Gov2.0: One concept, already many visions. (About Gov2.0 as augmenting reality)

Posted: January 7, 2010 in Gov20
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I see a growing number of metaphors on government 2.0 around. It’s a good sign we’re doing an effort of self-awareness and shared understanding. But I also see different visions about what Gov20 is.

Here are 4 different visions I came across:

  1. No government scenario: Andrea Di Maio argues that government should give up building interfaces, and rather should concentrate on releasing public data and web services. Private sector and community groups will take care of interfaces and identity management. On the same line, Robinson argues that government “rather than struggling, as it currently does, to design sites that meet end-user needs, it should focus on creating a simple, reliable and publicly accessible infrastructure that «exposes» the underlying data”. Similarly, Sunlight Foundation argues that government should not visualize but only expose the data.
  2. Government websites as public goods: Tom Steinberg argues that citizens should be able to use public websites to connect to each other.
  3. Tao government: David Osimo and Cristiano Codagnone proposed the metaphor of the chinese symbol “Tao”. They recognize that private – community initiative is not a substitute of government: government has a subsidiary role to play to ensure that all citizens benefit from public services. On top of that, these are not alternatives, it’s not a zero sum game. Just like the Yin and the Yang are necessary to each other, and permanently changing, government and civil society should both invest in providing services and continuously collaborating to innovate and provide better services and to address the complex societal challenges of our times. The idea has been taken up by the European Commission in its Orientation paper.
  4. Government as a platform: the metaphor of Tim O’Reilly suggests that government should imitate what Facebook, Google Android, and the iPhone AppStore are doing: to become a platform for value-added initiatives by developers. This is a powerful metaphor: it is appealing to government as it refers to similar initiative in the private sector where a mutual gain is realized (for the platform and the developer). Secondly, it reminds me strongly to a classical theoretical notion that sees private/nonprofit initiative as the “extension ladder” of the public welfare state, which was first proposed in 1912 by the Webbs

In summary: just as social software is not about replacing human intelligence with software, but augmenting it, government 2.0 is not a matter of substituting government with bottom-up initiatives, but augmenting its innovativeness and its impact by letting third parties build on top of government data and services.


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