Gov2.0: pressing the chinks in the armour

Posted: April 11, 2010 in Gov20
Tags: , ,

In earlier posts I tried to identify the major differences between web1.0 and 2.0, and came up with ‘different values’. I illustrated this with the case of eGovernment. In this post I would like to explore this case further. What could be a clear difference between Gov1.0 to Gov2.0?

Perhaps first a reality check. Statistics show that take-up of Gov20 applications is not euh dramatic. Even the best applications don’t see people queuing to participate and engage. Speaking with open-minded civil servants learns me that they ‘see from which direction the light comes from but can’t pinpoint it’. It is of course early day but nevertheless I guess that the impact is higher than the numbers of users show. Why is this?

I think that Gov2.0 generates (will generate) change because it acts on LEVERAGES, rather than simply “push” or “pull”. Let me summarize some of them, collected from discourses in the blogosphere:

  • it puts to use Clay Shirky’s cognitive surplus, where people rather than spending hourse watching TV they edit Wikipedia entries.
  • it exploits personal vanity and desire of recognition by peers (such as wikipedia)
  • it opens the possibility for very narrow products/services/skills to be used: the long tail
  • it augments the impact of data, through better visualisation. For example consider the different impact between a list of restaurant inspections by the US health authorities, and the mapping done by the US everyblock.com (For Boston: http://boston.everyblock.com/restaurant-inspections/).
  • it exposes government behaviour through many-to-many feedback mechanisms: consider the difference between traditional customer complaints procedure and the service of patientopinion.com

Or to quote Tom Steinberg (mySociety.org): “It’s about pressure points, chinks in the armour where improvements might be possible, whether with the consent of government or not”. These armour chinks usually cover a small surface compared with the whole armour, but act as leverages.

Traditionally, in analyzing the impact of ICT two major categories are used: “driving” and “enabling”. The first (driving) to indicate contexts where ICT “pushes” changes by creating new opportunities; the second (enabling) is about existing needs and challenges pulling technological development. Yet I’m sure that we also should look for the main impact of ICT is when it acts on leverage points.

It might seem a bit vague but this this three-fold distinction becomes visible for example when I discuss new functionalities, planned applications or new e-govprojects with my team.

  1. Some clearly see ICT as responding to needs or departments. And even if ICT itself is not the issue in a specific project, at least it can help by launching its wide range of methodologies to define requirements and to increase the understanding of what departments need to analyse information streams and processes.
  2. Others look at the new technology and dream about what it could be used for. This usually makes the advocates of the first approach unhappy (“There they go again”).
  3. The third group twists it and turns it upside down. For them technology is not their issue, nor is proper data analysis or information management. It is the impact on people’s lives and impact from people on government that keeps them going on. As this strangely is the strongest when it is pinpointed to small ‘pressure points’.

Which of course opens many questions, such as: how can leverage effect be captured by existing models of measurement of ICT impact?

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