What is Gov 2.0?

Today I attended the inaugural “Gov 2.0 Meetup” presentation, taking place at City Hall. This is a summary of my reflections.

Gov 2.0 is not Government use of Social media;

The event’s speaker, Wayne Chu, Research Manager at Samara Canada presented what amounted to be a preview to a research paper to be released next month from Samara about political discussions in social media, illustrating the disconnect between legislations and the occupy movement. Yeah, I wasn’t all that clear about the relation to Gov 2.0, but it seemed clear having asked him what the link was, Wayne Chu equated the work of government with politics, political engagement, and political discourse, which is not tangential to the work of government. That’s like saying road deaths are due to the automotive industry. Sure the car hit the pedestrian, and sure that car was built to go fast, but saying that the Ford Motor Company is responsible for the pedestrian’s death is tangential. You’d have to make a leap to that conclusion after rendering the driver, urban planning, and even the pedestrian as responsible.

No, the use of social media (Twitter namely) by politicians (and even the media) is not Gov 2.0. That’s politics. Politics 2.0 even. Call it what you like. It’s also an over- simplification to say the use of Web 2.0 by government is Gov 2.0, but it’s not inaccurate.

I won’t redefine Gov 2.0 – but I’ll simplify it. I like Gartner’s definition:

The use of IT to socialize and commoditize government services, processes and data.

This is largely an update of the now-outdated term “e-government”, which was about getting Government information on-line (recall, you had to wait in line at some Kafka-esque government office, or wait on hold on a 1-800 number, or, if you dare, fax government and risk never finding out if they ever received it. Here is my receipt for your receipt!). To socialize government services – yeah, that sounds Gov 2.0. Not overly ambitious, or detailed, but it sounds like the next generation of Government.

I also really like O’Reilly’s expansion of the term (which is apt since O’Reilly himself coined the buzzword “Web 2.0″), illustrating Gov 2.0 as “Government as a platform” (first unveiled at Gov 2.0 Expo, expanded in the book “Open Government”, to engage the public in its own service delivery, review. With this definition, it’s easy to see the role of Web 2.0: the use of Open Data to engage analysis, the use of Social Media to communicate with the public / stakeholders, and the use of collaborative tools (like wikis) to collaborate with stakeholders. Better yet, O’Reilly writes:

“Government is, at bottom, a mechanism for collective action. We band together, make laws, pay taxes, and build the institutions of government to manage problems that are too large for us individually and whose solution is in our common interest.

“Government 2.0, then, is the use of technology—especially the collaborative technologies at the heart of Web 2.0—to better solve collective problems at a city, state, national, and international level.” - Government As a Platform, Open Government

To go further, I’ve written about how there are 3 types of Web 2.0 in Government:

The distinction is not perfect (it’s not an even divide) but it helps to focus conversations if you’re talking Web 2.0 and government and want to make sure you’re talking about the right things.

Open Data / Open Government

The second presenter at the event, Harvey Low, a Civil Society Representative from the Council on Social Development, was right on the money discussing Open Data and Open Government. By day he wears a cape as one of the Justice League (maybe Avengers) team of Open Data personnel at Toronto City Hall. Have you seen their work? You should.

Harvey Low says he’s relatively new to the Open Data file at Toronto City Hall, but I doubt it. He sounds like a seasoned practitioner, with tacit insight and skinned compromised knees. I asked him about whether Open Data-supporting municipalities will adopt common but hard-to-reach standards at the sake of compromising their own support for Open Data and whether APIs will replace static data files (which I both hope and fear) and he had damn good answers for either. Answer: Hopefully yes but unlikely in the short term, and yes they should but not likely right now or soon.

Thanks to the organisers Anita Chauhan and Richard Pietro, I thoroughly enjoyed the event. I look forward to the next one.

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