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 Sure, those are important, and the average government-issued BlackBerry is a little out of date.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?

About the Author

Mark Drapeau is director of public-sector social engagement at Microsoft. 

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