Federal Computer Week published some solid reporting under a terrifically misleading headline this week. Reporter Alice Lipowicz deftly wove together information from a number of sources (full disclosure: I am quoted in her article) to tell the narrative of how Gov 2.0 is shifting from a phase during which agencies and offices are establishing new social media presences, to a phase in which they are evaluating their activities, shoring up security, opening up their data troves, and developing policies and procedures that standardize their social media practices and tie them in to their larger operations.
In a tweet that I’d like to expand upon, I wrote “forest biomass > trees.” The reason I like that metaphor is that if we think of Gov 2.0 as a forrest, new facebook pages and twitter feeds are like spruce and pines. They dominate the visual space. But there is lot more life in a forrest than the trees. Some of that life uses the trees as a springboard: birds and animals in a forrest, and third-party applications in Gov 2.0. Should an agency develop a facebook application, or use Tweetdeck or Hootsuite to perform metrics on their Twitter activities, this would be analagous. But there is also a lot of life that has little to do with trees, but without which, the forrest is much less vibrant. Here is where mobile web, stand-alone apps, data warehouses, internal social media, and cultural changes are salient.
These are only six areas in which Gov 2.0 is still booming in 2012. I’ll sketch out what I mean, but I’d love to see in the comments either (a) other ways in which you think Gov 2.0 is still booming, (b) a more complete (or perhaps modified) way of thinking about these six activities or (c) examples you might have of any of these:
- Metrics. More and more agencies are starting to ask “how do we measure the effectiveness of our activities?” and they are looking for relevant data to collect and analyze so that they can direct their efforts to achieve greater effect.
- Mobile web. Every passing day,more Americans have access to the mobile Web, and its use is growing quickly, especially for young and African-American citizens. Government agencies are starting to move into this important space, but there is a lot of ground to cover.
- Stand-alone apps. The Department of Labor has created a number of apps, including one called TimeSheet, that aims to help hourly wage-earners document their own time so they don’t have to rely on somtimes-unreliable employers. Agencies that believe they have valuable apps can either host contests for third-party developers to create them, or have recruited talent in-house to create apps that help them achieve their mission.
- Data warehouses. Every day, it seems, more data sets are coming online. But so many governmental organizations–state and local as well as federal–are only now putting their data in machine-readable format and publishing it.
- Internal social media. This activity was always going to take more time than external-facing social media. In part, this is due to the slow changing-of-the-guard within government agencies: as new employees come on board with not only the expectation for, but the expertise in using social media to accomplish their work, expect to see more types of internal social media used for more types of activities (hello, Corridor!)
- Cultural changes. This is certainly a part of Gov 2.0, though it has little to do with technology per se. This is a cultural change that is happening both from the ground-up and from the top-down. I think the best summation is inthis 2010 blog post on Lovisa William’s blog, Athena’s Lightening.
To shift away from the forest metaphor, I think that Gov 2.0 is still booming, only the frequency is changing. Rather than the cymbal crashes and timpani rolls of new blogs, feeds, and social media pages, we’re hearing the susurrations of sentiment and text analysis, the sustained flutterings of movement onto the mobile web, and the rumblings of a million hard drives downloading and reading data sets, prepping them for visualizations and applications.
We’re all part of this orchestra–what do you see on your sheet music?