Ogilvy Gov 2.0 Conference

The scene, Ogvily’s chic D.C. offices, with all of the minimalistic sheen one would expect from the PR firm. The topic of discussion, the validity, the nature and the future of Gov 2.0 from multiple angles. The event wasn’t created with the intention of reaching a consensus, with creating a plan of action to move things forward. Rather, it served as an interesting analytical primer into the world of Gov 2.0, suitable for the neophyte and initiated alike.

The panelists:
Interestingly, the panel quickly came to the initially counterintuitive consensus that, although still its infancy, Gov 2.0 isn’t a new concept. Kostin was sure to mention that the concept’s most recent incarnation was E-Gov during the Clinton administration, and Sifry painted it as a continuation of the ongoing desire of the governed for a more efficient government.
“We’re still throwing spaghetti against on the wall to see what sticks,” Kostin admitted.
And yes, that issue of a sophomore slump was addressed.
“We have to buckle down and do some work,” Kostin said, addressing the sense of stalled momentum that seems to be sneaking in the movement’s underbelly.
But that’s not to say that said work hasn’t already been done and isn’t going on right now. It’s just taking a less glamorous form. Howard used NHIN’s CONNECT as an example of how Gov 2.0 isn’t simply about social networks and casual linkage. A utility that allows for expanded sharing of health care information, CONNECT builds upon preexisting offerings and simultaneously expands and simplifies the process. And of course, Challenge.gov received quite a bit of praise. In another example offered by Sifry, the patent office, inundated by a glut of applications, provided an open platform for everyone (after approval) to look through the list and eliminate redundancies. Though it certainly hasn’t exploded to reach the same scale as something like Wikipedia, the process has nonetheless been made increasingly efficient. The ideas that are now able to be implemented have been around for years, Howard pointed out, only now are we able to effectively bring them to life, to allow citizens to “participate in our democracy more than once every two or four years.”
Melber expanded upon this point, portraying Web 1.0 as the same as the electorate participating in elections, after which the actual governing becomes dominated by the wheeling and dealing of the elites. In Web 2.0, there’s still a seat at the head of the table for the elites, but there are a greater number of elites vying for the same plate.
And those elites, as was pointed out by several panelists, aren’t necessarily all keen on sharing their meals. Transparency has become a popular talking point along the campaign trail, but few have shown any indication of living up to their promotional materials. But, as Murray pointed out, although the anti-incumbent sentiment is perfect for such Web 2.0-inspired, transparent interactions between politician and populace, popular incumbents eventually run the risk of becoming that which they rallied against.
Howard, Melber and Sifry all evoked online discussions between political figures and the populace, which can often turn into the politicians dictating the terms of the conversation, limiting the purview of what the man on the street sees as a level playing field, at which point the discussion loses the act of discussing. Similar to the way in which Gov 2.0 must at some point turn around from a talking point to a means of producing quality work, so much the public hold officials liable for their lackadaisical approach to following up on their promises of transparency.
This is further emphasized by the reality, as pointed out by Howard, that data by itself, while important, attains truth worth when compared against other packets of data, from which information is gleamed. Case in point, Maplight, which does a great job, in conjunction with the Sunlight Foundation, of drawing the connection between money and politics. Know about money? Great. Know about politics? Wonderful. The real gold to be found while sifting through the streams of information about both is discovered when the two are connected.
The speed of change is faster than the speed at which we can understand it, Sifry imparted, and there can’t be a more appropriate parting thought.

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