OMB to explore Government 2.0
A deal with New Paradigm will help agencies craft e-gov strategies
Calling all N-Geners and social networkers Uncle Sam wants you. The Office of Management and Budget has enrolled federal information technology managers in an extensive international, multidisciplinary investigation of how to take advantage of collaborative Web technologies. Think of it as rebooting the 21st-century federal bureaucracy.
OMB signed up to participate in the multimillion-dollar Government 2.0: Wikinomics, Government and Democracy project run by New Paradigm, a Toronto think tank that specializes in analyzing the effects of emerging technology trends. Participants will produce case studies, convene conferences, survey young peoples attitudes toward government and receive consulting services.
OMB and the CIO Council have signed onto the project, which could include as many as 25 governments worldwide and a smattering of industry leaders and thinkers. OMB did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the agreement.
New Paradigm charges an annual membership fee of $150,000 for government agencies to participate. Other nonprofit entities pay $200,000. However, if agencies want to participate in ways beyond what OMB and the CIO Council are doing, they can join for a reduced fee, said Don Tapscott, New Paradigms chief executive officer and co-author of the book Wikinomics.
Much of the research and discussion will focus on what Tapscott calls N-Geners, young people between the ages of 13 and 29 who grew up during the Information Age.
This is a huge force for change, and the U.S. has 80 million young people between the ages of 13 and 29, Tapscott said. This is the Net Generation, and this generation is totally different.
He said the project focuses on helping local, regional, state and national governments use new Web technologies to transform themselves into more effective and more democratic public service institutions.
The project also seeks to help wealthy governments determine how they will manage a demographic shift that favors the developing world and how they can recruit and manage members of the Net Generation as employees.
The projects principal topics are grouped into six thematic areas: government and governance in the 21st century, the Net Generation and government, accelerating the transformation to individualized services, institutions and people, wiki politics, and enabling Government 2.0.
The initiative coincides with agencies struggle to attract young workers. To embrace new Web tools, governments will need to give up their traditional control over information in favor of collaboration, and some observers say that wont be easy.
Steve Kelman, a professor of public management at Harvard Universitys Kennedy School of Government, former administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy and a Federal Computer Week columnist, said he admires federal managers and employees who are experimenting with new Web technologies in such a hostile environment.
The message a lot of times from the White House
[is] not particularly conducive to the rapid adoption or experimentation with Web 2.0 or other innovations, Kelman said.
Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.