Although I rarely touch on politics on this blog (I am neither qualified nor interested), I found a news that shed some light on the struggles and contradictions of what many define “Government 2.0”.
Tom Steinberg of MySociety, who has been one of the minds behind the seminal Power of Information Report – which started to move the UK Government toward “Government 2.0” – has become an advisor to the Conservative party. Conservatives have been at the opposition for quite some time, through three Tony Blair’s terms and now with Gordon Brown. Some time ago they took some bold stance on cloud computing (see previous post) and now they seem to move full steam toward government 2.0 by hiring a well respected expert like Tom.
Steinberg explained his reasons in a blog post, and got a quite critical answer from Labor MP Tom Watson. Steinberg advised the current government and his move looks like a betrayal to Labor supporters. While he stresses that he remains politically neutral and, more importantly, his move does not concern his company MySociety, it is quite clear that either side can give whatever interpretation they see fit.
What interests me, though, is how people like Steinberg in the UK or like Beppe Grillo in Italy (a comedian and top blogger who unsuccessfully tried to run for heading the largest opposition party) feel the urge to join or take sides with a party, although they have been making independence and grass-root approach their mantra.
What does it mean, if government 2.0 leaders start setting within more traditional organizational boundaries, such as those of a political party? Isn’t that a sign that, does not matter how much we blog or tweet, we have to converge back to established forms of aggregation, be they parties, NGOs or – indeed – government agencies?
Of course one cannot derive such a conclusion from a couple of rather unrelated events. But I think it is worth reflecting about what the end game for spontaneous forms of aggregation – such as online social network – is going to be if we want ideas to stick and actions to take place.
Perhaps going back into existing silos is the price to be paid for moving from vision (and there are plenty around government 2.0) to execution. If that’s the case, though, it is unlikely that part of the vision will be acceptable to those who execute it.