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The Future of Government 2.0

Well before Obama actually assumes office on January 20th, those of us who follow new government media have already observed a proliferation of fresh perspectives on how emerging web technologies may be utilized by the next administration.

Some people cite blogging as the key to reform (blogging drives the entire internet, right?) Others claim that Wiki technology will be the easiest way for the government to collect and disseminate information (“Wikinomics” is one term for referring to the democratizing use of massively collaborative use of the technology). Many others are skeptical that the government will ever gain a strong enough command of internet technology to do much but trail in the wake of silicon valley.

Personally, I think government innovation is inevitable. As collaborative data models become more mainstream, our government must eventually learn to leverage the web 2.0 realm, thereby improving communications and removing barriers that encumber reforms in the public sector. Yet this does not mean that we’ll see improvements immediately; the government tends to be much more hesitant about implementing wide-scale technology changes than its private-sector counterpart. (One reason is that the government must meet strict accessibility standards on anything it publishes to the web.)

GovCentral’s Analysis

GovCentral has taken a closer look at which platforms we can expect to see on a “dot gov” website over the next few years, and what the Obama Administration will be doing to create the next generation of government 2.0 services. We’ve also taken a stab at indicating which technologies are pipe dreams that are not likely to be developed anytime soon.

What Can We Expect from the Obama Administration?

As a presidential candidate, Obama’s campaign strategy borrowed heavily from traditional approaches to grassroots campaigning, but was also very innovative in its ability to integrate Youtube, FaceBook, Myspace, and blogs into campaign strategies. Despite the Joe-the-Plumber scandal (a spectacle that we can now recognize as regrettable for both parties) Obama gained a lot of small-town support from developing a grassroots network of campaign supporters and followers.

The question is: Will Obama continue to leverage the internet effectively once he becomes president?

Change.gov has a sleek design, but does it deliver the type of information that we really need?

Change.gov – Before rushing to answer this question with an emphatic “YES!”, take a moment to explore Obama’s transition website, Change.gov. Here’s a breakdown of the main features:

• An outline of the “Obama-Biden plan” for healing the economy
Blog channel which aggregates press and news updates
• A couple of nice web 2.0 applets which allow you to respond to a post, rate information thumbs-up or thumbs-down, etc.
• Recently announced that its content would be accessible under the creative commons copyright.

It’s a good start, but I don’t see anything ground-breaking here. Change.gov does not present anything which goes beyond what we’re already familiar with on other blogs and government websites. Essentially, it disseminates information in the same way that a PR release on Whitehouse.gov would.

If we’re going to see true innovation from the Obama administration, we immediately must face another question: where will the innovation come? What type of innovation are we talking about? Will it focus on healthcare? Renewable energy? Homeland security?

If I were on Obama’s cabinet, I’d be making my decisions about where and how to apply web 2.0 technology based on where it would be the most effective – the most immediately effective. Obama will be under a lot of pressure during his first 100 days in office, and should forefront any hard-hitting changes he can oversee during that time.

Health Care – A possibility. We don’t know how aggressive Obama will be on overseeing large-scale reforms to our health care system, but there is a high likelihood that this is one arena where government 2.0 initiatives could be particularly effective.

Tom Daschle, recently appointed to be the next head of Health and Human Services, will be a key player if healthcare is to be a major platform of Obama’s presidency. Health care is already very well posed to benefit from technological immersion – in fact, many health care efforts were at the forefront of the Semantic Web movement, back when it was viewed as a plausible concept to develop.

On other fronts, we’ve already seen A.D.A.M. and Medpedia attempt to provide health care 2.0 services; in a similar way, Google Knol has a strong medical bent. Will the US government ever offer a knowledge-based solution such as these?

Continue Reading: The Future of Government 2.0

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