Blog post

Fighting the Asymmetry of Government 2.0

By Andrea Di Maio | November 11, 2009 | 3 Comments

web 2.0 in government

Most conversations about Government 2.0 assume that:

  • Government provides data to citizens to provide openness and transparency
  • Citizens engage with government to improve policy-making and service delivery

This approach implies that data flows from government to citizens and engagement flows from citizen to government. This is what I call the asymmetry of Government 2.0, since flows appear to be somewhat mono-directional, or very biased in a single direction. But these capture only one part of the story.

What about case managers who access to external communities rating government as well as non government care facilities to make a decision about where to place a case subject depending on a combination of financial constraints and customer ratings? What about a procurement officer looking at communities discussing prospective suppliers’ performances? Or HR professionals looking for information about candidates LinkedIn or Facebook? What about citizens tagging pictures put by museums and cultural heritage organizations on Flickr, so that they help the museum describe and organize their collections?

There are plenty of examples where data goes the other way around, from citizens to government, and government can use it in combination with data it owns (such as financial, HR, case-related ones, as well as taxonomies) in order to improve the way it deliver services or to initiate policy changes. A prediction we are about to publish says that by 2012 up to one in five government processes will be based on crowdsourced (i.e. external) data.

The assumption that citizens are mostly on the receiving end of open data and mashups needs to be changed. While the idea of citizens as application developers and data mashers is great, those who are most likely to benefit from all this are governments themselves, once they empower their employees to access, assess and use data outside their own perimeter.

Government 2.0 implies a bidirectional flow of information and services. It will require business intelligence suites that integrate data analytics with social networking analysis to help identify patterns revealing future behaviors; case management tools that give case managers the ability to alter case processing on the basis of data from external communities; online citizen services that can be integrated with third party portals; and indeed open data repositories that allow citizens to develop value added mashups and new applications.

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  • PaulGeraghty says:

    “A prediction we are about to publish says that by 2012 up to one in five government processes will be based on crowdsourced (i.e. external) data.”

    Does that statement imply that 20% of external data will be crowdsourced? If so – I agree that it has that potential.

    I think it doubly true of local administrations.

    In fact crowdsourced information coming into gov could be the driver for new processes, or at least processes which move down the administrative tree and end up being managed by those closer (or closest) to the public e.g. into local government.

    I am not saying that local government is any more capable than central government, god forbid – neither will be able carry it off, IMO.

    I am also starting to get the feeling that movements such as hyperlocal websites, and other social web “input devices” (lets call them) could become the natural place for the harvesting of such incoming data.

    The pivot points will likely include :

    Officials being capable of identifying anomalies amongst incoming data steams and not seeing them as problems, but opportunities.

    Administrators being bold enough to stick their necks out and join up with the likes of the social web to act as their proxies.

  • Jed says:

    I often perceive a belief among public servants that the government’s authoritative status grants it automatic authority and trustworthiness. It’s a feeble assumption and likely to become more feeble as emergent technologies continue to reveal the wisdom of crowds.

    This idea that government agencies are “inherently” authoritative may be what blocks the flow of data from citizens to the government.

  • Andrea — good piece. No question the flow has to be two way. First step was for government to get much better at making the right information very easy for citizens to find/access. Call that Gov’t 1.5. Next step is engaged citizens impacting their government. It will become apparent quicker i think at local/municipal level.

    Segue — cool announcement today by GovLoop — taking a 2.0 twist to charitable giving: