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Global: Gov 2.0 Challenges the Service Delivery Paradigm
Source: governmentnews.com.au
Source Date: Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Focus: Internet Governance
Created: Oct 14, 2010

In the past, government departments used the Internet as a one way street to disseminate selected information to the public. The department decided what information was provided, how it would be provided and how it could be accessed. At best interactivity was limited to a telephone number or an email address that the public could use to get help or obtain further information.

Web 2.0, and conversely, Government 2.0 is about moving the government ‘provider’ paradigm towards an environment where government departments and the public interact and collaborate to make the best use of information and services, sometimes coming up with new services and ways to use information that would never have been thought of without this collaborative approach.

To best understand how Government 2.0 works, it is important to define some of the new terminology. In the older paradigm, government information would be put up on pages of a website or a closed wiki, which is a website that is easier for the department to update but which the public cannot contribute to. Since there are often many different sources of information, pages of links would be consolidated into a portal so that the public could find the information they required without having to know which department website to access.

Web 2.0 is about interaction, which may, at a simple level incorporate a blog where the department puts up information and the public can contribute comments, or an open wiki where both the department and public contribute to the same information store.

At a more advanced level, Web 2.0 can incorporate open data, where government information is freely accessible in a form that can be manipulated by third party programs (apps). The public and private sector may collaborate in government sponsored hack days (see govhack.org) to develop innovative apps to access, process, add to and find new approaches for the use of this information.

Web 2.0 in government is now much less about portals and websites, which are still mainly ‘push’ and much more about open data, mash-ups, hack days and app development. These apps not only fully utilise the large amounts of data that governments have at their disposal but add new avenues for the collection of data that no one has even thought of before, fostering collaboration and engagement.

Social media is another avenue government can use to better communicate with the public. Social media, as the name suggests, is about sharing and collaborating around information and should include mechanisms whereby members of the public can share sources of information (via Twitter, Facebook etc).

Many government departments and agencies require avenues for feedback, discussion and conversation but aren’t ready for the results of those conversations in a Web 2.0 environment where people engage. Nevertheless, in most cases the learning from these collaborative enterprises far outweighs the discomfort they may cause at the start.

Already hack days and mash-ups (see www.mashupaustralia.org) have yielded some amazing applications that allow the public to interact with the government in very innovative ways. Know Where You Live accesses ABS data and presents it in a very user friendly manner whereas the “It’s buggered mate” application allows members of the public to notify their local council of things that are broken and need fixing.

In order to take full advantage of Web 2.0 there are five things that government departments need to do.

- Listen to their people more. The biggest single initiative that a department can take is to give the advocates inside the department the freedom to innovate and come up with new and interesting ways to engage constituents around issues and data.

- Share information. Government can get the message out via social media such as Facebook, Twitter, email or YouTube much faster and in many cases as (or more) effectively as traditional media channels.

- Work with the private sector – in many cases applications, campaigns, software and social networks that are created in a private sector context can be easily and cost effectively repurposed or utilised in the public sector.

- Look at what is happening in other departments, sectors and levels of Government. There are many cases of innovative use of Web 2.0 technologies and thought processes in governments around the world. My advice is to research those and look at what they are doing before moving into the space and if possible create direct connections with the people responsible (again social media is an ideal vehicle).

- Keep it simple! The simpler it is to access the data, utilise the mash-up, share the information or just get involved, the more likely you will find the collaborative group that you are looking for.

Government 2.0 is not just about new technologies; rather it’s a way of looking at the relationship with the public based upon collaboration, sharing information and ultimately interacting with the public online. Government 2.0 is now, so it is vital that departments really need to get on board and embrace this paradigm, enabling them to develop new and exciting ways of managing information for and building relationships with the public.
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