Gov 2.0 Is Not Cool Tech

I’m generally fond of cool tech. I recently bought an iPad, and it’s pretty sweet. I read Wired’s big cover piece on tablet computing, and I agree it has transformational potential. I’ve got a touchscreen desktop, too, and I know of a local school using touchscreens to great effect in special needs education. I love municipal wifi and Australia’s national broadband plan. I see cloud services dramatically reducing infrastructure costs for businesses an government. I like it when politicians and elected officials use social media.


But none of this is Government 2.0.

Sen. Claire McCaskill tweeting and reading PDFs on her iPad is not Gov 2.0. The federal government saving hundreds of millions with cloud computing is not Gov 2.0.

Fooling ourselves that adoption of new tech tools and toys is Gov 2.0 is the equivalent of settling for ‘clean coal’ as green energy. It is consignment of the future to the broken past.

If Sen. McCaskill used MixedInk or another mass collaboration tool to write legislation, that would be Gov 2.0. When Manor, TX, convenes technologists and process experts to give a free civic infrastructure makeover to another small town, that’s Gov 2.0. Code for America creating a safe space for governments to share code? Gov 2.0. Same for OpenPlans and its efforts to create a standard API for 311 non-emergency services access.

But just because Gov 2.0 is getting cool, let’s not confuse it for public officials using cool tech and doing the same old things.

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Profile Photo Stephen Peteritas

yeah you really hit the nail on the head Adriel and I think from a lot of the recent posts on the site that some people maybe getting lost but it’s always nice to have a refresher on what we are really after here.

Profile Photo Chris Bennett

Agreed. Though Gov2.0 can inspire, be inspired by, executed on, and improve cool tech. Gov2.0 inspired the creation of a 311 API, and the existence of that API (even if not used) inspires others to think Gov2.0.

Profile Photo Martha Garvey

It’s all about interoperability for me.

By that I mean: In a crisis: Firefighters able to talk to city police officers able to talk to campus police able to talk to animal rescue. With a standard, agreed-upon protocol so the maximum number of lives get saved.

In normal time: it means that people who are NOT in love with technology can meaningfully participate in the parts of government they want to.

Whatever that looks like, I’m for it. Everything else is gravy.

Profile Photo Adriel Hampton

Thanks for all the comments. Andy, yes, more than that. Sharing info on an internal spreadsheet is more Gov 2.0 that a lot of more modern tech. And I’ve heard of great Gov 2.0 examples using Sharepoint, a tool which a lot of “cool tech” folks like to scoff at. Datasets and code can contribute to Gov 2.0, but it’s the sharing that matters and it much more difficult a hurdle than just the “openeness.” I wrote the post on my cell phone on my ride home on BART last night, or it would have been longer.
Tim, interesting commentary in Mashable about Brazil and collaborative legislation-writing. Education and outreach is a key component for this, and it doesn’t always work. Key is that the goal, process and outcome are important, can’t lose site of that because of cool tools.

Profile Photo Stephen Dixon

Adriel – Well said! You capture, for me, one of the main problems with using the web 2.0 lexicon. So many of us have a difficult time differentiating between new tech and new approaches. New tech may sometimes allow for new approaches but not necessarily. As a matter of fact, as you allude to, old tech can be used for Gov 2.0 and new approaches to better government. Thanks for the post.

Profile Photo Carol A. Spencer

Adriel: perfect! I look forward to a spirited discussion about this at the NAGW conference next week. I’ve been mulling over whether Gov 2.0, and social media, is “tech” at all. Isn’t it more a totally new communications paradigm that just happens to function on multiple technology platforms?

I just recommended to my Town Council that they put first-draft ordinances online for comments before Council discussion at a workshop meeting. Currently, the public can’t see them until they’re actually introduced for adoption, which has resulted in three ordinances being withdrawn after publication and public comment. That costs the taxpayers publication $$ that wouldn’t be spent if the Council had critical public input prior to drafting final legislation. Communication change or technology change? I think the former. Interesting discussion.

Profile Photo Scott Primeau

Adriel, thanks for starting a great conversation. I think anyone who has encountered road-blocks to implementing Web 2.0/Gov 2.0 technologies realizes the most difficult challenge is culture. Budget and resource limitations pose difficulty, but a lack of support for collaboration, information sharing, and empowerment can pose even taller hurdles.