Welcome to the Government 2.0 Taskforce
The expression Web 2.0 was coined by Tim O’Reilly . . .
Let me start that again. The line you have last read is well . . . wrong. I’ve been saying that Tim O’Reilly coined the expression for a while now – quoting other sources. But, wanting to check dates and link to an authoritative source Wikipedia corrected me. I think I first checked my facts on this from Wikipedia a while back. But the world has moved on.* This is what Wikipedia said at the time of writing this post. “The term “Web 2.0″ was coined by Darcy DiNucci in 1999.” So welcome to the world of Web 2.0, a world in which the internet has morphed from being an increasingly useful platform for connecting governments and firms with citizens for ‘point to point’ broadcasting and feedback, to being a platform for collaborative endeavour.
That’s the platform that brought us the extraordinary phenomenon of Wikipedia where people collaborate to build an encyclopedia in ‘real time’. I think of the miracle of software that writes itself – open source software – as the original Web 2.0 phenomenon, though some disagree because its roots go back at least to the early 1990s (depending on how you define terms). Then again, as I argued in a couple of pieces recently, Web 2.0 is a world in which public assets assemble themselves with no central funding from government. Language is the quintessential public good. Yet no one passed the hat around to fund its development. It developed as an accretion of life itself, as a byproduct of our natural human sociality. In fact there are lots of these (what I’ve called) ‘emergent public goods’ around, and yet economists have paid surprisingly little attention to them.
Another ‘emergent public good’ is government itself. In one sense it’s paradoxical that so many private firms and indeed individuals are building the assets of Web 2.0 when they stand to harvest for themselves such a small share of the benefits it creates. Governments on the other hand are collectively funded so that they can serve collective needs.
Of course to non-economists none of this is very surprising or paradoxical. Governments must operate through large bureaucracies. And those bureaucracies are subject to a panoply of ‘due process’ requirements. They must be fair and be seen to be fair. They live in fear of having their activities, whether sensible or less so, being misrepresented in the heat of political battle and reported on by a media that is hungry for engaging stories to tell. As the law currently stands a public servant risks imprisonment for disclosing government information without authority to do so. And of course there are numerous cultural issues.
So it’s no surprise that governments have been relatively slow to take up Web 2.0. This is the conclusion that Tim Davies came to recently.
Working with front-line professionals in local government over the last couple of months, I’ve been coming to see that:
- The big challenges are not about technology – they are about the content and the process of mobilisation and communication.
- When it comes to technology we’ve not got one big challenge we’ve got 100s of small challenges – and we’ve got no systematic way of dealing with them.
When all these small challenges stack up – the chance of staff members or teams in local or national government organisations and agencies being able to effectively engage with online-enabled policy making shrinks and shrinks.
Our Taskforce gives us the opportunity to consider that hypothesis about what’s holding us back. More importantly, we will be proposing solutions where we can. And we won’t be limiting ourselves to words. The Project Fund enables us to take action now to fund competitions and other initiatives, either exploratory or otherwise, to get going on our journey towards Government 2.0.
And we need your help. So please join our community and let us know what you think and how we can move more swiftly and surely.
* Until the 27th of May, Wikipedia’s first usage of the expression “Web 2.0″ was December 2003. Then at 04:24, on the 27 May 2009Octavabasso set us straight with the goods about Nancy DiNucci’s use of the word in 1999.