There is a very robust and lively conversation about eGovernment being held by government employees online. A lot of great ideas for improving citizen access, transparency and data distribution are being tested and implemented. Unfortunately, there’s an even larger group of government employees, officials, and managers who aren’t engaged in using the Internet to keep tabs on the newest trends.
I ran across the Technology Adoption Lifecycle the other day, and immediately started applying it to different people I know and different situations I’ve been in. The rest of this post heavily concerns the TAL, so it might be helpful to have that link open in another tab.
You’ve got the innovators, who come up with the great ideas in the first place, and then you have the early adopters, the people hop on the newest site, gadget, or trend as soon as it appears. The online conversation about eGovernment takes place almost totally between these two groups. Eventually they catch the interest of the early majority and you end up with the Feds starting to use social media to help expand their capabilities.
The problem with this paradigm is that the innovators and early adopters are too busy creating new envelopes to push and early majority folks are too busy settling in to their new digs to pay any attention to the two remaining groups: late majority adopters and laggards.
These are the CTOs, CIOs, PIOs and department heads who are still running Windows 98 at 800×600 screen resolution and using Netscape or IE6 as their browser of choice. They don’t use the Internet for anything but email (even though email has nothing to do with the Internet) and they get their technology news through print media trade publications.
The trade rags are fairly good at what they do, but it is in their nature to direct their content toward late majority adopters and laggards. You don’t read much about the possibilities of the Internet, information design, or web design in these publications. When you do read something about the Internet it is usually framed programmatically or in terms of infrastructure; how so-and-so used WiFi to make their job easier. From time to time they touch on Facebook (security risk!) or Twitter (security risk!) but the tone of the articles tends to run along the lines of “Look at this new-fangled contraption. Huh. Amazing what they can do nowadays.” Emphasis on they. There’s no encouragement, education or endorsement of what the rest of us are so gung-ho about.
The late majority adopters and laggards need to be brought into the conversation, and it is high time that the rest of us work on doing so. They aren’t going online to get their information, so we have to reach them through the channels they are used to. Working with trade publications to improve their reporting and coverage is a great way to start, since these new ideas will be presented in a familiar format. It also couldn’t hurt to send your boss, colleague, or peer links to relevant sites or articles online as a way of broadening their horizons. I’ll even start the email and let you fill in the links: “I noticed you read [Generic Government Trade Magazine], I thought you might be interested in the sites listed below, which offer a lot more content on similar topics. In particular, I found these articles to be very informative.”
Part of the reason the late majority adopters and laggards are who they are is because the rest of us aren’t talking to them. By engaging them in the work we do, it’s quite possible that we can increase the pace of the cultural change needed for truly effective egovernance.