The Obama Administrations technology agenda is game-changing,
bringing collaboration, participation, and transparency to
government in a big way. As more information makes its way onto the
Internet, an increased level of focus and flexibility is required
to balance privacy and security concerns with the desire to make
information more readily accessible. For many people, the move
toward more open, transparent, and collaborative government is
regarded as change management on steroids. To maintain perspective,
focused leadership from government executives and managers is
The collaboration and transparency push has already made an impact
on government in some very interesting ways. Collaboration within
government has improved through the use of lightweight, and often
free, tools and technologies that provide fast, cheap, and
effective support and enable us to expand governments reach and
engage with citizens more broadly.
Additionally, government presence on external social networks has
exploded. Many federal agencies have established a presence on at
least one of the mainstream social networks: Twitter, Facebook,
MySpace, YouTube, or Second Life. Government is learning that it
needs to go where citizens already are. However, the prevalence of
social networks presents its own challenges as employees use and
access them from their workspaces.
More over, increased transparency and collaboration are opening a
deluge of government data to the public. At every levelfrom federal
to state to localgovernment has put more of its data online for
public consumption. Citizens are leveraging this information in new
and exciting ways that add value.
Opportunities and Challenges
Despite the eruption of interest in and use of collaborative and
transparent tools, the concepts behind them are still in their
infancy and provide opportunities and challenges within and across
federal agencies and with the public.
Internally, agency employees are able to cross traditional
organizational lines to find new ways to communicate, analyze,
interact, and work with each other. Colleagues in different
agencies are able to work across government tiers on common needs
and priorities without going through traditional hierarchies and
formalities that can hinder cross-agency collaboration.
In a transparent environment, governments dialogue and interaction
with citizens allows for feedback and participation. Citizens can
be the source of new ideas and solutions not considered by
government. This interaction must focus on collaboration and not
These collaboration and transparency challenges are felt even more
acutely by the federal information technology managers who oversee
their agencies IT plans.
Government databases often intertwine nonsensitive, publicly
available data with personally identifiable information and other
protected data, such as financial, contracting, and proprietary
information. The time periods for releasing and sharing more
government information are shortening, and as this information is
mashed-up with other information, there is an increasing need to
review it more thoroughly before posting.
As a result, disclosure management is becoming a new capability
that falls somewhere between web content management and
vulnerability management, which is largely focused on policy
compliance and traditional security and access controls.
Data sharing in Gov 2.0 is accelerating the push for raw or
machine-readable data (for example, www.data.gov), which is then
consumed by third parties or citizens for their own purposes.
However, there also is a need for government to effectively package
and synthesize this tsunami of data and deliver it in formats
easily digested by diverse audiences. This creates challenging
questions about the boundaries for government information ownership
and control, as well as starting and ending points for government
The accuracy, integrity, timeliness, and reliability of government
data and information are a recurring problem in government, but
they take on even greater priority as the amount of government
information being pushed onto the web grows. Were defeating the
purpose of transparency if were pushing out not only bad data but
Multichannel Information,Interaction, and Service
Not only do we have challenges in getting information and services
to the public via multiple delivery channels (such as the Internet,
contact centers, face-to-face, and printed materials), but agencies
must also realize that they are interacting with citizens in a
three-screen environment. Government agencies must enable users to
view, download, and reuse content on mobile devices, personal
computers, and large video screens. We must be able to engage and
connect with citizens in each of these environments.
Because of the volume of data and the push to use it for sharpened
performance and operational management in government, we believe we
will witness the re-emergence of knowledge management (KM 2.0)and
direct attention to overall information management. This will
include search and query tools, which are an important method of
citizen interaction and engagement with government. At the U.S.
General Services Administration (GSA), we are investigating new
search and query capabilities to get the right information to
citizens faster, improving information services and understanding
emerging and priority policy needs.
Cool, innovative technologies often are very disruptive to the
status quo. In government, a circle the wagons mentality can root,
but new social media tools provide some interesting insights into
how markets, applications, and providers will undergo significant
changes. In such an environment, flexibility and agility are
important foundational elements to embrace.
Defining and Measuring Impact
While the early focus has been on technologies, it is critical for
us to understand whether openness, transparency, and collaboration
are helping us achieve better government performance results and
increase citizen trust. For example, are policy-making processes
getting better, faster, and more agile, and are we encountering
more success in achieving intended results?
As in prior administrations, we are fixated on technology, even
though other components are important: policies, practices,
methods, and the ability to match innovation to performance
improvement pain points. Were learning that its not all about
websites; we have to design an engagement process that helps
achieve a desired outcome.
Time to Innovate
Web 2.0 tools and collaboration are indeed relevant during this
time when people are not only being pushed to innovate, but also
are being constrained by tight fiscal environments. These tools
take very little investment but can provide great benefits by
engaging groups outside government. While traditional resources are
cut, these tools provide new means to serve and offer value to
citizens. They also help government create the impression of a
modern working environment to a new generation of employees.
To be sure, there are bound to be some surprising twists and turns
on this technological roller-coaster ride. But in the end, citizens
will have greater access toand influence ontheir government as a