COMMENTARY

4 year-end predictions for government 2.0

Under no pressure from editorial staff at Federal Computer Week, I’ve forced this obligatory “end of year predictions” post on myself. People always ask me where I think government 2.0 is going anyway, so I may as well get some writing mileage out of it, right?

So, here are some non-exhaustive, somewhat creative and entirely debatable trends and ideas that I foresee taking shape in the next year or so.

1. Local governments as experiments. Increasingly, some of the most innovative ideas are being independently developed in small communities. For example, the tiny city of Manor, Texas, has launched Manor Labs to improve services. Residents sign up and suggest ideas for local services such as law enforcement, and their ideas are ranked by the community. Good suggestions are rewarded with “Innobucks” that can be redeemed for prizes. Innovative thinking plus government/resident interactions plus individual incentives can result in big wins for everyone involved. How can the federal government best stay in touch with local innovation?

2. The importance of citizen 2.0. Just as governments are adopting new media communications, cloud computing mentalities, and social networking skills, so are the people they represent. The implication is that if people want a Web site that mashes up environmental and tourist data, or desire open chat and dating platforms for service members stationed overseas, or find out what their member of Congress does every minute of the day, they might just find a way to do it themselves. Early examples like ChicagoCrime.org showed that it was possible, but with people flocking to smart phones, niche social networks, and unconferences, how long will it be before the people are beating the government at its own game?

2. Mobile devices. Most discussions I hear about — everything from social media to cybersecurity — concentrates on desktop computers plugged into a wall. Sure, those are important, and the average government-issued BlackBerry is a little out of date. But soon those mobile devices will be replaced and upgraded, and employees will increasingly demand advanced capabilities like access to social networks such as LinkedIn and Facebook, embedded cameras, and customized applications (“apps”) for news and other functions. What are the implications for government when an iPhone is in many ways more powerful than a laptop?

4. Crude video content. High production value for Internet-only video is overrated. Sometimes, if a video targets a highly specific niche audience, great content is good enough. A small company named Demand Media, valued at $1 billion, creates thousands of videos a day and posts them on YouTube and other places – more than many other “media companies” combined. Its business model involves a specific algorithm that predicts highly specific questions people are likely to ask – “What’s the best color to repaint a red Camaro?” – and then assigns freelancers to film crude videos as appropriate. People have a lot of questions about their government – how well are they getting answered?

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Reader comments

Mon, Jan 11, 2010 Chris Parente DC Metro

Mark -- good stuff, except for number number four. Sounds from your descrip that basically Demand Media is filming video FAQs. But with Gov't 2.0 we don't have to GUESS what citizens want, they'll tell us, correct?

Tue, Jan 5, 2010 Barry Virginia

My prediction would be that after experiencing a couple of years of the chaos that the Web 2.0 world can bring to governing, major public institutions will realize--and begin saying: 1) that for more than two centuries when government has worked properly, it is because honest, virtuous people have controlled it, regardless of the level of technology employed, and 2) when it hasn't, it is usually because the people controlling it did not understand or follow the basic precepts on which it was designed... So hopefully we will begin talking and thinking not about "government 2.0" but instead about "better government in a 2.0 world." Some reading this will see this as a distinction without a difference... and that is exactly my point.

Tue, Jan 5, 2010 CalBoy Sacramento California

Technology has been wagging government for a while: the costs associated with leading edge tech in this economy are breaking governments. One has to ask,"what is it I want", rather than,"I need to be prepared for the new tech thrust. Perhaps we take a breather from buying additional products, and use the (amazing amount of) existing capacity/processing/distribution, and wait for solid, cost effective, proven, useful expanded tech.

Wed, Dec 30, 2009 Peter B. Meyer Arlington, VA

Experimentation outside government can sometimes be much easier than within government, so we may see an expansion of government-like services offered by outside companies, nonprofits, and hobbyists. E.g. there might be web sites outside government that help with the front end of making a request to a service agency ("put a sign up at Louisiana Ave"), or getting official statistics in the desired form, or enabling communication and cooperation between staff in different government organizations (e.g. GovLoop).

Wed, Dec 30, 2009 oracle2world

Nice list. (I guess you steer clear of the complete over the top WAGs.) #4 is the best new insight -- if the data are good, folks don't care much about how it is packaged. Video included.

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