That question has been cropping up a lot recently. It’s going to be a whole new world. Surely it will demand new things from us. The thinking around here is – not so much. It’s the same old competencies applied in a new context. Let’s take a couple of examples:
1. We recently had a speaker who was talking about the impact of Web 2.0 on journalism, communications and government. He rightly pointed out that a significant effect of the change to “citizen-journalism” is the loss of the editorial role and the independent fact-checking that comes with it. He (in my opinion) incorrectly suggested that this would require a new skill from readers: determining how valid the information is.
Who believes that we can trust everything we read/see from mainstream media: that no papers or channels (or columnists) have biases that affect what they write, print or show? That’s why we have media literacy classes in our schools. The basic competency, required in any research, is the same. We need to be able to critically evaluate information sources for reliability, accuracy and bias. It’s true online. But it’s true offline, too.
2. It has also been suggested that a key competency that is emerging in the Web 2.0/Gov 2.0 is the ability to get order and structure in the babble of voices when everyone is talking (online) at the same time on the same subject. Online consultations can be pretty hectic – just ask the people who ran the New Zealand Police Act wiki! But isn’t this really just the “facilitation” skill that we know and love from our Offline/Web 1.0/Gov 1.0 world? Is it really a new competency, or the same old competency at a high level, just applied in a new setting?
I can buy this thinking, but I’m not sure that I’m ready to put all my eggs in that basket. Let’s take another example. Skill in building online communities would seem to be pretty vital for Gov 2.0. Of course, this could be just the same “building communities” competency that some people have had for who knows how many thousands of years. Is there any difference with online communities? Maybe not. One thing that might be worth considering is the role of non-verbal communication and body language in community building (the ability to read it and the ability to respond to it). There is some research that is out there that this is pretty fundamental to our community building. If we are using something different to build our online communities (where we can’t read body language) then does it count as a different skill?
Finally, Gov 2.0 competencies might not be “new competencies” as much as “competencies that are new to government”. If government undergoes a fundamental change, it makes sense to expect the skills required will change, too. One suggestion I’ve heard is that the “engagement” skills, which have always been important but used to be required only of a few government workers, will need to be much more pervasive as the boundary between the government and the public becomes much more porous.
What do you think? Are there any new skills/competencies we’ll need?