Once again today I had two subsequent meeting where people said that the main concern slowing down the adoption of Web 2.0 tools and approaches in government was security.
I do not want to underplay the very valid security concern, nor to suggest that government organizations should be any less careful about the threats posed by web 2.0. Whereas most of these are not dissimilar from those we have seen with on-line government and by allowing employees to simply go on the Internet, the frequency and severity of security incidents is likely to increase.
However, as I have said in my recent session “Government 2.0: It Is Not All Gold That Glitters” (both in Orlando and in Sydney), there is an even greater challenge than security, and this is relevance.
How can federal, state and local agencies be relevant on social networks? How can they provide content that is compelling and engaging for their constituencies? How can they complement, enrich or compete against online communities created by those same constituencies?
As i said in the past, the crux of the matter is (1) to empower employees to access external social networks (2) in order to find useful avenues to deliver value to both their constituencies and their agencies. Overcoming security concerns is a necessary condition, but not sufficient: agencies need to adopt frameworks that provide employees and their managers with the necessary tools (and I am not really talking about software tools here) to hunt for value in external communities by engaging with them on those communities’ terms.
This will be a personal challenge for employees and a management challenge for their agencies. People who have little familiarity with social networks may feel at loss. But also those who are – because of their age, their personal interests or both – much more familiar with social media, need to shift the emphasis of their participation toward maximizing the professional impact and value. Last but not least, people managers need to focus on outcomes rather than outputs.
So to some extent it is easier to claim that government 2.0 is made difficult (if not impossible) by security constraints than facing tough change management challenges that go at the very basis of what the role of a civil servant and of an institution should be.