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There’s No “I” in Open Government
February 15, 2011 at 7:46 pm #123225
Open Government Means “We” over “Me”
“The future is ours to win. But to get there, we can’t just stand still. As Robert Kennedy told us, ‘The future is not a gift. It is an achievement.’ Sustaining the American Dream has never been about standing pat. It has required each generation to sacrifice, and struggle, and meet the demands of a new age. And now it’s our turn. We know what it takes to compete for the jobs and industries of our time. We need to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world”. - President Obama
(excerpt from the 2011 State of the Union Address)
In his State of the Union address last month, President Obama outlined the incredible challenges we are currently facing as a nation. Technology has changed our entire economy, requiring citizens to rapidly adapt to stay competitive. The transition has been difficult for some, but this innovation also presents us with incredible opportunity. People are connecting in ways that were never possible before, and it’s transforming both business and government. For the first time in history, governments are able to directly engage with extraordinary numbers of citizens in real-time. Not only does this improve government’s ability to distribute information, but it allows our democracy to gain from the collective wisdom of the population.
We’re just scratching the surface of the possibilities for “crowdsourcing” in government. A truly open government takes advantage of the wisdom of crowds by making public data available (transparency), collaborating with citizens (engagement) and putting the best ideas into action (participation). Transparency builds confidence in government and improves the quality of public debate. People want to know where their taxes are going, and how the government is allocating resources. Engagement creates platforms for innovation and yields collective wisdom. Participation empowers citizens and ensures that initiatives are in line with the will of the people. All of this is driven through collaborative technologies, and we’ve seen incredible examples like Recovery.gov and Miami 311.
An open government also lays the foundation for an open society, and an environment conducive to enabling innovation and education to prosper. That’s what Microsoft is trying to accomplish through GovCamps, a joint initiative we’re pursuing with Barry Libert, Chairman of Mzinga, a social software company, and author of the books Social Nation and We Are Smarter Than Me; and Zachary Tumin, Advisor, Harvard Kennedy School of Government. GovCamps provide governments with a playbook for open government, designed to start conversations amongst elected officials, educators and citizens on how technology can improve transparency, citizen engagement, and citizen participation. These conversations then continue with GovJams, monthly, topic-oriented, open discussions that will take place on collaborative tools like Microsoft Town Hall and Microsoft SharePoint Server, which can help maintain strong levels of engagement and participation.
GovCamps have already resulted in successes around the world, like the passage of legislation in Mexico ensuring government IT transparency. The United States is a clear leader in open government, but it’s imperative that we keep developing new technologies that support its vision. The best ideas are out there, and now we have the technologies to collect and implement them. To become a part of the discussion, check out the opengovernment20.com community that will launch at the end of February.
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