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The Long Boom: Six Ways Gov 2.0 Is Still Going Gangbusters

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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!)
  6. 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?

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Tied to #4 for me is the data communities. With health.data.gov and education.data.gov, I like that there is more focus in building the ecosystem of people interested in specific data. I think that’s more important than open data broadly. Especially as it taps into people that already exists that may not care about “open data” debates per se but are passionate about issues like education equality (and have focused on data for a long time)

Alexander B. Howard

I agree, Gadi: Alice’s post is full of solid reporting but absolutely hamstrung by that headline. The timing of the piece feels particularly misleading, given that we all just saw the week that the Web changed Washington. When I look back at open government and Gov 2.0 in 2011, there’s good reason to believe that the trends I documented there (with the assistance of the Govloop community) will extend further into 2012, both for good and ill.

The reason I accepted ‘s offer to cover is because I see it as a far bigger trend than or social media alone. and Gov 2.0 are about much more than open data — just read the chapter subjects in “Open Government.” Or look at the issues that flow around the hashtag, like identity, privacy, security, procurement, culture, cloud computing, civic engagement, participatory democracy, corruption, civic entrepreneurship or transparency, many of which you cite above, Gadi.

If we accept the premise that Gov 2.0 is a potent combination of open government technology, mobile, open data, social media, collective intelligence and connectivity, borne upon the platform of the Internet, the lessons of the past year suggest that a tidal wave of change is still building world wide, not that “the boom is over.

Dorothy Ramienski Amatucci

I think you hit the nail on the head with #6. Increasingly I think people are thinking of Web 2.0 as SOP … I know many people in the private sector who don’t see the distinction anymore. I think some agencies might be moving in the same direction.

Alice Lipowicz

Thanks for the thoughtful comments on the story.

One of the issues here is semantic. How is Gov 2.0 best defined? For whom? Talking about Gov. 2.0 as a global movement toward open government, open data and social Web interactive citizen services is probably the broadest and most expansive view of Gov 2.0, but the term Gov 2.0 has some fluidity in it and it may be helpful to view it more narrowly.

In the federal government community, the term Gov 2;.0 has been used to refer to Web 2.0 tools applied to government. That includes social media and collaboration tools primarily, and most people think of mobile Web and government mobile apps included as well.

It’s debatable whether Gov 2.0 includes the distribution of public sector data sets to the public and to third parties (a growing trend; nonetheless, not really a WEb 2.0 technology) and the third-party development of applications with that data. I also think it serves no purpose to conflate all of Gov 2.0 into open government; the two terms are certainly overlapping a lot, but there are areas in open government (whistleblowing and FOIA, for example) that have not much overlap with Gov 2.0. Similarly there are parts of Gov 2.0 (publicly-owned data contributing to third-party app development for commercial audiences, for example) that do not have much relation to open government IMHO.

At FCW our focus is on our FCW community of readers, which are primarily federal executives and workers and federal contractors.

Therefore, my article should be interpreted as a view of Gov 2.0 as it pertains to the United States federal community; it was not intended to be a global view or a local government view. Nor was it intended to encompass the third-party spin-off activity and commercial mobile apps that have developed as a result of the release of government data (Data.gov). In retrospect, I should have made those distinctions clearer.

But I do think the definition of Gov 2.0 ought to be a bit more focused to be useful. If it is seen too broadly as all governments globally, it could become a highly idealistic concept instead of a useful concept.

Alice Lipowicz

As I’m reading my own comments, I need to clarify something: “Similarly there are parts of Gov 2.0 (publicly-owned data contributing to third-party app development for commercial audiences, for example) that do not have much relation to open government IMHO.”

What I meant to say was there are activities that some people might associate with Gov 2.0 (publicly-owned data contributing to third-party app development). In my opinion, many of those third-party apps are for commercial purposes primarily, and do not have much relation to open government and do not fit the narrower definition of GOv 2.0 either. (They are perfectly interesting apps I’m sure but I don’t think sending out better and more targeted NWS weather info via a commercial mobile app is necessarily part of Gov 2.0 or open government)