Does Tim O’Reilly Capture Your Definition of Gov 2.0 in His CBS Interview?

Tim O’Reilly, founder of O’Reilly Media and the orginator of the term “Web 2.0,” was interviewed by Shira Lazar on CBS News, answering questions about Code for America and “Gov 2.0.”

Video Clip:

Does Tim capture your definition of Gov 2.0?

What would you say about Gov 2.0 if you had 4 minutes on CBS?

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Gadi Ben-Yehuda

Does Tim capture my definition? Not at all.

Here’s what I talk about when asked what is Gov 2.0:

The short version: government activities to utilize and regulate the digital landscape.

What I mean is, everything in our lives is moving online. Our banks, schools, churches, and employers. Our activities are moving online: we can now gamble, shop, teach (and learn), read news, critique the news, join affinity groups to gripe about the news, record, share, and listen to music or videos, or send a message to the Western Wall. So Gov 2.0 is (in part) about moving government services online. Paying taxes, renewing licenses, submitting permit requests, all the things that government ~does~ is utilizing the digital landscape.

But government is unique in that it also regulates activities in the public (and even private) arenas. The federal government essentially dictates speed limits on interstate roads. As we are all learning, it plays a role in regulating banks, hospitals, and waterways. And now, we’re trying to figure out how (or if) it can regulate digital transmission infrastructure. That’s part and parcel of Gov 2.0.

Adriel Hampton

Still like the Gartner definition best – ‘the use of IT to socialize and commoditize government services.’ Also, that 2.0 is a culture shift towards a more open and collaborative relationship between the bureaucracy and the citizen (beyond the more traditional online services of e-gov).

Daniel Bevarly

I believe Tim O’Reilly is a brilliant individual and his attention to the concept has advanced its development. And while he was correct in mentioning some of the elements that define Gov 2.0 in his CBS interview, he did not capture its definition.

In fact, the definition of Gov 2.0 is something still elusive. The good part is we have done a great job of identifying and assembling its key elements. The question we still wrestle with is how we assemble those elements, assign priorities and standardize a definition.

I believe there is general consensus Gov 2.0 involves both access to data and dialog. However, there appears to be two distinct camps, or mindsets as to how those two fundamentals are played out in not only defining Gov 2.0 but how solutions are being developed and applied to advancing the concept.

While Tim O’Reilly has stated in the past his interest in developers creating applications that people will care about and use, his focus and description of Gov 2.0 (as with many other forward thinking folks) is primarily about making government or public data more easily accessible and obtainable. We have also seen this way of thinking result in a sub-category of Gov 2.0 known as OpenGov and DataGov.

I believe dialog and data must be considered together in developing solutions. However the quest to make data more easily attainable and usable is not the primary function. Rather it is the result of, or secondary priority of Gov 2.0. The primary goal Gov 2.0 is to create sustainable collaboration solutions that connect and engage citizens and government with each other to establish meaningful dialog and build relationships. And I am in agreement with Adriel’s response.

Building relationships; first and foremost. That is the real key. Consider any successful social network whose members represent diversity –Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, Twitter, even as far back as the early AOL. The primary ingredient for their success was to build a foundation that helped people establish relationships first. From that was segmentation into thousands of varied topics and interests.

To conclude, can anyone argue that the relationship today between government and citizens is not a fractured one? The biggest challenge of all for Gov 2.0 is creating solutions that return a sense of ownership and stewardship to citizens in their government that replaces the “us versus them” mentality that has long existed and has now permeated into the internal workings of government between the two major parties.

NOTE: For more discussion on separate tracks of building Gov 2.0 (data vs. dialog), read this interesting post by Dr. Mark Drapeau from February 7th titled “Does the Public really need to know what Gov 2.0 is?


One important item that I think is key to Gov 2.0 that is missing in his definition:

-Government to Government Collaboration – People focus a lot more on transparency and openness on Open Government memo but less on collaboration. I think collaboration is key and essential to the future of government. Gov 2.0 is about connecting and inspiring government innovators within government. Breaking down silos, working across agencies, working across levels of govt such as fed/state/local/international, sharing good ideas/code/projects and implementing them everywhere.

I think examples like GovLoop, FedSpace, Apps for Army, SAVE awards, TSA Idea Factory, and more are really important. Real examples of new technology being used to break down silos across lines and improve govt performance

Alexander B. Howard

First, a quick correction: Bill Eggers coined the term “Government 2.0,” not Tim.

Speaking only for myself, I thought Tim’s description was useful for the audience likely to tune in to CBS News. The commenters here (many of whom I know from the community of practitioners) are much more deeply steeped in the topic that most.

I agree with Steve that government to government should be part of the discussion.

I don’t find a great deal of commonality with Gadi in terms of thinking of Gov 2.0 as a means to regulate technology, though I agree with him that regulatory structures need to be updated to adapt to the changes in society.

Adriel, I tend to see Gartner’s definition focused socializing and commoditizing services as useful but too narrow, since open data or government isn’t effectively integrated.

Daniel, I responded at length to Mark’s post in on language, governmet 2.0, jargon and technology at Gov 2.0 LA. The definition I found useful then has evolved beyond services as well, particularly with regards to the reciprocity between e-government, we-government and open government.

Regardless of our semantic differences, however, it’s good to see the dialogue about the intersection of tech and government is reaching mainstream media channels.

Gadi Ben-Yehuda

With respect, Alex, I think we have to think of regulation of the digital landscape as Gov 2.0.

Think of it this way: Root Gov is everything in the Constitution and Bill or Rights. It is the code necessary for running a burgeoning late-eighteenth century republic.

Gov 1.0 was what we evolved into in the 19th century as we developed national-scale institutions and infrastructures that the coders of the constitution could not have prepared for. Regulation of the railroads, for instance, is different than regulation of road-traffic. Likewise, after the Civil War, we needed ways for the federal government to enforce the growing cache of civil rights.

Gov 2.0 is necessitated by the growing importance–in fact the unavoidability–of the digital landscape. Take one example: spectrum whitespace. Multiple interests want to use parts of the spectrum, and if anyone is to use it, some agency must be charged with doling out the rights to it and then enforcing that no one interferes with those rights.

There is a precedent for this in Gov 1.0, though an imperfect one. The federal government had to authorize (and pay for) the interstate highway system. The specs of the roads determines what kinds of vehicles can drive on it and how fast they can go.

Because there was no digital landscape to govern even 50 years ago, there could be no appropriate regulations. We’re right now in the midst of determining how we want that space to be governed. How is that not Gov 2.0?

Molly Walker

Gadi, while I disagree with your argument that Gov 2.0 should be a vehicle for digital regulation (or maybe I’m just not following it correctly?). I do think Gov 2.0 can and should enable policymaking.

At an event on Tuesday, GSA’s Bev Godwin, suggested that government move from marketing to collaboration and co-creation. I think she has a great point. More needs to be done around taking the information generated by Web 2.0 discussions and making it usable from a policy perspective. If that can be done successfully, I think it will only strengthen the case for more inclusive/widespread use of Gov 2.0 and improved Gov 2.0 tools.

Gadi Ben-Yehuda

Let me try another analogy.

To make a road useful, we need more than concrete. It has to be marked up and then it has to have a set of laws applied to it. Drive on the right, stop at a red light, yield to pedestrians at crosswalks (and cross the street only at crosswalks), obey speed limits, etc. etc. And the people who are allowed to drive is regulated. In order to get a license, you have to have a certain visual acuity, be of a certain age, pass a practical application test. If you want to drive a commercial vehicle, the rules are even more stringent.

Constraining our understanding of Gov 2.0 to the ways governments deliver services online is like saying that roads are only the concrete they’re made of. Or that the DOT should be concerned only with fixing potholes and not with passing laws about drunk driving (or driving while texting – a Gov 2.0 law, I would aver).

Gov 2.0 is a new understanding of the role of government in the digital age and should encompass all aspects. It’s more than just a web site with a blog and a link to your Twitter feed.

Gary Berg-Cross

On the defintion of Gov 2.0 I think we should take a broad view. So while it is true that one aspect of Gov 2.0 will have to provide infrastructure and standardization and “digital regulation ” this is by no means the only thing that will be part of it and I’m not even sure that it is the most important part.

Aspects of Gov 2.0 may be disruptive and lead to some new relationships. People like to talk about more distributed than centralized activities, for example.

Pam Broviak

For me, Gov 2.0 is the leveraging of technology to deliver govt. services, meet citizen needs, increase performance, efficiency, and quality, and minimize costs in addition to offering new services only made possible by that technology. This includes, as Steve mentioned, better engagement and relationship building with citizens. And it includes gov to gov and gov to biz interaction and collaboration.

When I read Gadi’s definition, I take it that he means if transportation includes not only the infrastructure but also the related concepts, regs, & services, then Gov 2.0 also covers the digital infrastructure on which we operate the Gov 2.0 technology and ideas. And it possibly includes the regulations associated with the use of that infrastructure.


Gadi’s definition also seems to capture the philosophy of transparency which makes the movement possible, a key component to Gov 2.0.

With regard to Gwynne’s comment, this is the challenge with defining Gov 2.0. Is it about the availability of the raw data, something the majority of the public won’t care about? Is it about the end products of transparency–graphic and interactive displays? While the majority of us here are interested in the former, the latter is better suited to the general public. We’re trying to bridge that gap, but it’s a tough battle.