Innovations
May 7, 2012

Interactive government gains momentum

When William Eggers wrote his landmark book, Government 2.0, in 2005, he predicted that governments around the world would have to embrace the information age, abandoning industrial age management concepts of hierarchy, specialization and control in favour of openness, collaboration and community. The growing interest in, and acceptance of, Web 2.0 strategies and tools not only validates Eggers’ prediction, it holds the potential to become a truly transformative force.

That transition to a more interactive form of government is already underway as agencies begin to leverage this newfound capability. For example, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, in an attempt to deal with an overwhelming backlog of patent applications and pressure from the hi-tech industry, agreed to pilot a wiki – a Web page or site that allows anyone to contribute – that would allow citizens to comment on prior art. This is the first time in the more than 100-year history of the USPTO that citizens have been able to directly share input on patent applications. Moreover, the wiki provides patent officers with access to intellectual capital from around the world.

Similarly, the District of Columbia has put the procurement of a police evidence warehouse online, with the bidders conference available on YouTube.

This trend extends to sensitive government areas formerly thought to be off limits to such openness. The Central Intelligence Agency’s Intellipedia wiki is available to any intelligence employee with classified clearance. It facilitates more efficient and rapid cross-agency collaboration and analysis, and has already proven its worth in high-profile situations. For example, when New York Yankees player Corey Lidle accidentally crashed his private plane into a Manhattan apartment building in 2006, CIA analysts used Intellipedia to rapidly pool their efforts and conclude that it was not a terrorist act.

Other governments around the world are creating wikis to obtain citizen input to proposed legislation; mashing-up information to map everything from traffic congestion to disaster relief and creating inter-agency collaborative sites in an effort to eliminate decades-old information fiefdoms.

The key advantage of this new generation of online tools and processes lies in its transparency. Because a wider range of stakeholders can view and be involved in the process, the government benefits from significantly improved levels of participation. It’s difficult for anyone to ignore, which in turn helps fuel the transformation.

Evolving landscape
For governments asking why they need to move to a Web 2.0 environment in the first place, the answer is simple: the world around government is changing. This is what it means for government leaders:

1. To be relevant you have to be connected. The Pew Research Center, a leading opinion research group, tells us that 33 percent of young Internet users have rated the performance of people, products or services, making this group a powerful force in setting consumer opinions. Facebook, with 70 million subscribers, is the sixth-busiest website on the planet and a hotbed of activity for new, interactive applications. Social networking is also going mobile: over half of Research In Motion’s two million new subscribers in the last quarter were from the consumer market. This reinforces how rapidly citizens are moving online. U.S. newspaper companies have lost approximately 30-40 percent of their market value in the past three years as consumers flock to online information sources and advertisers follow. Since governments need to be in contact with citizens to be effective, they must enter the online world. This means much more than the “one-window” strategy of e-government, where it was assumed that citizens would come to government. Now, government needs to go where citizens are meeting – online.

2. Historically successful solutions are no longer adequate. Web 2.0 is about Internet speed in communications, collaboration and performance. It’s about open source solutions and transparency of information. The State of Louisiana has combined Google Earth-based mapping technology with digital aerial photos and other data to create a statewide mapping capability that supports emergency response and disaster relief. This was completed with online community participation and minimal software licensing costs. The new IT world is about leveraging, networking and connecting – a process that extends far beyond earlier attempts at complex, holistic solutions. The U.S. federal government’s approach of “letting a thousand flowers bloom” reflects the new order.

3. Everyone’s an intermediary. In today’s world of bloggers and information services, government’s approach to information sharing needs to change. Whether it is private firms such as Earth911.org or Nature.com that provide public services or grass roots communities and soccer moms that are spearheading involvement, governments need to understand the communities that serve as conduits of information for the public. Agencies are also relying on these tools to raise the level of conversation with their customers. The Toronto Transit Commission, for example, is using feedback from transit users frustrated by the lack of customized trip guidance to implement changes to its 10-year-old website. Local bloggers solicit input on behalf of the TTC, which the Commission subsequently incorporates into plans for the next major version of its site. This partnership allows the TTC to provide real-time information on service delays and help disabled users schedule trips online. Future services will include personalized maps to help riders get to their chosen destination.

4. Local is global (and vice versa). Avian flu, SARS, the war on terror, cyber-threats, financial meltdowns and a host of other concerns are both local and global in nature. The new generation of online tools can help governments collaborate on a global stage. Many of the challenges that societies face today have global origins and implications. Government leaders need to collaborate on a global scale if they are to be effective in addressing local concerns. For example, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is using its Evolution of Security blog to encourage communication between the TSA and passengers. By sharing background on the complex and rapidly changing security regulations in place at the nation’s airports, the agency makes its processes more transparent and maximizes the potential for compliance. The website also allows the TSA to more easily act on suggestions from travelers to improve workflow and increase security.

Overcoming fear of the unknown
Government leaders who are embracing Web 2.0 strategies and tools consistently say that the biggest hurdle to further adoption is fear of the unknown. Normally when governments embark on what they see as transformational changes, they begin with extensive planning, massive budget submissions and lengthy approval processes. This has the advantage, or perhaps illusion, of providing comfort that most of the unknowns have been considered and the risks mitigated.

Web 2.0 solutions don’t offer or require the lengthy pre-planning periods of traditional information technology projects. They can be up and running for little cost. But they are transparent and citizen acceptance can’t be predicted or contained in the way that e-government portals have been in the past. Governments will have to evolve their expectations accordingly if the resulting radically different interactive landscape is to survive and thrive.

At the same time, these are not unguided or unmanaged citizen interactions. Rather, they are intended to complement and support other more tradition

About this author

0 comments

There are no comments for this post yet.

Be the first to comment. Click here.

Innovations
 
In late March the ONS detailed the occupations in the UK...
 
Leadership, service delivery, change management, performance measurement, big data, transparency, digital...
 
As the labour market shifts from full-time work toward short-term and...
 
In this episode of CGE Radio, J. Richard Jones talks with...
 
We all know that innovation involves taking risk and accepting the...
 
My experience in government has spanned across municipal, provincial and now...
 
If your Deputy Minister asked you to identify a dozen communities...
 
In my previous post about Nesta’s  Digital Frontrunners , I introduced four challenges ...
 
“Innovation is a foreign word in the public sector.” “Public employees...
 
Over the years, governments have been adopting Lean management principles to...
 
We have been hearing quite a lot about superclusters. The Government...
 
Design labs make public services client-centred and system savvy, not merely...
 
Today the world is observing International Day of People with Disabilities. The...
 
One of the benefits of living in a federation is that...
 
Ontario Northland is a crown corporation that provides transportation solutions to...
 
The well-publicized scrap between Canada’s Auditor General and the Clerk of...
 
As a new professional working in government, I hear a lot...
 
Most people go into public service because they want to improve...
 
A healthy Canadian economy and opportunities outside of North America are...
 
Studies have shown that the global population will begin to decline,...
 
The US and other Western governments are sinking more money into...
 
By June 2017, the Public Engagement Team at the Privy Council...
 
A single team or lab could never create the volume of...
 
We are excited to share with you the May/June issue of...
 
Everyone wants to change, become more efficient, and drive better value...
 
In July 2017, a local company unveiled a “virtual statue” on...
 
High in the Arctic, the Inuksuk is a timeless cultural symbol...
 
We are excited to share with you the latest issue of...
 
Today’s global and local environments require public servants at all levels...
 
Welcome to the era of Smart Cities where connectivity will drive...
 
“Nearly every problem has been solved by someone, somewhere. The challenge...
 
Throughout Canada, healthcare systems are challenged by population growth, aging, and...
 
Almost every day, I read about a new driverless car or...
 
Making a successful digital transformation is tough. It can be costly,...
 
Transforming the way services are provided by governments to match the...
 
According to a recent McKinsey study there is a potential for...
 
On the global scene, technology has revolutionized and automated the work...
 
Recently, George Ross, Editor-in-Chief of Candian Government Executive sat down with...
 
Emerging technologies are getting faster and smarter. Cognitive capabilities, robotics and...
 
For over two days at the end of January this year,...
 
Today on CGE Radio, we speak with Craig Szelestowski, President and...
 
Canadian Government Executive (CGE) media team is excited to announce a...
 
For many years now, the buzz in government has been around...
 
It’s that time of year when some of us think reluctantly...
 
The adoption of new technologies provides many opportunities, poses unique challenges...
 
We are excited to announce that the October issue of Canadian...
 
Over the last two years, an ever-growing number of organizations around...
 
Canadian Government Executive is excited to announce the agenda for TechGov...
 
Canadian Government Executive Media (CGE) is pleased to welcome Microsoft as its Platinum Sponsor for...
 
We are happy to share with you the September 2017 issue...
 
We are pleased to provide you with an opportunity to help...
 
Innovation is vital in every sector; public service is no exception....
 
Canadian Government Executive Media (CGE) and CATAAlliance , Canada’s one voice for...
 
As social media becomes ever-more prevalent in the lives of today’s...
 
How does a mandate for innovation challenge evaluation? Increasingly, the public...
 
In 2016, Deloitte undertook a global internal audit research study on...
 
Excellence in leadership is instrumental in serving the public interest. New-age...
 
“Former Metro banker stole $73,000.”  “Enbridge sues ex-employee.”  “Woman stole $51,000...
 
The recent introduction of the new Government of Canada (GC) IT...
 
Innovation is prized and praised these days at work, even in...
 
As the Liberal’s assumed office, three big democratic reform ideas were...
 
The Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance (CATA Alliance) is Canada’s One Voice...
 
Orchestrating the transition from present to emergent leadership Millennial is the...
 
As ‘month 13’ for Canada’s Syrian refugee arrivals comes and goes,...
 
As governments around the world move towards the digital transformation of...
 
The way organizations recruit, shape and manage their workforce to find...
 
The promise of web 2.0 was the emergence of a user-driven...
 
Commodity Management (the official term for life-cycle asset management of goods...
 
Over the decades, technology has been grafted into governments around the...
 
We have all heard the sayings: “Home, sweet home”; “There’s no...
 
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, with its 28 independent member countries...
 
The rapid advances in digital technology, demographic and societal shift even...
 
The latest issue of Canadian Government Executive is currently available. Some...
 
Bill Gates once said that “Technology is just a tool. In...
 
The last few months have showed a complex and potentially ominous...
 
In the first year of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s term in...
 
Since 2010, experts and academics eager to connect “systems thinking” and...
 
After shifting its focus away from manufacturing smartphones, BlackBerry  announced yesterday that...
 
Earlier this year the Ontario Ministry of Health announced that it...
 
There is already a surging literature on the application of design...
 
As team Trudeau would tell it, this past summer saw spirited...
 
Rules and accountability are helpful in developing and standardizing processes but...
 
Today’s transformative movement towards a more digital and connected government is...
 
At last the the nostalgic fun of the CNE decends upon...
 
In this episode, we discuss the top stories from our latest...
 
Dispersed organisations can be very powerful structures. There is ample evidence...
 
The local electric vehicle industry just got a boost from Ontario...
 
Governments around the world are seeking to tap technologies such as...
 
The Public Health Agency of Canada has long been aware of...
 
Dispersed organisations can be very powerful structures. There is ample evidence...
 
Companies and governments continue to bemoan Shadow IT. Many respond by...
 
The annual APEX Symposium, which is the largest gathering of federal...
 
Protests by irate taxi drivers, roadside scuffles involving cabbies and Uber...
 
Public sector design thinking has evolved from obscurity to something of...
 
LAS VEGAS – Global cloud provider E MC Corp. , has launched a...
 
Here’s some bad news for organizations contemplating projects that have something...
 
Two years ago, Bixi, a not-for-profit, para-municipal bicycle-share firm of the...
 
In January, the BBC and BuzzFeed jointly released an exposé on...
 
Things just get curiouser and curiouser. Lewis Carroll (1865): ’s Adventures...
 
As Toronto’s city staff prepares top release proposed regulations for taxis...
 
If the government intends to push economy-boosting measures, Canadian business leaders...
 
The Department of Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED) Lab is...
 
Nearly half of Canadian organizations are falling behind on implementation of...
 
The Ontario government and telecom gear maker Huawei Canada yesterday announced...
 
Over the last decade we have seen many changes in the...
 
The idea of converged infrastructure and converged systems in the datacentre...
 
VMware is zeroing in on DevOps and day-to-day concerns of IT...
 
Written by Jason McNaught It took approximately 18 years for carbon...
 
Public sector innovation, once dismissed as a contradiction in terms, is...
 
Changes to the Build in Canada Innovation Program (BCIP) will help...
 
Innovation (design or change) labs are the hottest thing in government....
 
The rapid growth of unmanned systems for military applications has been...
 
sharing and checking into Google Plus regularly; that only leaves brands...
 
The economic development agencies of 12 municipalities have banded together to...
 
The City of Grande Prairie in Alberta has received a “green...
 
Governments and managers can promote innovation in Canada by crafting a...
 
Two weeks ago, CGE wrote about the selection of Toronto as...
 
Despite the international media circus created by Mayor Rob Ford, Toronto...
 
A regulator’s job is to fulfill its mandate in the public...
 
but what does this mean when plugged back into your starting...
 
Innovate Manitoba is a not-for-profit community-based organization established in 2012 to...
 
as articulated in Thaler and Sunstein’s book of the same name...
 
or is this more or less a way to talk about...
 
Whether we are welcoming advanced technology into our homes, driving vehicles...
 
“Innovation” might be an overused buzzword in defence and security circles,...
 
Ontario and Alberta have joined forces to encourage the development of...
 
For government to fulfill its mandate of serving citizens, considerable spending...
 
The need to innovate has become so common a goal in...
 
While not all cities are created equal, great competition should bring...
 
It has long been postulated that tidy desks are more conducive...
 
In “Public sector, disrupted”, a recent study published by Deloitte, a...
 
We are only at the first phase of the Digital Age...
 
In Smarter Information, Smarter Consumers, www.hbr.org, Richard H. Thaler and Will...
 
A Saskatchewan team of geologists, physicists and palaeontologists is hunting for...
 
The judges are in place. The clock is ticking. The best...
 
At first glance, federal defence scientists focused on research supporting the...
 
What is British Columbia doing to change its approach to scientific...
 
In a knowledge-based global economy, continuous innovation is crucial to enable...
 
There is no reason for Canada to be an innovation and...
 
Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Environment is leading a new approach built on...
 
Governments have long known that although across-the-board percentage cuts may meet...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.4 April 2007 Education, creativity, research and innovation play...
 
CGE Vol.14 No.3 March 2008 Innovation is one of those concepts...
 
CGE Vol. 14 No.5 May 2008 Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty spoke...
 
Today, thanks largely to the internet, the kind of creativity and...
 
When William Eggers wrote his landmark book, Government 2.0, in 2005,...
 
What exactly is hunger and why is it an important global...
 
En décembre 2008, la fonction publique de la Colombie-Britannique a lancé...
 
La fonction publique de l’Ontario œuvre dans la lutte contre les...
 
The Ontario Public Service has been in the business of putting...
 
In December 2008, the BC Public Service launched Spark, an internal...
 
Once seen as stable, even glacial, the public service is now...
 
D’abord vue comme stable, même figée, la fonction publique connaît maintenant...
 
Au cours de ma longue expérience auprès de différents ministres d’allégeances...
 
Le leadership au sein des organismes du secteur public est l’un...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.8 October 2007 A modern public service is one...
 
Quote of the week “An innovative APS starts with individual public...
 
Le plus souvent, toutefois, nous devons nous affairer activement à trouver...
 
Sometimes innovation happens serendipitously – a Eureka moment, when the answer...
 
2012 has the potential to be an important year for Canadian...
 
As the Ontario Public Service readies for its involvement this April...
 
TED is a non-profit community devoted to the theme of “Ideas...
 
Becoming an innovative organization takes more than a call to “be...
 
Thousands of other research projects in Canada have become a reality...
 
Conducting a large number of detention reviews under difficult conditions and...
 
How can we increase productivity, build resilience and enhance quality of...
 
Innovation is critical and urgent as public servants continue to improve...
 
To the reporters who’d gathered in the Alberta Legislature press room,...
 
Robert Louis Stevenson a déjà affirmé que « la politique est...
 
You’ve made a good choice. If you’re in the public sector...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.10 December 2007 David Crombie, former Toronto Mayor, Conservative...
 
Some title Some author
Some excerpt
 
Some title Some author
Some excerpt
 
Some title Some author
Some excerpt
 
Some title Some author
Some excerpt
In late March the ONS detailed the occupations in the UK...