Gov 2.0 expectations could outrun reality

Devices, data and apps are proliferating, but the defining factor for the next wave will be how useful they are.

Gov 2.0 and open government have been flourishing for a few years now, in part inspired by innovations from leading tech companies Google and Amazon; social media sites such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter; and mobile devices such as iPhones and iPads.

White House officials have adopted those technologies and pushed a Gov 2.0 and transparency agenda that will continue to generate much activity in the next five years, though that momentum could be derailed by extremely tight fiscal conditions or political shifts. The outlook for adoption of new tools appears promising, even in the face of limited funding, because the social tools tend to be relatively less expensive in comparison to development of new systems, and because the cost of mobile devices is falling.

Experts predict that the public’s demand for such capabilities, exemplified by sites such as Data.gov, will only increase.

As more and more governments around the world release data, the public is becoming more sophisticated about what type of data it expects to be available, said John Wonderlich, policy director at the Sunlight Foundation, a transparency advocate.

“The biggest driver will be changing expectations of what data the government should be sharing,” Wonderlich said. “In five years, much more information will be released.”

Citizens as customers and citizens as active participants in democracy will drive those changes, he added.

The initial push was to get Data.gov and raw data online as quickly as possible, but the next wave of activity will focus on making the data more useful and usable, said Gavin Baker, federal information policy analyst at OMB Watch.

“Governments are releasing data but often without much idea of what they hope to accomplish by doing so or how people would actually use it,” he said. Although that’s a good first step, he said he anticipates more user feedback and “an increasing emphasis on use and usefulness” in the next phase.

He also expects public agencies to  engage citizens at earlier stages of the process of releasing data, again with an emphasis on how to organize and release the data most effectively to create the greatest benefits, he said.

Apps for smart phones are another area where Gov 2.0 is poised to expand, said Tom Suder, co-chairman of the American Council for Technology/Industry Advisory Council's Advanced Mobility Working Group and strategic adviser to the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Simulation and Training.

The forces behind the creation of more than 70 free federal mobile apps to date show no signs of stopping, he said. Enterprise mobile devices for the federal workforce are likely to move more slowly due to security concerns, but some agencies will clear those hurdles more quickly than others, Suder said, especially if they have employees who would benefit from that sort of flexibility.

“Enterprise mobility would be very useful for federal jobs like food inspectors,” Suder said. “I think it will be ubiquitous.”

Read more of Federal IT's next act or return to the 2011 Federal List.

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