Gov 2.0 is Not Cool Tech

I’m generally fond of cool tech. I recently bought an iPad, and it’s pretty sweet. I read Wired’s big cover piece on tablet computing, and I agree it has transformational potential. I’ve got a touchscreen desktop, too, and I know of a local school using touchscreens to great effect in special needs education. I love municipal wifi and Australia’s national broadband plan. I see cloud services dramatically reducing infrastructure costs for businesses an government. I like it when politicians and elected officials use social media.
But none of this is Government 2.0. Sen. Claire McCaskill tweeting and reading PDFs on her iPad is not Gov 2.0. The federal government saving hundreds of millions with cloud computing is not Gov 2.0.
Fooling ourselves that adoption of new tech tools and toys is Gov 2.0 is the equivalent of settling for ‘clean coal’ as green energy. It is consignment of the future to the broken past.
If Sen. McCaskill used MixedInk or another mass collaboration tool to write legislation, that would be Gov 2.0. When Manor, TX, convenes technologists and process experts to give a free civic infrastructure makeover to another small town, that’s Gov 2.0. Code for America creating a safe space for governments to share code? Gov 2.0. Same for OpenPlans and its efforts to create a standard API for 311 non-emergency services access. But just because Gov 2.0 is getting cool, let’s not confuse it for public officials using cool tech and doing the same old things.

5 thoughts on “Gov 2.0 is Not Cool Tech

  1. Adriel,

    Very true points.

    It seems in most government cases I’ve encountered, it is the CIO and/or CTO, not the heads of communication, outreach, policy development etc., who present the bright and shiny new ideas to executive committees.

    The buzz words continue to focus on the tools rather than the objectives and approaches and I think many of us in the Gov 2.0 sphere are responsible for contributing to that.

    And so, let’s look at those ‘same old things’ and see how we can bring efficiencies and civic openness to them. It will take revamped internal processes and skills in many cases…oh, and maybe even a spot of new technology but let’s not focus on that 😉

    Cheers and thanks.


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  3. Yep. ‘Nuff said. 😉

    @Martha: at least at EPA, most of the ideas for using social media are coming from program folks and communications staff, not IT leads. And when our IT folks do suggest stuff, it’s with their content/comms hats on. So there’s a bright spot, anyway.

  4. Very true, Adriel. Working in the world of online science information, I see all too often that it’s easy for folks to redesign a web site so it looks more current and slick, but the content and functionality is still c. 1998.

    But I do think part of the failure comes from how we talk about things: we need to refocus on the purpose and not the tool. We applaud when Agency X starts a blog or Elected Official B gets on twitter, when the real focus and discussion should be on what they are doing with it, how it’s fostering engagement, transparency, and communication. (And, I definitely include myself in that “we”)

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