On Tuesday we had a great panel with Anne Naser (CIO Worksafe BC, British Columbia), Casey Coleman (CIO General Services Administration) and Cheryl Rogers (Director of IT Optimization, Federal Aviation Administration).
The purpose of the panel was to share experiences and opinions about where open government and government 2.0 initiatives are going; to discuss whether they are delivering demonstrable value besides the pure objective of increasing transparency, and how they relate to initiatives that citizens or individual employees are taking by exchanging information on a variety of social media.
The debate was quite lively, with different viewpoint offered by panelists and the audience. Amongst the example discussed, the IdeaHub internal idea collection at FAA which generated over a thousand ideas and over ten thousands comments and ratings; Apps.gov NOW, which I covered in a recent post; some awareness-raising campaigns to reduce risks for young and inexperienced workers, and the use of social media to investigate benefit fraud.
it is quite clear that the value of open government remains mostly qualitative. Impact areas mentioned were trust-building and brand value, but limited evidence of measurable impacts, especially in the area of cost reduction.
One example that was mentioned by few was the drop in FOIA request caused by the publication of open data. A couple of observations concerned the benefits of transparency inside government and how this can help the CIO do his or her job better. It was also revealing that in industry sometimes resist being transparent, while asking government to be transparent: a good example concern the whole area of procurement, where an earlier engagement of suppliers would seem beneficial, but is looked at with suspicion by those same suppliers, who aim at preserving IP and competitive advantage.
As far as the challenges ahead, panel members mentioned increased executive awareness as well as updated policies addressing the blurring boundaries between personal and professional.
I found two facts very interesting
- when I asked whether anybody had any initiative in place to put to fruition the use of consumer social media to solve business problems or improve service delivery, nobody answered
- some of the attendees were from organizations that lead open government efforts, and their statements sounded between marketing and defensive, as if they still had to buy the confidence of their peers in other agencies. I suspect that there is also a surprisingly low level of awareness about what is already available.
It seems that open government initiatives are still more fueled by principles than by evidence of actual value. So the question is: how long will the fuel last?