My last meeting of the day was, as it often happens, the best. I met a fairly senior official in a state government who is tasked with web site consolidation, information management and engagement strategy. Quite a daunting task, but the person has clear ideas and looks determined, both useful qualities to be up to the challenge.
I was discussing about the likely conflicts between rationalizing online channels and providing the openness required to sustain citizen engagement, and we inevitably touched upon data.gov (and its emerging national incarnations across the world).
I have expressed my own doubts in the past about the possible unintended consequences of open government data and I have warned about the need to monitor the mashup process to make sure that the benefits of open data outweighs its risks- However she came up with a really interesting view by saying that
All this government data will just create spam
Wow, isn’t this a great line? While the common wisdom suggests that tons of public data set will unleash value and benefits for all, this makes us reflect not only about the potential risks but also about the nuisance of being inundated by data that may soon become irrelevant because of their quantity and frequency. Exactly like spam. Sometimes there is a little gem in there, a special offer, the opportunity for the trip of a lifetime, and we keep ignoring and filtering all that spam as best we can.
The last time I heard another senior official saying something counterintuitive about a fashionable topic (green IT) was almost two years ago, when the CIO of a local authority in the US told me that there is nothing greener than the dollar. We all know what happens afterwards: a financial crisis, a deep recession, and the only conversation left with clients were about how to save money on IT.
So maybe It is time for government 2.0 leaders to start addressing this. Throwing data out and hoping that this will just do good may turn out to be wishful thinking.