This is in response to Lucas Cioffi’s question on whether there is a difference between Gov 2.0 and Open Gov. I wrote a short response to his blog posting but I wanted to expand on my answer because I believe that there is a bigger movement than just Open Gov or Gov 2.0. This bigger movement is the transformation of democracy into a third stage called Monitory Democracy.
According to John Keane, the developer of this theory, democracy is moving to a third stage that began soon after the end of World War II. The first stage of democracy began in the ancient world and is known as Assembly Democracy. The best example of this was Athens, Greece where every free male was allowed to participate in political decisions of the time. This form of government was successful if kept to a limited scale but as cities and nations grew, democracy moved to the second stage.
The second stage – Representative Democracy – is illustrated by the following diagram. The concept is simple: the people elect representatives who then make political decisions for the voters. Keane explains that representative democracy slowly developed in the Middle Ages but found its greatest impact after the American and French Revolutions. Representative democracy solved the scaling problem of assembly democracy but it suffers from the Agency Problem in that the representatives put their own interests before the interests of those who they represent.
It was the combination of the agency problem and the rapid spread of democracy that led to monitory democracy. As the second diagram demonstrates, the core elements of representative democracy (elections and representatives) still exist but a web of non-elected groups surround and monitor all aspects of governmental operations (and some nongovernmental organizations). Keane gives a laundry list of organizations ranging from NGOs, think tanks, watchdog groups, professional organizations, summits, and so on. Another aspect of monitory democracy is that it is most active in nations that have Communicative Abundance. This third stage is still evolving so there is no telling what the final form will be. The one certainty is that all governmental agencies will be under ever-increasing scrutiny.
Seen against this backdrop, Open Gov and Gov 2.0 are natural results of monitory democracy. Open Gov is essentially the reaction of governments to the increasing scrutiny demanded by the citizens, representatives, and extra-governmental organizations. Thanks to the sophisticated communication technologies, agencies cannot limit access to their operations. Being open and transparent is how agencies will survive in a monitory democracy and better citizen engagement will help the agencies thrive.
I agree with the one commentator who argued that O’Reilly’s definition of Gov 2.0 is the best definition. The Internet started as a government project and it is the platform that launched the communicative abundance that we enjoy today. Government is the biggest producer of information as numerous websites and apps will show. When the extra-governmental organizations are monitoring government agencies they are mainly working with the information that the agency produces. In a monitory democracy government has to be the platform because it provides the communicative abundance that monitory democracy needs.
So, there is definitely a difference between Open Gov and Gov 2.0 but the more interesting question is the role they play in emergence of this new form of democracy.
Keane, J. (2008). Monitory Democracy? The Secret History of Democracy since 1945. Retrieved December 1, 2010 from http://www.johnkeane.net/pdf_docs/Jk_Lecture_monitory_democracy_shanghai_2008.pdf
Note: Figures come from Keane’s paper and are copyrighted by him.