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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Why So Many Are Getting Government 2.0 Wrong

by Andrea Di Maio  |  October 16, 2009  |  26 Comments

Over the last several months I have stressed both the promise and the danger of the many activities around the use of web 2.0 technologies in and by governments, currently nicknames as “government 2.0” (incidentally, I am working on a research note with a formal Garner definition of this term).

Most of my criticisms to some of the common wisdom is the excessive focus on the role of organizations (e.g.. government institutions, parliaments, political parties) and the very limited concern for the role of individuals within those organizations.

There is a lot of talking about individuals, but they are citizens, i.e. somebody to whom government is a service provider. In previous posts I have already articulated the complexity of the relationships between government and citizens, and highlighted why government cannot simply be equated to a platform.

Now, as the biannual European E-Government Conference is approaching (it will be held in Malmoe, Sweden, on 19-20 November), I have come across a draft Open Declaration on Public Services in the European Union, which – as far as I understand – will be presented at the conference, where we can expect a ministerial declaration expressing the willingness of EU member states to continue pursuing initiatives around e-government, government 2.0 and the likes (this has been the same every other year for a few years now).

The Open Declaration is being finalized with the help of several people, in pure crowdsourcing style (could it be otherwise?). It is certainly an interesting initiatives, but surprises me for stating the obvious and missing the key point.

Don’t get me wrong. What is obvious to those who do research on Government 2.0 may not be to the “person in the street” or the average, not too IT-literate politician. Therefore it is very good to restate that the three core principles for European public services are

1.       Transparency:  all public sector organizations should be “transparent by default” and should provide the public with clear, regularly-updated information on all aspects of their operations and decision-making processes. There should also be robust mechanisms for citizens to highlight areas where they would like to see further transparency. When providing information, public sector organizations should do so in open, standard and reusable formats, but with full regard to privacy issues.

2.       Participation: government should pro-actively seek citizen input in all its activities from user involvement in shaping services to public participation in policy-making. This input should be public for other citizens to view and government should publicly respond to it. The capacity to collaborate with citizens should become a core competence of government.

3.       Empowerment: public institutions should seek to act as platforms for public value creation. In particular, government data and government services should be made available in ways that others can easily build on. Public organizations should also enable all citizens to come together and solve their problems for themselves, by providing tools, skills and resources.

Now read the above a few times. Do you find anything missing? There is transparency (some commentators suggest to add “openness”, but that does not really change the basics). There is participation (citizens get at the center of government processes). And there is empowerment (with the platform concept taken from O’Reilly).

What this declaration misses – and in my view it is a big miss – is the role of those who work in government, i.e. its employees. Indeed they are citizens, so they will participate and be empowered but… wait a minute… they are bound to a code of conduct that could somewhat constraint their ability to participate Further, they are likely to know more about government objectives, procedures, processes, than the average citizen. So, wouldn’t it be appropriate to single them out and finally recognize that they are an asset government should leverage, through a wise use of “government 2.0”?

I am still amazed to see how little employee-centricity there is in today’s government 2.0 conferences, debates, positions and articles. It is as if employees were considered legacy, just part of an organization that will be transformed, and not the real fuel and soul of those organizations.

Until when their role will be given equal dignity as “citizens”, government 2.0 will remain an interesting subject for discussion, will marginally contribute to service improvement,  but won’t realize a fraction of its potential.

What does it take to take a step in this direction? Is the Malmoe ministerial declaration going to say anything about government employees?

26 Comments »

Category: web 2.0 in government     Tags: , ,

26 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Paul Johnston   October 16, 2009 at 7:17 am

    I agree with you that empowering public sector employees (or improving internal collaboration) is a huge and vitally important issue. Maybe it should have been a fourth principle …

  • 2 Tweets that mention Why So Many Are Getting Government 2.0 Wrong -- Topsy.com   October 16, 2009 at 7:31 am

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  • 3 Philipp Mueller   October 16, 2009 at 8:15 am

    thanks for the great post! I think the confusion stems from the following issue: We collapse policy (how to involve stakeholders in the policy proces) and public value creation (how to structure proceses?).

    Gov20 impacts both. In the policy phase we can think how much participation/empowerment/transparency we want to assure a more democratic governance structure.

    In the public value creation phase we need to think about what is the most effective (maybe efficient) way of producing social goodsß

    More on the distinction at: http://www.philippmueller.de/the-logic-of-open-value-creation-2/

  • 4 david osimo   October 16, 2009 at 8:20 am

    Andrea I obviously disagree :)
    Things we write might seem obvious but the point is to give a structured and consistent nature – and to present it in an institutional context. As a sidenote, it is a totally voluntary effort where we lead “from the outside”, asking the EC to be included in Malmo – and we are thankful to them for accepting the “defi”.
    We couldnt’ include everything, employee’s role is included in the previous brainstorming exercise and will be included in the accompanying document.
    Most of all: it is an open effort, anybody could contribute and add your point to the priorities – you included!
    But in the end of the day, we launched this effort *precisely* to nail down the key issues. High quality disagreements such as yours are what we are looking for, much more than the vague agreements we always have on govt2.0. So thanks!

  • 5 Davied   October 16, 2009 at 9:32 am

    Andrea, now is the time for you to become a member of Civil Servant 2.0, the Dutch network for people (mostly civil servants) who are interested in the impact of web 2.0 on government ;-)

    Too often government 2.0 is associated with citizen participation alone, but it also has to do with a transformation in government bodies. See my 30 second speech for O’Reilly: http://vimeo.com/6396518

    That’s why Civil Servant 2.0 focuses on government 2.0 (outside), organization 2.0 (inside) and also on employee 2.0 (what do all these changes mean for civil servants?).

    So these three principles (in my words open, social and empowered) apply not only to government as an institution, but also to government organizations, how government is organized internally.

    More on this at http://about.ambtenaar20.nl and http://book.ambtenaar20.nl (translation by Google Translate).

  • 6 Mark Drapeau   October 16, 2009 at 10:39 am

    I appreciate the commentary, and I see the point you’re making, and I don’t disagree that the internal dynamics of a government organization and its employees is an important part of Gov 2.0 thinking.

    But a lot of it is \employee-centric\ – who do you think all the speakers at the Gov 2.0 events are? They’re people that work for the government in many cases.

  • 7 César Calderón   October 16, 2009 at 11:43 am

    Andrea, this time I´m agreed with David Osimo´s point of view.

    As far as I can see, there are no links between the empowerment idea in the manifesto with O´Reilly´s platform concept.

  • 8 Roger Smith   October 16, 2009 at 11:52 am

    Thank you for the great post. I appreciate your analysis of the the Govt 2.0 space and the role of the individual in this initiative. I would like to see a focus on companies providing the innovation here.
    I would love your feedback on a site I just launched in an effort to fill a small need here. It is an alpha cut and am continuing to innovate with a lot more features.

    http://govbe.com

  • 9 Jose M. Alonso   October 16, 2009 at 11:59 am

    For me, the title of the blog post is misleading. True that public servants are an important part of the equation but keep in mind, as David already highlighted, we are outsiders.

    I don’t believe this means we get Gov 2.0 wrong but that there might be several definitions of Gov 2.0 depending on the various points of view and needs. I’m afraid that providing an integral view is very difficult. Maybe we should add a fourth principle as Paul suggests, but I’m sure we’d get more requests, i.e. where’s the industry represented there? They are also consumers of public services, right?

    As an example of why some of us (probably all of us) take seriously role of public servants might be the #w3cegov document I co-edited and co-authored earlier this year where, IMHO, we said a strong thing or two about their role such as in \How Can Participation and Engagement Be Achieved?\ http://bit.ly/3ZhwZd

  • 10 Walter Neary   October 16, 2009 at 12:27 pm

    Great post. The role of an individual in a Gov20 setting is important, but most of what I read is about what ‘agencies’ are doing.

    Like many elected officials, I am guilty of often saying ‘government should be run more like a business.’ We often overuse that sentence to try to warm up the audience for any point we want to make. But sometimes it’s true. And this is an example of that. Businesses are finding that people (read: constituents of a government) like to get their services from a person who they get to know and who takes on the role of helping them.

    We’ve seen this is the rise of certain business social media stars such as Frank Eliason of my day-job employer, who is nationally known for both customer service and musing on this stuff. If you call up his posts and instead of reading ‘brand and business’ you read ‘government’ there’s quite a lot to think about whether ‘governments’ or ‘individuals in government’ should be the faces of Gov20.

    http://www.eliasonfamily.info/blog/?p=392
    http://www.eliasonfamily.info/blog/?p=593

  • 11 Steve Radick   October 16, 2009 at 12:42 pm

    Andrea – I’m not sure what government you’ve been following, but here in the U.S., this notion of “Gov 2.0″ is being primarily driven by the employees you mention. They’re the ones who are saying that things need to change, that social media has the potential to do it, and they’re the ones taking the risks to make it happen. People like Mark (commented earlier), Chris Rasmussen, Emma Antunes, Jeffrey Levy, Jack Holt, Steve Ressler, and hundreds more – that’s who is making Gov 2.0 happen. The O’Reilly’s of the world may get the publicity, but all they’re doing is calling attention to the boots on the ground who are actually driving it.

  • 12 Lilian   October 16, 2009 at 1:10 pm

    Overall, the adoption of e gov services is a wise move. It opens doors to hard-to-reach demographics with functionality makes information distribution faster, easier and more effective. Leaders that make it easy for citizens to obtain information and share concerns get high marks for transparency efforts and overall accountability; and that’s not just a good talking point – that’s good governance.

  • 13 S   October 16, 2009 at 10:52 pm

    While the U.S. federal level has some activity by employees, the real Govt. 2.0 deficit in America is at the state and local levels, where more direct governing happens. While it’s true what Steve says that many key people are influencing federal activities, states and locals do not have the same latitude and common purpose like the federal government. There are more than 4,000 local governments, 50 states (+DC) and one federal government (with many agencies). Trying to convince a majority of the 4,000 local government elected officials or top administrators to invest limited resources in social media is next to impossible. I wish much of the federal energy could be devoted to other levels, but what I read on Twitter and at other conferences is an echo chamber with the same people talking to each other about social media; I could name the same familiar names I see all the time, but I’ll refrain. So that’s one reason why Govt. 2.0 is going wrong — it’s not consistent across all levels of government and frankly the federal government has less impact on people than local government or even state government. Another reason is the simple fact that most local govts don’t have the resources to maintain true social media presences and do the true Web 2.0 things like transparency. Is this economy and dwindling local govt funds, there’s little time for most govts to do things other than traditional media relations, which is a shame because that’s so outdated. All in all, Govt. 2.0 needs more attention and love at the local levels rather than everything federal, federal, federal in the U.S.

  • 14 pizzican   October 17, 2009 at 4:23 am

    I think the issue raised id very important, but I don’t see it as “missing part” of the declaration.
    In my view, the Open Declaration expresses what we, as citizens and civil society, ask to the government/public sector to be the characteristics of European Public Services.
    “How” those characteristics will be implemented necessarily involve the discussion about organization of the public sector and the role of public employees (by the way, I’m on of them).
    This discussion should be continued after the presentation (and we hope endorsement) of the Open Declaration in Malmoe.
    And in this discussion the Web 2.0 approach could suggest interesting solutions in the internal organization of the Public Sector.
    Thanks to Andrea di Maio for having raised the issue.

  • 15 Davied   October 17, 2009 at 4:46 am

    Mark, Steve, if we want to build a government 2.0 it’s not about people like Steve Ressler (or Mark, indeed), but about _all_ the Govloop members. We need early adopters, but we have to aim for the mainstream of the civil service.

    I noticed at the Gov 2.0 Summit that most examples and speeches there were about services for citizens. A lot of great stories. But if we really want to make the step towards government 2.0 we need more examples like Intellipedia, etc.

    External transparancy, participation and empowerment are very important, but they can only succeed if the same (r)evolution takes place within government organizations: changing the internal culture, providing tools and educating civil servants.

  • 16 Tony Bovaird   October 17, 2009 at 7:01 am

    I think that we’re really discussing ‘governance 2.0′, not simply ‘government 2.0′. But since the label is now widely recognised, and we’re probably going to stick with it, then Davied is right to develop a civil servant 2.0 for those inside administrations who want (and need) to use social media for service improvement purposes.

    However, it makes me nervous to see approaches to ‘government 2.0′ that assume it’s JUST about increasing the voice and power of citizens and service users. Of course, it is very much about that. But it’s mainly about the dialogue between ALL stakeholders in governmental (and governance) structures and systems. Ensuring that citizens in particular benefit from more transparency, participation and empowerment is a particular priority right now, given how little these principles have been respected in the past. But we should be campaigning for these principles to apply all other stakeholders, too, particularly frontline workers and trade unions, given their current low positions of power. However, let’s explicitly celebrate the roles which service professionals, middle managers, top managers and politicans need to play, too. And the need for the three princiiples to apply to them, as well. (For example, backbench parliamentary politicians who are disempowered by power-freakish executives also deserve our active support).

    So, I’d like to propose that ‘government 2.0′ is defined as the use of modern technologies to enrich the dialogue between citizens and ALL other stakeholders in public services and public policy. Andrea, that’s a suggestion for your definitions section in the research note you are preparing!

  • 17 Tony Bovaird   October 17, 2009 at 7:06 am

    I think that we’re really discussing ‘governance 2.0′, not simply ‘government 2.0′. But since the label is now widely recognised, and we’re probably going to stick with it, then Davied is right to develop the concept of Civil Servant 2.0 for those inside public administration who want (and need) to use social media for service improvement purposes.

    However, it makes me nervous to see approaches to ‘government 2.0′ that assume it’s JUST about increasing the voice and power of citizens and service users. Of course, it IS very much about that. But it’s mainly about the dialogue between ALL stakeholders in governmental (and governance) structures and systems. Ensuring that citizens, in particular, benefit from more transparency, participation and empowerment is an especial priority right now, given how poorly they have been treated in respect of these principles in the past. But we should be campaigning for these principles to apply all other stakeholders, too, particularly frontline workers and trade unions, given their current low positions of power. Moreover, let’s explicitly celebrate the roles which service professionals, middle managers, top managers and politicans need to play – and the need for the three principles to apply to them, too. (For example, backbench parliamentary politicians who are disempowered by power-freakish executives also deserve our active support).

    So, I’d like to propose that ‘government 2.0′ is defined as the use of modern technologies to enrich the dialogue between citizens and ALL other stakeholders in public services and public policy. Andrea, that’s a suggestion for your definitions section in the research note you are preparing!

  • 18 Alorza   October 17, 2009 at 7:21 am

    Though I agree the point of the article, I dislike the title you chose. Your view adds value to the Open Declaration.

    I said it in Spanish.

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  • 20 Gwynne Kostin   October 18, 2009 at 10:48 pm

    I agree very strongly with Andrea’s point that the real value of government 2.0 is not about surface-level “discussions” with the citizenry or allowing comments on commercial networking sites. The value will come as government breaks down traditional silos and accomplishes the promise of Intellipedia–of streamlined and sensible ways for government to do business and provide services.

    This requires the participation and buy-in of not only government employees but of policy makers. Ultimately, the programs will be carried out by employees who need to be involved in this huge cultural change.

  • 21 Tad Reeves   October 20, 2009 at 2:50 am

    At Steve Ballmer’s keynote speech at SharePoint 2009 conference in Las Vegas, he implies that the takeup of social media will never happen in government and big business, due to corporate fears of their data being all over Facebook, etc. As you can see in the attached video, he suggests SharePoint is the answer.

    http://blog.webworldtechnologies.com/?p=16

    The points to discuss here are pretty obvious. I.e., will Facebook & Twitter actually be broad-scale adopted by Govt?

  • 22 Mick Phythian   October 25, 2009 at 5:23 am

    I have to support Tony Bovaird comments – this is ultimately about models of democratic government and the technology is only a tool in the same way that e-Gov is a service delivery mechanism. Gov 2.0 by itself has no influence if the elected representatives don’t pay attention, similarly, focusing too much on it disempowers those who won’t or can’t use it.

    As I found trying to employ social media as research tools, too many government bodies won’t give staff access – so we have a long way to go!

    Mick – http://greatemancipator.com

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  • 25 Emile van der Maas   October 28, 2009 at 4:26 am

    As a citizen ánd employee / civil servant I do agree that we are lacking in this discussion about Governement 2.0. It’s not that I do not see the advantages. On the contrary: it only takes to just thinks as a civilian and act as a governement employee.

    Problem is that primarily the management from governmental organisations like where I work, see this thus as an individual hobby from individual employees. Because, in there opinion, an emplyee at the governement has a working code and that is that he just has to follow orders and do what he or she is told to do.

    Spontaneous participation is unwanted and seen as a waste of time. On-line participation as a civil servant in Governement 2.0 activities and communities are not how management thinks that their emplyees should do their work. So no time for that. We keep stuck in the old way of working in old procedures, meetings, writing papernotes for internal use only.

    So let’s start to
    1 convince the mangement of governmental organisations that another way of working is possible.
    2 let’s make sure that resource (time, money) become available for, for example, a structural function like ‘web-moderator’ and
    3 let’s try and convince the managementof governemental organisations that participating in on-line web- or governement 2.0 activities are not just an unwanted waste of time and just personal hobbyism.

    Quite a task ahead I think, and I do agree with mr diMaio that there is a lack of empowerment to participate for the individual governmental employee.

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