Government 2.0


Government 2.0

I saw the following post on Atlantic Review

Foreign Policy Magazine writes:
Each year the Center for Global Development and FOREIGN POLICY look past the rhetoric to measure how rich-country governments are helping or hurting poor countries. How much aid are they giving? How high are their trade barriers against imports such as cotton from Mali or sugar from Brazil? Are they working to slow global warming? Are they making the world’s sea lanes safe for global trade?
The Netherlands wins this year's competition, followed by Denmark, Sweden and Norway. Germany ranks at the 9th place and the United States at the 13th. Japan lost again.
British Times two months ago, that little has improved since last year's G8 summit on Africa and the Make Poverty History campaign due to leadership failures and aid cuts:
Kofi Annan, the UN secretary general, is to chair an international group set up by Tony Blair to monitor pledges made to help Africa at last year’s G8 summit, the Prime Minister will announce today. Bob Geldof, the Live8 organiser, and President Obasanjo of Nigeria will also be on the Africa Progress Panel, which will be funded by Bill Gates.
The Atlantic Review wrote about the magnitude of poverty and a popular myth:
Around 29,000 under-fives die every day from causes that are easily prevented, such as diarrhoeal dehydration, acute respiratory infections, measles and malaria. According to a poll, most Americans believe that the United States spends 24 percent of its budget on aid to poor countries; it actually spends well under a quarter of 1 percent.
From Information Policy

Public service videos not quite as funny as other content... By Will Sturgeon

The UK government - long accused of being backwards on understanding tech issues - has come careering into the 21st century with a strategy that will see it use video-sharing sensation YouTube to spread public service messages.

However, while the government appears to understand the potential of the YouTube medium, its first two video offerings suggest it still has a way to go to make the content appealing. We don't expect the videos to surge to the top of the popularity chart just yet.

But the fact the government is embracing such channels at all is a sign of great progress, according to a Cabinet Office statement, which hailed the move as evidence the government is keeping pace with current consumer trends and "always looking at new ways to reach people with the things that they need to know".

Ian Dunmore, director of independent e-government body Public Sector Forums, branded the scheme a world first and said: "It's a ground-breaking move and one other governments might well follow.

"However, we don't expect the videos to surge to the top of the popularity chart just yet."

And he'd be right to manage people's expectations in that way.

At the time of writing one of the videos, entitled 'Sharing the Leadership Channel', had been viewed just 98 times - possibly a reflection of what viewers may consider a rather dry and dull format.

A second, video on 'Transformational government' appears to have enjoyed greater success following efforts to engage the viewers with something a little lighter and more visually stimulating.,39024667,39161665,00.htm
The New York Times published a story about a new approach to real property tax assessment in Philadelphia. It poses a lot of questions -- but it shows how technology can be used to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of regular property re-assessments.

Read on...

and-- check out Pictometry (the provider used by Philadelphia) to see how it works.
Here's a great post from O'Reilly Radar

In a conversation the other day, Ed Kummer of Disney made a really thought-provoking observation: the spread of solar energy units to homes and businesses is an analog to other forms of user-generated content, and the overall trend towards a two-way network. While it's possible to set up a solar system completely off the grid, most of the new customers feed power into the grid during sunlight hours, and draw from it when the daylight wanes. If we move to a solar power economy, it will be much more distributed and cooperative than the current one-way model.

It's fabulous to put the internet and Web 2.0 into a broader context, and to think about how the new network economics that we're seeing on the internet may be adopted in other fields. With VoIP, we're seeing the internet subsume the telephone network. With distributed solar, and the kinds of distributed energy monitoring technology that Adam wrote about the other day, will the internet model also colonize the power grid?

Hmmm... What was I saying about the internet as the network of networks?
Thanks to a comment from Kelly --

Here is a great article and discussion about what web 2.0 really means.

Check it out, and tell us if you've found a government site that could be called 2.0.
Google Earth and Emergency Aid Permalink
By tim on August 16, 2006

According to an entry on, Google Earth just played a role in helping to target air drops of relief supplies in Gujarat, which was hit with serious flooding. The entry cites an Ahmedabad newspaper:

If [officials] could have struck upon this idea before, it would have helped many more people as carpet air-dropping of aid leads to lots of wastage. Using this tool, it was easy to identify buildings and other landmarks.

Sometimes people complain that Web 2.0 is just a consumer internet thing. But stories like this remind us that the increased intelligence available to ordinary people can have worldchanging consequences. In this particular case, it was two ordinary people who persuaded the air force to use Google Earth to better target their aid and rescue efforts.
From Erik Bergrud at ICCE

GulfGov Reports

Based on data and information collected by a network of field researchers, a three-year study initiated by the Ford Foundation called “GulfGov Reports” assesses what happened to communities in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama after the devastating 2005 Katrina and Rita hurricanes.

The GulfGov Reports web site is hosted by the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government, the public policy research arm of the State University of New York, in conjunction with the Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana.

Marshall Poe published a great review of the Wikipedia project in the September Atlantic Monthly.

Wikipedia was built on assumptions that: 1) people are pre-disposed to collaborate and contribute to public good; and 2) you can facilitate these pre-dispositions by creating an open, trusting environment. Poe's article represents an assessment of the growth (and sustainablilty) of Wikipedia project.

Are the key assumptions valid? If adopted, how would these assumptions affect governance?
From Read/Write/Web:

Here's a great post about how teachers, students and schools are using blogs, podcasts, wikis, etc. to enhance learning. These experiments might require a paradigm shift for schools. That would, in turn, require significant changes in government policies and management.

Will governments allow and encourage classes to use the web to learn?

Here is the post, with some interesting comments from readers.
I saw the following announcement on Government Technology. It sounds like a fantastic service to users, and it raises the bar for agency performance and accountability. Check out the links to these new sites.

The new interactive TransNet Dashboard Web site, launched by San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) and California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), is a connection to the current schedule, budget, and expenditure information for the TransNet Early Action Program. This new site is a key element of the larger Keep San Diego Moving Web site which includes project descriptions, construction schedules, public meeting notices, maps, news releases, and other information.

"This is a milestone for San Diego's transportation future," said Joe Kellejian, SANDAG Transportation Committee Chairman. "Not only are we putting TransNet tax dollars to good use by advancing construction on important transportation infrastructure, we've developed a mechanism for ensuring accountability throughout the process."

Read on...

Tim at O’Reilly Radar had this great post re: surveillance and transparency.

This post has stimulated some provocative comments, worth reading to the bottom.

Over on Dave Farber's IP list, Greg Brooks sent in an interesting note about a story from the Riverside (CA) Press-Enterprise about how a suburban mom had tracked down the kids who toilet-papered her house. Greg wrote:

  • "She canvassed local stores to see which one had a run on toilet paper.
  • She then got the manager of the store to show her surveillance videos, allowing her to see the personalized letterman's jacket of one of the purchasers, as well as the license plate of the vehicle they got into.
  • Finally, she used a high school yearbook (matched to the school based on the letterman's jacket) and online databases to get the names, phone numbers and addresses of all the teens spotted in the store tapes."

Greg put a negative spin on this, saying "we're pretty far down the road to sheepdom when average citizens start thinking 'well, everything's monitored all the time anyway - let's see if I can make use of that.'" I don't see it that way at all. This "news from the future" story tells us that the vision of David Brin's Transparent Society is starting to come to pass. Brin argues that we need to accept the reality of pervasive surveillance, and just make sure that it is democratized, so that the surveillance is not just by those in positions of power, but of those in power. While the mom in question wasn't "watching the watchers" (a phrase that entered the language with the Roman poet Juvenal nearly 2000 years ago), she was taking the tools of surveillance into her own hands. That's anything but "sheep."

Dylan Tweney made the same point in a followup posting on IP:

As YouTube proves, we are far more adept at watching each other than the government could possibly be. In the future, it's not "Big Brother" that will be watching us, but millions of Little Brothers. Maybe that's a little creepy. On the other hand it can work both ways. And if the surveillance extends to the halls of government (and those who work in government) then we will have an unprecedented level of transparency into the workings of our democracy. We've already got C-SPAN -- what we need now are a hundred thousand webcams all over Washington. Especially in our representatives' offices.

In this regard, see Nikolaj's recent post about theyworkforyou. As I mentioned the other day, we're starting to see some unusual spins on surveillance technology. People adapt. The future changes us.

Read on

Brian pointed me to

This project is a regional collaboration in the Seattle region that is a finalist for the Innovations in American Governments 2006 Award, sponsored by the Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation in the Kennedy School at Harvard.

In the announcement of the list of finalists, the Ash Institute said:

eCityGov Alliance 2006 in the City of Mercer Island, WA – is taking local government services to new levels of convenience for citizens and businesses. Nine cities in the Puget Sound region of Washington State are making on-line services available through the nation’s first cross-boundary web portals. The result is one-stop, seamless access to building permits, recreation opportunities, property information and available commercial properties for citizens and businesses across member jurisdictions. The nine Alliance cities are Kenmore, Bothell, Woodinville, Kirkland, Bellevue, Mercer Island, Issaquah, Sammamish and Snoqualmie.

By collaborating, local governments have built IT capacity, and have generated increased use and user satisfaction. They have also greatly enhanced efficiency and effectiveness for several key transactions. This is an approach that deserves serious consideration.

From David Sifry, at Technorati:

The latest trends on blogging activity. It's a very long tail...

Public officials who want to blog to stay in touch with constituents... here is a good guide for building a better blog.
If you're interested in using the web to facilitate public participation in governance, it's good to follow what's happening with Wikipedia.

Check out an account about a recent key note speech by Wikipedia's Founder Jimmy Wales published by CNet.
From CNet

Accessibility seminars often begin with a quote by Tim Berners-Lee: "The power of the web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect." It's an old quote, but the web's inventor offered fresh ideas yesterday.

Professor Sir Tim Berners-Lee presents his vision of the web's future at the 15th International World Wide Web Conference in Edinburgh today. At a press conference yesterday, he acknowledged that accessibility is failing the "essential aspect" he described back in 1997 when announcing the launch of the W3C's Web Accessibility Initiative (or WAI, pronounced 'way').

"That is a concern," he said of today's generally poor standard of web accessibility. Berners-Lee, who has served as W3C's director since it was founded in 1994, pointed out that his WAI team is working hard on a new set of guidelines to address accessibility. Version 2.0 of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, or WCAG, has been long awaited and the working draft is near completion: a 'last call' for public comment closes on 31 May.

Read more here.

Recently, Jon Udell at Information World posted this very interesting announcement made by Dan Thomas, Director of the DCStat program in Washington DC government.

Starting in mid-June, the District of Columbia (began) releasing operational data from a variety of city agencies to the Internet in several XML formats, including RSS and Atom.

“Our expectation is that it will spawn mashups, analysis, and who knows what ripple effects,” Thomas wrote. “We also expect it will motivate government agencies to seek and sustain high levels of performance.”

On June 12 the first of the feeds — data on the disposition of service requests received by the Mayor’s Call Center and the online Service Request Center — was quietly launched at the Center for Innovation and Reform. I immediately grabbed the data, and in a few hours I had cobbled together a proof-of-concept mashup that displays requests related to street repaving and gutter repair on a map of the District of Columbia. If you’ve ever visited Adrian Holovaty’s award-winning, you can see what this might mean for Washington.

Read on here.

For further information on the DCStat program, read this.

From the European E-Government News

July 31

The Hungarian government has organized eGovernment training courses for some 4 500 civil servants from 700 different offices.

'A practical guide to eGovernment for municipal government employees’ is an e-learning training course targeted at government employees. Participation was unexpectedly high for an e-learning program. The success rate among students who completed the course was more than 90%.

The three-month training program was organized by the Ministry of Informatics and Communications. It was preceded by a careful survey of demand: more than 100 local governments and close to 200 local government employees provided data about their skills and capabilities. The questionnaires also enquired about the learning preferences of the employees.

The course covered various eGovernment topics, such as the sort of broadband electronic communication necessary for their work. Subjects included: e-administration, electronic signatures, certification, client portals, tools for improving the e-efficiency of local government, communication, monitoring, negotiation techniques, distance learning over the internet, and broadband.

The knowledge gained from this course is likely to be an important factor in ensuring that graduates of the program can help implement the government’s eGovernment strategy.

From: CNet

Web sites like and may soon be inaccessible for many people using public terminals at American schools and libraries, thanks to the U.S. House of Representatives.

By a 410-15 vote on Thursday, politicians approved a bill that would effectively require that "chat rooms" and "social networking sites" be rendered inaccessible to minors, an age group that includes some of the Internet's most ardent users. Adults can ask for permission to access the sites.

Read on.
From Democracies Online:

Wellington, NZ releases e-democracy strategy

The City of Wellington, NZ has released an very detailed e-democracy policy. It illustrates how ideas from leading “e-democracy interested” communities easily spread round the world. Note their Have Your Say section. It is good to see there use of e-alerts which I’ve highlighted among the collection of e-democracy briefs.

To get a sense of their future direction see the report Information and Communications Technology Policy and note their large section on e-democracy:

SECTION 4: e-Democracy
4.1 What is e-Democracy? 16
4.2 Why e-Democracy? 16
4.3 Strategic Fit 17
4.4 e-Voting 18
4.5 Objectives 18
4.6 Policy Implementation 21
4.7 Performance Measures 22

Here is the report’s introductory text:

1.1 Introduction

Information and Communications Technology (ICT) has already changed the way many Wellington residents live, work and play, and the Council believes it has further potential to enhance the lives of Wellingtonians.

ICT includes electronic information processing technologies such as computers and the internet (including email) as well as cellular, digital and wireless technologies and fixed line telecommunications. The Council believes these technologies have the
ability to:

• enhance the city’s economic development – by providing a telecommunications infrastructure that enables new opportunities for innovation, increased productivity and an enhanced quality of life

• contribute to the well-being of the community – by building capability and enabling individuals and communities to develop economically, socially, and culturally

• enhance and increase engagement in local democracy by enabling individuals and
communities to be linked to local government and local networks.

From Information Policy:

The Knight-Batten Awards for innovation in journalism were just announced. Seven projects received recognition, and each faciliate transparency, discovery or user participation in some way. The projects range from a comprehensive, interactive Congressional votes database, to a site that helps users conduct real-time risk assessment for hurricanes.

Each of the award winners can contribute to better governance. Each also represents a model that government agencies could adapt for their own purposes.
If you're thinking through the "pros" and "cons" of e-participation on government web sites, here's a great (though somewhat lengthy) case study of Wikipedia, as published in the July 31 New Yorker magazine.
From Federal Computer Week

BY Matthew Weigelt
Published on July 19, 2006

Legislation that would require the creation of an online database to track federal spending has won praise from several key senators.

“Transparency is a prerequisite to oversight and financial control,” Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) testified at the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee’s Federal Financial Management, Government Information and International Security Subcommittee hearing. The ability of citizens to know how the government spends their tax money is a basic principle of self-government, Obama said.

The hearing focused on the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act, which would set up a searchable database online that the public could use to track federal funding of organizations. The Web site would show how much funding an organization received in each of the last 10 fiscal years, a breakdown of the transactions, and details about the organization receiving the funds.

“The reason for such broad support is simple,” said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). “People are beginning to realize that the only way to control spending and ensure accountability is to let the American people see exactly how their money is being spent.”

“I like to think of this bill as ‘Google for Government Spending,’” said Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), the bill’s original sponsor.

Chairwoman Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said she would work to push the act through the committee.

Obama said senators are constantly surprised at what shows up after they vote for a bill. Having the Web site would empower people and organizations to keep the government accountable.

“It’s one of the wonderful democratizing aspects of the Internet,” he said.

Comments from two readers include links to two other transparency/accountability tools:

Kelly points to:

Amy suggests:

Thus far, we've seen very few government agencies that invite users to get involved, "have their say" on public issues, and contribute to collective intelligence.

If you're interested, take a look at what the BBC is doing to invite users to participate. Maybe other government units could follow their example.

Check out a great background piece on BBC from Business Week here .
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