This post originally appeared in my blog: http://wethegoverati.wordpress.com
Back in the Spring I went to a panel at the Social Enterprise Conference 2009 at HBS called "The Real-Life Wiki: the Promise and Limits of Technology for Mass Collaboration in Social Enterprise," and the first thing that all the panelists agreed upon was that it was not about the technology. I was prepared to hear a discussion about various technology tools and practices, and so was shocked at hearing this comment. Of course its about the technology!
I thought back to my previous job as the Information Officer for the Arts Office at the NYC Department of Education. When I was first moved into this position I knew very little about technology did my best to learn on the job; struggling through wireframes, learning HTML, and becoming comfortable working with the DOE web and server folks. Because I was new to the work, I only proposed a technology solution when once we were sure that it would help us reach our goals. My default was certainly not about the technology!
I have found the same to be true at my current summer internship. I am interning for www.curriki.org, an organization that supports the development and distribution of open-source educational resources among teachers collaborating through their platform. On their website:
"Curriki is more than your average website; we're a community of educators, learners and committed education experts who are working together to create quality materials that will benefit teachers and students around the world."
Again, its not about the technology, but about what the technology is helping Curriki accomplish.
This distinction is an extremely important one to make because many leaders and policy makers seem to be wary of technology projects that "take away from the real work." This is even true for "young" and "tech-savvy" Kennedy School students...when I mention Government 2.0 to my classmates I often hear that: 1) they don't know what "2.0" means and are/or are skeptical of social media and 2) they focus on [insert policy area here - national security, health care, etc], and they don't see the connection to technology and 3) they have more important things to worry about! They want to know: if Gov 2.0 is not about the technology, what is it about?
Part of our challenge with the Government 2.0 Professional Interest Council is to help students see that Government 2.0 is not about the technology, but rather about infusing principles of openness, transparency, collaboration, and participation in policy making to obtain better results. To that end we hope to sponsor monthly networking events and skills workshops, headline speakers, writing case studies on government 2.0 in practice, and think about different ways to bring policy exerts together to solve policy problems using the above principles and with technology when it will help us further our goals.