Government 2.0 presents global opportunity

CAMBRIDGE, Md. -- Governments around the world are adapting emerging Internet technology, and at the Interagency Resources Management Conference here today, some of them described their successes and challenges.


"It is Government 2.0, not 'Web 2.0,'" said John Suffolk, the United Kingdom's chief information officer, at a panel discussion involving the United States, the U.K., New Zealand and Canada. 


The reason to make the distinction, is that the collection of tools that people think of as being part of the Web 2.0 family are tools, he said. Government 2.0 is a business approach revolving around the idea of opening the workings of government more directly to citizen involvement and input. How a government organization accomplishes that might or might not involve Web 2.0 technologies, he said.


All of the countries involved in the discussion have taken significant steps. In the U.K., citizens have the right to petition the prime minister's office on any issue, Suffolk said. Now they can do it online. In New Zealand, the government created a wiki so that citizens could offer their opinions on the rewriting of a longstanding law, said Laurence Millar, New Zealand's CIO.


The wiki drew much larger response than earlier efforts to solicit comments on social networks Facebook and MySpace, he added. The ability to build directly on what others have said seemed to make the difference.


Karen Evans, administrator of e-government and information technology at the Office of Management and Budget, said the overriding goal of Government 2.0 should be "taking government back to the citizens."


However, there remain some difficult issues, Millar said. One is the trend toward incivility among Internet posters. Shielded by the anonymity of an alias, some people choose to launch profane personal attacks rather than contribute to reasoned debate.


"You can get some fairly vicious comments made," he said. "We're seeing maturity on some sites, but we're still seeing a lot of the infantile invective that bedevils us."

About the Author

Technology journalist Michael Hardy is a former FCW editor.

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