While at the Gartner Symposium in Sydney, I was interviewed about my take about the progress of government 2.0 initiatives in Australia and worldwide. About a year ago I had been quite complimentary of the work done by the Government 2.0 Taskforce here, so the journalist was somewhat surprised about my skepticism, already expressed in my previous post covering a Gov 2.0 panel that I had the pleasure of moderating on November 15.
Not surprisingly the article has raised a few comments in Twitter, but it is interesting to note that most commentators agreed that, while the title is a bit sensational (Gartner Grades Gov2.0 a Failure),the content is accurate, pointing to my usual line about the insufficient emphasis on the role of employees.
This is actually the thing that I found most refreshing in the Gov 2.0 Taskforce reports in Australia. However, this got somewhat diluted (or implied) in the subsequent Declaration of Open Government. While I know that there are many people making a genuine effort at the Australian federal government level to make this work, I was also surprised by the number of federal clients that I met there and are still blocking access to most social networking sites.
So the problem is not that government 2.0 is failing. The problem is that it is not proceeding in those areas where most of the value can be accrued, i.e. the ability of employees to use social media as working tools.
We have to take Government 2.0 off the policy table and move it into the machinery of government, into bureaucratic processes, into transforming the way civil servants work.
I find that the three new realities mentioned in the Gartner Symposium keynote are absolutely spot on to describe where government 2.0 should be going:
- The power of unprecedented choice – Employees have now much greater choice about technology devices and platforms that can allow them to access information and people they could not access before.
- A Wild Open World – The days when information was contained within the four walls of any organization are long gone. Government employees need to be able to access external information to become more effective and efficient.
- A shift from output to outcome – Government employees must be measured by how they contribute to their agency’s objectives and not by the outputs they produce by complying with a process
The story that opened the keynote and mentioned in the article summarized all these aspects. A case worker deciding whether to pay a visit to a fosterkid by tracking changed in her Facebook behavior is a great, and real example of where government 2.0 should be going.
It was quite refreshing to see how those same clients who block access to social media today saw that story as an eye opener, and could easily relate to what this might mean for their employees. Australian clients in domains like veteran affairs, health and safety, employment, tax and revenues all came with ideas about how this may work and unleash great opportunities in their own agencies.
In order not to fall into the trough of disillusionment government 2.0 must shift its emphasis from the organization to the individual, and from policy to operations. There is still time for that to happen, but we need to talk less about transparency and open data and do more around training, encouraging and rewarding government employees.