In recent years, an explosion of social networking and mass collaboration on the Internet has shaken up the division of labor in society and exposed the “one-size-fits all” model of government as an anachronism. For what the new fabric of social connectivity reveals is that today’s citizens can self-organize to do many of the things that governments do today, only they often do them better. In education, a few hundred students with Asperger’s Syndrome can form a self-help group using Facebook. Parenting websites like Netmums operate as an online community, with 275,000 users providing advice to prospective and current parents. Non-profits like MySociety and the Sunlight Foundation build online innovation spaces where the general public and civil servants can co-create information-based public services.
Why Government? All of this social innovation, in turn, raises new questions about government and its changing roles and form in the future. Could societies “open source” government much the way thousands of dispersed Linux programmers converge on the Internet to develop one of the world’s leading computer operating systems? Would large-scale, Web-enabled consultations improve political decision-making or channel greater ingenuity and urgency into efforts to solve global challenges like climate change? What about the provision of public services; could government agencies use ongoing collaboration with citizens to deliver better services with greater speed and less overhead?
Why GovLoop? Finding the answers to these intriguing questions is what communities like GovLoop are all about. What’s more, innovators inside and outside government can now build on the new connectivity GovLoop provides to launch bottom-up solutions to public sector challenges, big and small. As an author and consultant, it has been a privilege to spend more than a decade observing and writing about these trends as they affect government and society at large. Now, as an advisor to GovLoop, I’m delighted to be taking the next step: working with a dedicated and growing community of people that share my desire to make government fit for the 21st Century.
Bio Anthony Williams is co-author with Don Tapscott of the international best-seller Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything and the forthcomingMacrowikinomics: Rebooting Business and the World(Sept, 2010). Now published in 26 languages,Wikinomics was a finalist for the Goldman Sachs/Financial Times “Business Book of the Year” Award and on the must-read lists of publications such as the Economist, the Wall Street Journal, BusinessWeek and the Huffington Post.