A few days ago the Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies at the General Services Administration finally launched apps.gov NOW (in beta since August) a set of tools that federal employees can use to support their open government plans and engage citizens. The toolkit includes a blogging tool, two wiki tools, a challenge tool (to launch challenges and idea contests) and two discussion forum tools.
Tools are hosted by GSA, pretty much like IdeaScale, which was instrumental in the preparation of most federal agencies’ open government plans, and are meant to be available to individual employees to support engagement objectives.
At this stage, GSA covers all bases of engagement support from a technology perspective. It is building a collaboration environment for internal purposes (FedSpace), access to mainstream social media platforms through specially negotiated terms and conditions to establish a presence on Facebook etc on apps.gov, and now tools that can be used to create government-driven engagement avenues.
I would argue that at this stage GSA has done as much as it possibly could to support each agency’s open government plan. It is now up to the agencies to make use of these and create a sustainable business purpose for open government that intimately relate to their mission.
With apps.gov NOW there is a great potential for employee-centricity. But in order for this to be fully realized, agencies need to address the last and possibly most difficult piece of the puzzle, i.e. strike the right balance between creating avenues for engagement and joining existing communities, between being a host and being a guest of collaboration platforms.
Yesterday I had the pleasure of meeting some of the staff at the Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies and was very impressed with the clarity of their purpose as well as the understanding of the challenges ahead.
I am usually quite critical of open government moves, but I think this may provide a solid foundation for sustainable engagement.