Government 2.0 Club is an informal organization focused on convening the tribe of technologists and thinkers focused on applying social technologies to the governments worldwide.
The Internationalists: a modest proposal for American Gov 2.0 folks to go global
September 17, 2009 at 10:18 am #80810
Starting this very year, I am beginning to see the Gov 2.0 conversation go global. Definitely in Europe (I am from Italy), where quite a lot of the action goes on at the Union level; and it seems that the global level is getting there. I am seeing a pretty seamless collaboration amongst Europeans from all over the place, Americans (Sunlight Foundation) and Asians (Futuregov), and I think it is a great value for everyone (more here). For obvious reasons connected with the scaling of the community, but also because it becomes easier to sell 2.0 to the top tiers if cool foreign authorities are doing it. I can certainly see the fascination pull of a global tribe pushing the Gov 2.0 agenda.
So, here’s a modest proposal: there is a small group of about 20 people from all over the place – I am one of them – involved in drafting a declaration on gov 2.0 principles. This declaration should be presented very officially to the ministerial conference on the European Union ICT strategy in November in Malmo, Sweden. Are you interested in dropping by and maybe helping out?
September 17, 2009 at 10:32 am #80824
Andrea Di MaioParticipant
Let me offer a contrarian view. Government 2.0 or open government (choose whichever name you like) is already quite difficult at the national or provincial level, let alone at the European level. My experience with European declarations and programs in this particular field (i2010 being a good example) is that – since they need to accommodate the wishes and viewpoints of an increasingly diverse number of nations – they boil down to something quite generic and, frankly speaking, a bit teethless. If I look at the top rated declaration on your site, I am sure everybody can easily sign up for that, but the problem really is with implementation and what those words mean in different countries.
The reason why the US are progressing faster than others on this is that they have a single administration with a relatively coherent vision. While this is true at the federal level, things go at different speed at the State level, nor have I seen anybody in DC thinking about a declaration addressing individual States. The same would apply to other federal nations, like Australia or Canada or Germany. The European Union is somewhat different, quite strong on principles indeed, but struggling when those principles need to be turned into action. For those who are not familiar with the way the EU works, European Institutions such as the European Commission have power over member states in a number of areas (competition is one, as people following the Microsoft, Intel and now Oracle-Sun cases may appreciate). E-Government and public services are NOT one of these areas, which means that little can be done beyond sharing experience and funding some cross-boundary projects (which is often such a complex and political endeavor, that when they get ready to start, the problem they are trying to tackle is already solved by the market or by individual member states).
I do not want to sound too cynical here, but I do not believe Europe has much to offer here. We can just learn.
September 17, 2009 at 11:48 am #80822
Happy to help. I do think there is some value in top-down declaration. In the U.S., it will be interesting to see how the open gov directive that will be released affects the gov 2.0 agenda. Will it give the extra juice needed or be seen as just a lot of fluff. Let me know how I can help or spread the word at GovLoop.
I do also believe that we are at a stage in a lot of places that I’m not sure a declaration is the #1 thing most needed right now. Part of me believes Gov 2.0 needs more action. We need more examples, countries and agencies that are just doing it which can highlight the value.
September 17, 2009 at 1:00 pm #80820
GovLoop (Steve, right?): the folks at EUPS20 will be delighted. The declaration is being drafted collaboratively with mixedink – another American import, though, in this case a pretty lousy tool IMHO.
Andrea: your point is very well spelled out. However, I agree only in part: in a decentralized system, the general idea is that you run experiments locally, then use the center to spread the most successful ones. Kundra is a great example: he did a good job of running technology in DC, and that local experiment was picked to become the federal mainstream. The European Union is a much weaker center than the federal level in America, that’s undisputable. But does this really mean that there can be no interesting experiment to learn from in the periphery?
September 17, 2009 at 1:55 pm #80818
Andrea Di MaioParticipant
Of course you can have plenty of experiments. How much their results will stick taking into account language, culture, government organization and political diversity, well, that remains to be demonstrated.
Make no mistake, there will be millions and millions of euro under multiple EU-funded programs to try all sort of stuff. The risk is that we may still be drafting a consortium agreement for the next CIP or RTD project, while the US feds are already two or three steps ahead of us.
September 17, 2009 at 2:41 pm #80816
If what you mean is that we would be better off running a slightly more centralized Union I agree wholeheartedly. Then it would be a matter of voting our Obama in:-)
September 26, 2009 at 8:03 am #80814
Maybe the solution is to go from the bottom up then. Suppose the federal government offered to host a sophisticated site for any city that wished to use it. A site that made it incredibly easy for the city to do all of its business by very wisely managing the data that entails and providing all of the necessary infrastructure to comply with whatever the TPC Framework requirements turn out to be.
I think we should go farther, and take the opportunity to address all of the significant systemic problems that face our government at the most local level because it is so much easier to do there. How are we going to get the public to choose to participate? Just making data available will not compel much of the electorate to get involved, we need something that makes people’s real political capital more tangible. Perhaps we could add a virtual currency to the site, something like money except that political capital evaporates gradually if you don’t spend it. Voters spend it to support or oppose the solutions proposed for the issues facing their city government, or to propose their own. The site could even be designed to appear as a virtual shopping mall where people go occasionally to spend their PC. The point is to look for ways to lure people into learning more about the issues facing their community and give them a way to discuss it and express their will.
We could improve the quality of leadership by creating an opportunity for evangelists–people who believed they have a good vision for their city and would set a superior agenda–to buy seats in a virtual council that worked backwards from the way a real city council works. The evangelists have no vote. They work to convince everyone else how they should spend their PC but have none of their own. They can then be scored for effectiveness merely by comparing how closely people’s spending matched what they were advocating. The wisdom of this approach is in the way it leaves people to decide how to allocate their votes which will induce them to have both a broader and better understanding of what their government really does.
In the meantime, the real city council just sits back and learns from it. There is no impact other than what they learn and the knowledge that their electorate is going to be a lot more capable of evaluating their performance at the next election. Plus, they’ll have a good idea of what that group of evangelists would do if they were on the city council instead. Get the picture? It turns the entire period between elections into a test drive for candidates in the next election. Making the campaign process a lot more likely to be fact based. It gives every person in the community a very easy to take, free, and non-threatening chance to pretend they actually are on the city council, and get rapid feedback on how they’re doing in the eyes of voters.
By starting at the bottom, perhaps with just a few small isolated communities to test it out, we might discover a very effective and meaningful way to radically reinvent local government. And experience in perfecting and scaling it to large and more complex communities will leave us ready to apply the same technique to state government.
September 26, 2009 at 8:14 am #80812
Wouldn’t incredibly useful and sophisticated web based software that dramatically improved the ease at which a city could address it’s business be a good way to sell free market democracy? It just seems to me that designing sites tailor made for the various cultures we’re trying to nudge closer to discovering the utility of freedom that did just that would be a lot more effective than the approach we’ve been trying.
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