Strike Back in the War for the Web: Government Portals 2.0

Just over a year ago, I wrote a post advocating local governments building their own Ning networks. I’m more convinced that ever that social portals are the future for local govs, and I’d like to see San Francisco embrace such an effort around its non-emergency 311 services center and capacity-building initiatives out of the Department of Emergency Management and Office of Administrative Services.
Facebook, Twitter and other social
networking sites where governments are creating outposts do not fulfill the core service mission of government portals, which will continue to see declining citizen interest at static HTML sites. Commercial, free social networks exist to pull views to targeted ads. Local and regional governments can and should build out their own social portals and replace targeted ads with streamlined access to essential services.
networks can and should integrate content from all localized news and community blogs and have social badges for placement elsewhere on the Web. In many ways, the escalating war for corporate dominance of the web demands such a move. It’s time for governments to start playing at scale.

More: Comments and discussion on Wired to Share; Gartner analyst Andrea DiMaio on government portals

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John Moore

Adriel, I am comng at this from a different angle but this post has me thinking…. From my viewpoint I want government (local, federal, agencies, politicians) leveraging commercial platforms because:

– Reduced start-up times vs. building their own.
– Citizens are already residing on these other networks (Facebook, Twitter, Govloop).

However, you raise a great point regarding ads and the need to have a focused site that delivers on the mission of the organization… Is there a middle ground?

My concern is that the varying organizations build their own portals, citizens do not see these in their normal daily lives and forget about them, leaving these new sites mostly unused….

Just thinking…. Really appreciate the post as it gives me more to think about.


Arvind Nigam

Interesting question you’ve raised Adriel. I kind of concur with John Moore that each org. having set up one’s own portal (no matter how engaging, from social networking point of view) will lose sheen coz in normal lives people would not engage with for e.g. White House the same way as people do on Facebook for a totally different purpose. In all honesty, I think using social nature of web for gov 2.0 will have to be meaningful only so as to provide alignment of online entity (the portal, I mean) with the core objective of the Government office.

For example Starbucks uses social media ( to improve its business, or HT uses ( for better editorials in their newspaper and so on. Don’t you think so? Ning is not a great Gov 20 tool actually coz it is mean to be custom FB per se. Or actually worse coz more or less the features and application model of Ning is that of early stages of common social networks like Hi5, Orkut etc.


Adriel Hampton

John, Arvind, there is a definitely a lot more here. I like Ning, but it’s probably not the right tool. Need something open source with customizable modules, etc. See the comments over at for more. Also, the way I’m looking at this is in terms of a social platform for a physical area – local or regional gov – with OpenID and lots of outreach. The specific purpose would be to guide people to important online services (311, emergency preparedness) with social content.
Also see The City as Community-Building Platform.