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Opening up #Gov2.0 = De-Mystification

Repost from http://www.thegovernmentgeek.com

It’s no secret, more and more Americans distrust their government, especially at the national level. The table on the right gives a small taste of increasing discontent with federal agencies. Part of the problem is the sheer size of gov’t….it often begs the question, what the hell are they doing all day?

While perusing IBM’s report last year on Smarter Government, I came across an interesting section on benefits from more open government:

De-mystification of the public sector: This sort of conversational approach keeps the public sector attuned to the needs and wants of the public. At the same time, it de-mystifies the business of government and creates trust. The more open conversation occurs, the less the public will be baffled by bureaucracy.

Cities face less of this problem because you actually interact with your government. You watch your city organize trash pickup, utility provisioning, pothole and street projects, etc etc. This extends to citizen online interaction as well, Americans tend to trust their local gov’t more than state and federal.

How do we demystify government services at the state and federal level with IT? Dashboards are gaining popularity in this space. From the Federal Spending Dashboard (http://it.usaspending.gov/) to DC’s performance management overview (http://track.dc.gov/), I think we’re seeing some great innovation in this space. These projects start to get at the ‘receipt‘ Clay Johnson wants when he pays his taxes in April.

When you get your local tax bill, you get to see how much went to schools, city, county, etc. You may not read those lines, but if you wanted too, you could answer the question….how much was my contribution to my community? Gov’t dashboards won’t solve this issue. People still have to look at them, use them and understand them.

I almost imagine a government dashboard at different levels that mirrors the sprint 4g commercials:

Another interesting line of thought is opening up FOIA. David Eaves recently wrote a post on altering buzilla to accesszilla. The federal and state gov’t process 1000s of FOIA requests a day, but where are the results? The process is completed behind firewalls. As citizens, we can’t hear or see what other citizens are asking about until it appears in the headlines of a paper/blog. Not only does this result in duplicate requests, it creates barriers to collective engagement with the systems that govern us.

We are all yelling for information at the same people, but can’t hear each other.

I’ll end by pointing to a really cool app on Socrata. Some geeky guys in Seattle government built a tie-in to their Fire 911 call center. Every 15 minutes, the data is posted to Socrata and viewable by the public. Essentially, you get to see a real time transactional feed of what your government is doing. I love it. It starts pushing us to the realtime government where we get to see what’s going on and understand the complexities of service. I want to build or use someone’s app on top of the data stream that auto-updates how much each call cost the citizens of Seattle.

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