhaps the only “1.0” I can really feel comfortable identifying is my friend’s new baby. 🙂


Ha…good point on Gov 1.0 – but I mean e-gov. Lots of folks have talked to me about some of promises never really happened. Others really worked (e-filing was huge) and others still slowly becoming adopted that seem basic (paying gov’t bills online, making reservations for gov’t services online, getting update status on govt activity online)

Alexander B. Howard

Got it. Worth circling back with the e-gov folks from the 1990s, for sure. Some of those e-services are getting online, as you references, but it would be useful to go back and see if there are some lessons learned in the failures.


Some funny articles from the past too…I think Radick had a couple in his blog about how similar it was.

Mark Forman is always a good interview for you. He was Vivek before Vivek.

Andrew Krzmarzick

Nice reference to babies…I have a .67 year old going on 5.2. 🙂

To Steve’s points – we see a common sentiment from more seasoned government employees on blog posts related to technology:

“We’ve been here before. New tech, same issues.”

It seems like it’s always taken mandates to move things forward…of course, they’re often under-funded and have no incentive (or penalty) for good (or bad) behavior.


It is going to take a technological paradigm shift, much like what happened when Netscape launched their browser in the 1990s.

The tools and technologies we are currently using are still rather primitive and create silos of communication, although the barriers are starting to break down.

The other aspect is simply the daunting challenge facing us – environmental disaster, economic disaster, global challenges that will require cross-functional involvement – ie, the policy makers need to get in synch with the techology developers and so on.

I think we are making good progress but we still have a ways to go: