Gov 2.0 Roundup (Week of October 15)

Open government changes things at the VA, GSA helps .gov and .mil agencies engage the public, civil servants show their communities the full extent of a day in the life of law enforcement officers, and AT&T offers a new encryption service for mobile calls, all in this week’s version of the Gov2.0 Roundup.

–Can open government increase the speed of change? Yes it can, according to a recent FedTalks 2010 presentation by Dr. Peter Levin, CTO of the Department of Veterans. The open communication that comes with transparency can engage VA employees, streamline the claims process for veterans and lead to scalable applications that can be used throughout the agency. How critical is this? Consider that not so long ago, it took nearly a year to change a single line in a form letter. Now, says Levin, “We’re making big changes just by asking the employees, just by asking the people who already knew how to do the job in the first place.”

–There’s good news for those who hope to follow Levin’s example. To simplify the process of federal agencies looking to engage the public, GSA has launched Apps.gov NOW. Far more than just a “build a blog” service, agencies will be able to choose from customizable blogs, wikis, forums, and other tools, and will know that GSA will verify accessibility, provide hosting, monitor security, perform upgrades, provide analytics data, and more. One hundred thirty-five agencies are already using the site which was unveiled to the public at FedTalks 2010.

–The challenges of doing more with less aren’t just happening at the federal government level—nor or they just happening in the US. In the UK, one local government spent a day giving its citizens a behind the scenes look at the challenges it faced. In Manchester, England, the Greater Manchester Police took to Twitter to allow the public to see the complexity of situations its officers faced daily. For 24 hours, tweets documented calls, and photos from the streets and behind the scenes were uploaded to Flickr. Said the force’s Chief Constable Peter Fahy, “I think that it’s time to start measuring performance in a different way. There needs to be more focus on how the public sector as a whole is working together to tackle society’s issues and problems.”

–While engaging the public is increasingly a part of government, there are still conversations that agencies need to keep secure. Communicating is about more than apps and emails; phone calls will always have their place. To that end, AT&T has launched a new encrypted mobile voice service for federal agencies. Taking advantage of the microSD slot built into most smartphones, this new service aims to do away with bulky, awkward secure devices – allowing agents who are making the calls to blend in a bit easier. No word yet on when the service will be available for the iPhone, iPad, laptops, or other non-Blackberry or Windows phones.

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