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Social Media and How to Get Rid of Government Portals (and Vendors)

by Andrea Di Maio  |  September 15, 2010  |  6 Comments

Yesterday I had a very interesting conversation with a government organization that is considering the development of a single point of contact for grantors, grantees and the general public. They want to meet a variety of objectives, including better impact assessment for disbursed funds, greater accountability and transparency in how funds are utilized, and providing a single information source for all communities interested in grants on both the issuer and the recipient side. Grants can be of very different nature, and there is also a voluntary component as people and organizations can offer to join some of the funded projects in a pro bono basis.

Different systems currently support different processes, from marketing available grants, to the applying, managing and reporting, from impact assessment to assessing the trustworthiness of both grantors and grantees. The idea is to create a single portal for all concerned communities for all of them to get most of what they need.

Following my usual line about the limited value of government portal, I tried to talk them out of this and we went through what are the basic components of an offering that would add value to each and every one of the communities involved.

One of those components is, indeed, a social media platform. Allowing organizations to present themselves, meet, connect, rate each other and so forth, could be done with an existing, consumer platform such as Facebook or LinkedIn. Personal pages or organizational pages could then contain links to web sites or applications to support specific functionality (such as applying for a grant, which would send to a grants management system, or submitting an idea, that could send to something like IdeaScale or Google Moderator).

It was interesting to see that most of the functionality that the client was looking for could be implemented with consumer solutions or free software.  While we were discussing, I thought about the incredible amounts of money that some grantor organizations have been spending in the past to give potential grantees the ability to build minisites, network and exchange information, and help determine overall impact. Most of this can be done with something most of us are used to, at almost no cost, without requiring consultants and system integrators for the most part.

This was a great example of how consumerization and commoditization are moving to the next level. Available platforms like Facebook can dramatically slash the cost of a collaboration platform, and provide much richer functionality than anything people could sensibly put in an RFP.

All it takes is a reversal of perspective. Rather than government dictating what different audience members are supposed to do with a portal, it can provide a platform where audience members develop their own presence and co-develop with others (and government alike) the functionality they need.

I am pretty sure that the vendors who are waiting for this government organization to tender its portal work would be quite unhappy to see them going with Facebook and the likes.

But consumer and commodity technologies are here to stay and may soon become an unavoidable option for government organizations that face sever budget constraints going forward.

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Category: web-20-in-government  

Tags: government-20  social-media  

Andrea Di Maio
Managing VP
19 years at Gartner
33 years IT industry

Andrea Di Maio is a managing vice president for public sector in Gartner Research, covering government and education. His personal research focus is on digital government strategies, open government, the business value of IT, smart cities, and the impact of technology on the future of government Read Full Bio

Thoughts on Social Media and How to Get Rid of Government Portals (and Vendors)

  1. Doug Hadden says:

    This is another example of Government as Platform being more efficient and effective. Many organizations want to drive eyeballs to portals, make these portals sticky etc. Government needs to extend beyond a single point of information – even beyond a single government portal to supporting mechanisms that publicize grant opportunities. (For one thing, inefficient grant announcements through traditional portals have created an artificial industry of grant consultants.)

    Much like procurement, the easiest cost/benefit in grant management is to make grant information more accessible. This generates more grant applications and better applications = better long-term results.

    What many government organizations find is that accessible front-office procurement and grant systems can overwhelm the back office. (And there are lots of inefficiencies like that lack of automation with budget preparation and commitment accounting systems.) So, perhaps vendors will be happy to provide these services instead!

  2. says:

    Google Seeks Access To User Data as It Fires Engineer…

    Google will be getting deeper into social networking and users’ data. That’s the word Tuesday from CEO Eric Schmidt — on the same day that Google announced it had fired a software engineer for improper access to customers’ private information.Schmi…

  3. D. Morgan says:

    Ah, but the problem here is that leveraging such commercial platforms still require the lengthy forms management processes and information collection approval processes behind the scenes.

    Further, at least in the US, it is still the government’s official policy that business conducted on third-party sites cannot be considered official. Simply put, there is no guarantee that the content flowing from those third-party platforms is authentic and that it maintains its integrity from the point of transmission to the point of receipt. For these platforms to become viable alternatives, those developers need to consider the information security, privacy, and accessibility requirements of their potential government user base.

  4. […] Andrea DiMaio: Social Media and How to Get Rid of Government Portals (and Vendors) […]

  5. […] Andrea DiMaio: Social Media and How to Get Rid of Government Portals (and Vendors) […]

  6. Phil Lincoln says:

    Hi Andrea,

    Coincidentally, it was @craigthomler’s post on Governing people that helped me get my head around yours:

    I’m not a grants practitioner, but I see as a great example of a social shift away from conventional grants portals and one where the problem ideation and funding source remains with Government and its solution is community-based. We know that cultural shifts are one of the greatest barriers to Gov2.0 adoption and I think it is through sites like this that those barriers will be broken down.

    As far as official third party sites go, it is my hope that Government will come to accept that like it or not, their social media presence will be relied upon by others as sources of official government information. As many government websites still carry disclaimers about the reliability of the information therein, I think we still have a way to go. Until government has trust in its own sites, it’s hard to see how the use of third party sites would take the place of portals.

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