Andrea DiMaio

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Andrea Di Maio
Managing VP
15 years at Gartner
28 years IT industry

Andrea Di Maio is a managing vice president for public sector in Gartner Research, covering government and education. His personal research focus is on digital government strategies strategies, Web 2.0, open government, cloud computing, the business value of IT, smart cities, and the impact of technology on the future of government Read Full Bio

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Digital Divides Will Not Stop Government 2.0: Do Not Wait For A Crisis To Find Out

by Andrea Di Maio  |  August 30, 2009  |  5 Comments

In several papers, conferences or client inquiries I am hearing the same argument, over and over again: unless you are a digital native, you are not going to buy any soon into social networking, so there is no chance it will happen unless (1) everybody has (high speed) Internet access and (2) a generational change happen in society that makes all this really relevant. On the latter, a comment to a previous post stressed that 95 percent of non-digital natives (i.e. people born before 1985) are unable to digest or even understand what the “digital age” can offer

Let me offer two counter-arguments.

The first one is what I said in a previous response about the “indirect effect” of online social networks. Even if not everybody can actively access the Internet, she may know a digital native who does (a relative, a friend, a young social worker, etc): in other terms the use of web 2.0 by digital natives is going to have an impact on other parts of the population.

The second one is that if the stake is high enough, digital immigrants will actually change their behaviors. Looking for a good school for one’s kids, finding the best hospital for a delicate surgery,  understanding how to minimize the consequences of having evaded taxes after being caught, finding a new job or overcoming the main challenges of becoming self-employed: for each of these “life events” (and many more), people do value any advice they can get. If they realize that the Internet and social networks in particular can help get that advice, they will join.

There are plenty of examples of people who are unlikely Internet or social software users who have changed attitudes rather quickly: elderly people who use webcams and chat lines to keep in touch with distant relatives, middle-aged teachers who venture into Facebook to stay closer to their students,  interior designers who join non-expert communities discussing how to furnish their house. As I said, if the purpose is clear, if the stakes are high, people will learn quite quickly.

Government executives should not believe to those who say that this will take a generational change. Take Influenza A as an example. Besides the fact that people already rely on the Internet to gather information beyond what governments and health organizations officially state, what do you think they would do in case of a major outburst or of draconian measures taken to contain further spreading? J

Just today I read that some countries are contemplating scenarios where the start of the school year could be delayed indefinitely, until vaccines are tested and intensive care availability is properly assessed. What would people do if their kids do not start school when planned? What would teachers do? Don’t you think that social networks would become the primary conduit for information, peer support and trust building? If this is the case, how will government employees exercise their role, when they are not even allowed to access social media?

5 Comments »

Category: social networks in government     Tags: , ,

5 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Paul Nash   August 30, 2009 at 4:09 pm

    I think it’s time to stop! It’s time to stop and think about what it is we really mean by Gov 2.0. In a sense Mr DiMaio is right, the progress towards government enabled by web 2.0 technology should not stop because of digital inclusion issues. That said, digital inclusion issues should not be trivialised nor should they be ignored for the more government becomes gov 2.0 the more people become excluded for want od digital oppotunity.

    To my opening point, I don’t think we fully understand what we mean by gov 2.0. Rule number one, always make sure that you are talking about the same thing. To some people gov 2.0 is little more than the repurposing of raw government data for value added use by citizens. To other’s it’s government web sites which offer opportunities for citizens to comment on government services. Yet we fail to understand that the true potential for gov 2.0 is the opportunity for government to transform through dialogue with citizens.

    Citiezen voices are still not heard – social media is not providing the sheer volume to make that a reality – government is not listening. What are the reasons for that? What are the barriers to true gov 2.0. Is it technology, is it organisational cultre – what?

    So let’s stop tap dancing around the different interpretations of Gov 2.0 – rule 2, just because you had a good experience doesn’t mean you have the answer – discuss the experience, not the solution – let’s sit down and discuss why people are not being listened to and why government is incapable of change in the current climate – then we might know why we should progress with gov 2.0 and we might also appreciate why we should worry more about digital exclusion!

  • 2 Twitter Trackbacks for Digital Divides Will Not Stop Government 2.0: Do Not Wait For A Crisis To Find Out [gartner.com] on Topsy.com   August 30, 2009 at 7:14 pm

    [...] Digital Divides Will Not Stop Government 2.0: Do Not Wait For A Crisis To Find Out blogs.gartner.com/andrea_dimaio/2009/08/30/digital-divides-will-not-stop-government-20-do-not-wait-for-a-crisis-to-find-out – view page – cached [...]

  • 3 links for 2009-08-30 « riverrun meaghn beta   August 30, 2009 at 11:07 pm

    [...] Digital Divides Will Not Stop Government 2.0: Do Not Wait For A Crisis To Find Out n several papers, conferences or client inquiries I am hearing the same argument, over and over again: unless you are a digital native, you are not going to buy any soon into social networking, so there is no chance it will happen unless (1) everybody has (high speed) Internet access and (2) a generational change happen in society that makes all this really relevant. On the latter, a comment to a previous post stressed that 95 percent of non-digital natives (i.e. people born before 1985) are unable to digest or even understand what the “digital age” can offer [...]

  • 4 Brian Ahier   August 30, 2009 at 11:38 pm

    Understanding Gov 2.0 is still evolving. The definition is dynamic, not static. Check out the Gov 2.0 Summit:

    http://www.gov2summit.com/

    Discovering and overcoming the barriers to Government as a platform is a process that is only now beginning…

  • 5 David Tallan   August 31, 2009 at 12:07 pm

    To those who would write something like “95 percent of non-digital natives (i.e. people born before 1985) are unable to digest or even understand what the “digital age” can offer” I think that the easiest rebuttal is simple facts.

    I remember recently reading the demographics of some of the more “out there” platforms: Twitter and Second Life. They average ages from both were well above what you would expect (and certainly indicated a popluation that was not composed principally of “digital natives”).

    If non-digital natives are able to understand and operate in these environments, I don’t think Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, or whatever Gov 2.0 platform we come up with will be too much for them.

    Sure there may be some that won’t want to use that channel. I know some digital natives that don’t want to use social networking. But the facts seem to show that the demographic divide is not as impenetrable as it is made out to be.