Lately, I’ve focused quite a bit in the government technology space. With the new administration and the apparent focus on open technologies and dialogue with the public, it is clear that government is going to become more transparent and will likely adopt (and maybe re-engineer) some of the technologies that the private sector has taken advantage of over the last five years.
Dan Mintz, formerly the CIO for the Department of Transportation reiterates my assertion, in an interview with ExecutiveBiz, that the Government knows that no one is an expert in this area but is willing to work with competent individuals and companies who are willing to partner in learning the space:
This is still an experiment so therefore “˜how this will play out’ will require people who are comfortable with experiments. The government has a tendency to be risk-averse, which is understandable. It will be very important for the leadership within the departments and agencies to provide support for people who are willing to do the experiments. The second important factor to remember is that it [2.0 activity] will be user driven, not IT driven.
In my earlier article on this matter, I stated:
What [self-described Government 2.0 experts] don’t realize is the government they wish to work with understands that Government 2.0 is new and that very few people are experts. The government, I believe, is looking to partner with people who have the chutzpah to become experts. Who have a firm grounding in communications principles and web savvy. They understand that the next year will make experts if the right candidates, firms and contractors are chosen. They are looking for people who have the savvy needed to guide and advise, with the understanding that it’s a completely new playing field. My instinct says that the government knows that they are getting prepared to experiment and want someone to experiment with.
Sounds like we are saying the same thing. It’s just a shame that Mr. Mintz is the former CIO of the Dept. of Transportation.
With all the talks of Government 2.0 lately, we haven’t talked about those who are embracing it in a meaningful (and useful) way. Peter Corbett and iStrategyLabs could be lauded for spearheading Apps for Democracy, a contest that brought Web innovation to the District with apps like iPark. Certainly, there are plenty of folks in the private sector chomping at the bit to do something useful for the government.
But shouldn’t we laud the governments that are actually listening to the public and trying their hardest to adjust?
Organizations like the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) who just posted a survey for Bay Area riders looking to understand the wireless needs of their customers. In other words, they are listening. It, of course, remains to be seen if they will follow through.
Wireless technologies (notably WiFi) are amazingly absent in mass transit. As far as I know, no US-based system has incorporated things like free (or even paid) wireless in their trains or buses (cannot support this with evidence, so I’m happy to be proven wrong).
Here in the District, Metrorail has wireless carrier access – if your wireless carrier is Verizon Wireless. In the Bay Area, iPhones rule the day and though I don’t live there enough to know if AT&T works underground there, I can say that giving the tech-heavy Silicon Valley access to their mobile devices will help bring along ridership. Ridership means fewer carbon emissions from fewer cars and a bonus to traffic. (We all know that Scoble is surfing the web on his iPhone while driving. Wouldn’t it be better if her used the train instead? ;)
The other day, I made a very serious point about the fad that is “Government 2.0″. I was pleased by the amount of attention it received and the large number of very reputable and poignant comments it recieved. However, it was largely a philosophical post, and did not provide anything concrete.
Today, that concrete example fell in my lap as I read this post by IT Security company, Websense. The post outlines how malicious users added an image to a “user generated” section of My.Barack.Obama. The image led to a trojan download site that is infecting user computers.
Granted, the MBO site is not a government site, but it is certainly related, wouldn’t you say?
Veteran federal IT Administrators are vicious about protecting internal systems and intranets. Trust me, I know. I come from a Lockheed Martin, CSC and Northrop Grumman background where projects I worked on were all government-facing or oriented. This is what we did.
For as much complaint as there is about the lack of transparency, the lack of public facing services that engage the public in a Web 2.0 way, I’d point out that there is a valid reason for it. I would love to see the Government opened up to more Web-savvy ways, but there are very tangible reasons why they are not!
This is also why Government 2.0 will not rule the day. At least not soon. Until there is a sensible way to prevent user-generated content from being user-generated security nightmares, such as this incident was, Government 1.0 will rule the day.
Security will always trump anything else and right now, there is too much opportunity for mischief to entrust the federal systems to user-generated anything.