Tag Archives: government 2.0

Aaron Brazell

BART Says: We Can (or Want to) Do Wireless!

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.

imagesBut 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? ;)

Aaron Brazell

Security Problems and Government 2.0

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.

Aaron Brazell

If You're a Government 2.0 Guru, You have no Business in Government 2.0

This past week, we witnessed history with the election of President Barack Obama. He is certainly America’s first black president, but unfortunately, that’s where the highlighted differences seem to end. Little coverage is given to the fact that he is also the first Gen-X president. He is the first tech savvy president. And of course, he is the first “internet president”, having used social media and the netroots effectively.

Even WhiteHouse.gov is seeping with Web 2.0 goodness (though admittedly, it is not quite as savvy as Change.gov, the official transition team site of the Obama administration).

Conventional wisdom says that the federal sector is about to change dramatically. That the adoption of a national Chief Technology Officer, and the pledge to open up the doors and windows of government to the public, will bring about new opportunities for an online world that thrives on transparency and open dialogue. There is no reason to believe that this will not be the case.

Along comes the newest buzzword of the day, Government 2.0. As with anything that includes a software-styled decimal iteration, this heralds a new and improved government. A better one that offers more functionality, usability and interactivity.

Geoff Livingston points out, accurately, that this new openness in government has apparently created a sector of carpetbaggers that have labeled themselves “experts” in the field. I think his cynicism is warranted. Capitalism at work. Anything to make a buck.

Here’s the stark reality of the Government 2.0 space: There are very few gurus and taking on that mantle will doom your ability to work in the sector.

Let me explain.

There are actual real experts that have been toiling for years trying to get government to adopt new and innovative technologies, communication channels and bringing a forward thinking mentality to those in service. These folks have had a degree of micro-success, but it’s been limited since the government, as a whole, is not very open. It’s changing – possibly a result of the hard work put in by these experts – but it’s still a very closed space. Those experts are experts because they’ve put in their time, toiling and pushing and fighting the system. They understand the system, as it is, not simply as they would like it to be. They recognize the need to work within the constraints that have governed the government for many years with a hope that they can change it over time. They are experts because they are not flash in the pan and know it will take a long time.

See, they understand that two governments exist. There is the elected government which changes every 4-8 years and sometimes longer (in the case of Congress and State legislatures). As well, there is an established government – career feds who are never fired, and rarely quit their jobs. They just move between agencies with established patterns and principles in tow. They are the foot soldiers who actually do the work. The established government is where the real change begins.

Very few of the so called experts can truly be experts by any reasonable standard. They have appeared on the scene in recent months, read the blogs and brushed up on their government-fu. They probably come from traditional, and sometimes social media communications backgrounds. They have been working with small companies in the web space or otherwise, and expect the principles which have governed their trade to transcend the halls of Commerce, Agriculture, State and Defense. Therefore, they believe, they are experts.

What they don’t realize is that their self-branding actually poses the risk of hurting their business – especially if, in a down economy, they expect to sustain their business in a new an growing sector. What they 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.

Are they looking for complete rookies? Hardly. But they are looking for the chops to brave this new world with some degree of sanity.

If you’ve got those chops, you might become an expert. Chances are, though, if you lie to them and say you’re an expert now, they simply won’t hire you.