HP recently published a survey about how U.S. government IT professionals are looking at government 2.0 and the use of social media.
Not surprisingly results show that IT professionals are probably ahead of their colleagues in the business in understanding social media. However, the sample also reveals some degree of naivety in how they see the route to government 2.0. A first proof point is that
Respondents feel the best ways to encourage Gov 2.0 at their agency is through management and an increase of the technology budget.
Why should the technology budget be increased? In difficult times, social media can give new ideas about how to make government services sustainable with less money. How many times have we heard that, in order to reduce cost in the business one has to increase the technology budget? This makes sense with gov 1.0, but shouldn’t gov 2.0 offer new ways to do things less expensively also from a technology perspective? If one looks at the success stories around gov 2.0, many are based on the use of less expensive technology in the hands of the business.
Another interesting point is that
A little over half of all respondents feel that their agency understands what Gov 2.0 is, and that their agency puts more effort into implementing Gov 2.0 than other agencies do.
Reading this I am not even sure people understand what they are talking about. What is exactly gov 2.0 and on what ground some people believe they are doing better. Interestingly
Most respondents learn of Gov 2.0 resources and programs available to
government agencies through Web 2.0 companies
So how come they believe they are doing gov 2.0, while they hear about gov 2.0 from web 2.0 companies?
When asked about the main barriers to the adoption of gov 2.0, 40% say “security”, 21% say “lack of budget”, 14% say “lack of technical experise” and only 8% say “lack of a compelling reason”. While I assume that security is a concern for business people too (although maybe less from an infrastructure and more from an information perspective), I seriously doubt that lack of budget is stronger a reason than the lack of a clear business case.
When asked about benefits, 33% mentioned improved service to the public, 20% citizen participation, 20% collaboration between agencies, 18% transparency, but nobody mentioned efficiency and sustainability.
Even more depressing, the question about how to encourage gov 2.0 showed 31% for management taking the lead, 26% for increasing technology budget and 16% for examples of corporate best practice. The problem is that (1) gov 2.0 works from the bottom up and management must facilitate but not lead, (2) there is no reason why the technology budget should be increased and (3) government is hugely different from the private sector and several corporate best practices are either irrelevant or even counterproductive. Luckily enough a meager 15% mentioned the need to show value.
I would invite you to take a look at pages 17 to 19 of the survey where respondents were asked to describe an actual or planned gov 2.0 initiative in their agency: they mentioned agency blog, posting videos on YouTube, training, recruitment. Nothing extraordinary, nothing transformative, mostly an additional channel for traditional services. Some listed “setting up web systems” and “making information on web site easier to find”, which confirm how IT professionals are more interested in using these technologies to maintain and increase their footprint in their agencies, rather that to encourage their colleagues in the business do things in very different ways.
I guess that the bottom line of this is that IT professionals should help but not lead government 2.0. Its disruptive potential includes changing the relationship between IT and the business, challenging its current role in the enterprise, actively encourage users experiment with consumer technologies rather than ban or tolerate them. I am sure that the most enlightened CIOs and IT leaders in government get this, but this survey gives reasons for concern.