Last Wednesday I had two very illuminating conversations, one with the CEO of a large government IT service provider and the other one with the division head of a state-owned research center. Both told me, although in different terms, that they don’t believe government 2.0 will happen without citizen 2.0, politician 2.0 and officer 2.0.
What they meant is that government transformation cannot succeed unless all stakeholders are ready to leverage and contribute to this transformation, something I covered in a post just yesterday.
Most get the “citizen 2.0” part: this is about the gen-Yers and other folks who use social networks, blog, wikis, shared workspaces as their everyday’s tools. Governments need to speak their language and engage them on their territory.
After the successful Obama’s campaign (but there have been other examples elsewhere), most get the “politician 2.0” part too. Politicians need to constantly engage with their constituents, using social media to both communicate and involve them.
But how many people get the “officer 2.0” part? Maybe because I live in a country where a couple of members of government aim (and fire) at civil servants and accuse them of being lazy or inept,. but it seems to me that there is still little understanding about the pivotal role of government employees in this transformation.
Web 2.0 is about people, and government is made of people who work for people. Social networking can bridge the gap between silos, between employees and their “customers”, between different levels in a rigid hierarchy, between purchasing officers and their suppliers. Some are clearly afraid of these changes and claim that allowing employees to blur all these boundaries will lead to greater confusion, abuse, insecurity, fraud.
For instance, the idea that government procurement officers network with suppliers may look weird and dangerous. But is it? Wouldn’t bringing their networking in the open reduce rather than increase the lack of transparency and the risk of abuse? Wouldn’t it put prospective suppliers on an equal footing, giving government the benefit of greater choice and ultimately lower costs?
And what about an officer looking at the Facebook page of his head of unit or director, and possibly establishing a conversation with him or her skipping two or three levels in the hierarchy? Couldn’t this bring new perspectives to those in the higher floors and greater motivation for those in the ranks?
Finally, breaking the boundaries between employees and the citizens they serve will lead to a government that is much closer to its constituents, and can establish a new breed of trusted relationships that will be mutually beneficial.
Am I being too optimistic? Is this a dream rather than future reality? Should ministers keep banning Facebook and bashing on employees, treating them as a liability rather than their most important asset? With e-government 1.0 some thought they could get rid of the human factor. With government 2.0, the human factor becomes the single most important one to deal with.