Shovelware is a derogatory computer term that refers to software noted more for the quantity of what is included than for the quality or usefulness. When little thought is given to the design of an application meant for specific use on the destination platform or medium, resulting in poor quality service, what we end up with is a “force-fit” that is bound to invite public criticism. And when one talks about Government 2.0 – the highest & most critical level in our social hierarchy – avoidance of shovelware for healthy performance of infrastructure is definitely a serious idea to factor in. These criteria are some established principles that apply within a hierarchy of large organizations too, and are therefore time-tested.
By and large e-Governance off-date has been divided into four categories:
- Government-to-Citizen or Government-to-Consumer (G2C)
- Government-to-Business (G2B)
- Government-to-Government (G2G)
- Government-to-Employees (G2E)
Each category above refers to a philosophy of communication between the ruler & the ruled in a more-or-less mutually-exclusive manner. But is this not repetition of the same old mistakes that we did in past?
Consider this: All government employees are citizens, all citizens are a part of some business, and all governments interact with other governments at multiple levels which could be business-to-business, citizen-to-citizen or officials-to-officials and pretty much everything else. Now isn’t at micro-level, the individuals who make up the entire social graph from a beggar to national leader all about many facets – such as citizen’s identity, business identity, private identity etc. – leading to a very complicated mesh of many-many relationships?
And in such scenario dividing communication into four water-tight verticals G2C, G2B, G2G and G2E sounds a bit pre-historic. Which again can be pretty much justified by another school of thought, that Gov20 is nothing but an evolution of our existing systems right? (for those who are interested to learn what evolution means can read this post.)
From an uber point of view, Gov20 which is synonymous to Open Government, Open Data, Transparency is nothing but a high-level, high-quality, highly-viral form of communication network which allows voices to be officially recorded, measured and acted upon. Voices of all the stakeholders around us.
So for example when White House opens a Channel on YouTube, it shovels its videos (content) and what was earlier being seen on TV is now being watched simply over the internet. The only difference is that we know exactly how many times the video has actually been seen. And how people reacted to it with their comments below – which I call Exhibit – A.
Similarly, on Twitter there are roughly 2 million followers to @Whitehouse. So every citizen following White House can see what the White House tweets – short 140 character communication with a shortened hyperlink, right? But the replies on tweets from citizens to the White House mostly die out in vain. See some twit-lines over Google search by some humble citizens, for example (Let’s call this exhibit – B). Goes the same way with Facebook, other SNS, emails, mobile networks and everything else that centers around communication.
According to me, Gov20 should at all times aim to be one that figures out signal from noise so that communication at its root level is seamless. Need I explain this better than James Cameron’s Avatar where the Navi Tribe depended largely on its excellent communication network? My personal opinion is that what we’d achieve right now in Gov20, would most likely be an online model of the incumbent systems only i.e shovelware – which again may not be a bad step to take coz online is definitely better than offline. But if we could avoid shovelware philosophy completely, right now and bring in a thoroughly vetted model of communication with complete mapping of the many-many relationships and its sub-categorizations, I believe Gov20 will achieve its optimum level sooner than we thought.
So are we far away from what Gov 2.0 is actually all about? Look at Exhibit-A & Exhibit-B since they are live case at the point.
In response to Tim O’Reilly’s question: So what does gov20 mean to you?