Last month I expressed my reservations about the usefulness of mashup contests, i.e. those initiatives where people are invited to submit applications that use public data available on government web sites to create new view of that data. After the various AppsForDemocracy, AppsForAmerica, INCA and others, it is now the Australian mashup contest to capture my attention.
I am in Sydney at the Gartner Symposium and I just met a client from a federal government organization, who seems to get web 2.0 right and expressed his doubts about the kind of response met by the Australian mashup contest. I have not reviewed it in any detail, but it seems to mimic, both in quantity and in quality, what we have seen in previous contests.
I am not really surprised. In fact, for how widespread web 2.0 use is, those who are able and have time available to write an app and submit it are still in a minority. “Citizen developers” will be a reality in a few years time, but are still an exception today. Yet, citizen do use social media to gather together and discuss issues that matter to them. These communities are the best place to socialize data and make people think about mashups. So the real question is how to get their ideas as opposed to the usual geeks’ and web 2.0 enthusiasts’ ones.
What are government 2.0 strategic planners doing to bridge that gap? In my humble opinion, not much. The only way to bridge the gap is to empower government employees to reach out to those communities and socialize data. But, again, how many government organizations have any such plan?