Whither government 2.0?

Government 2.0 seems to be a well established meme in many parts of the world, but doesn’t seem to have taken root at all in the UK.

I can understand why people might think that is a Good Thing – Will and Stefan make the case on Twitter during a quick chat about the issue.

But I can see why having a label like this would be useful – there are so many disparate elements going on around change and the public sector, whether transformational government, Smarter Government, Power of Information, eGovernment, eDemocracy, open data, hyperlocal, CRM and VRM, transparency, openness… wouldn’t it be better to have a bakset to put all this stuff in?

By having a common tag to describe all this stuff, and bring it together, couldn’t we make more out of less? Reduce duplication? Make some useful connections?

11 thoughts on “Whither government 2.0?”

  1. Isn’t part of the problem that long list of initiatives and documents you list which, in effect defines Gov 2.0 in their terms – “what’s gov 2.0?”, “it’s the thing these documents are about”. As someone who is paid to worry one way or another about pretty much everything in that list, a portmanteau term is quite useful, and despite what I said on twitter, I have no great feelings against gov 2.0 being that term. Luckily for the health and well being of the nation, most people have never heard of any of those things, so the question is then what, if anything, would be useful to them.

    That’s what makes me nervous of the use of such terms more generally. I ranted recently – at http://publicstrategist.com/2009/09/e-government-is-government/ – on my dislike of “e-government” as a word. Ithink pretty much the same objections apply to “gov 2.0” – it makes all this look as though it is some technocratic sideshow, rather than being about radical change to the whole thing (I am repressing the urge to write “paradigm shift” somewhere in that sentence). Gov 2.0 has a particular further problem because it is, in effect, an analogy: gov 2.0 is to gov as web 2.0 is to web. Which may be powerful shorthand if you know what web 2.0 is, but almost certainly isn’t if you don’t.

    That, of course, is not an argument against the usefulness of a collective noun, and it certainly doesn’t counter your very important point that seeing them as a group may be one way we manage the risk of overlaps, gaps and general confusion.

    But that still leaves me without an idea of what that collective noun should be.

  2. Within a bureaucracy one of the worst things one can do when trying to get people to change their established ways is give something a new label with no intrinsic meaning. To get effective change where technology is involved (rather than superficial burbling at conferences) you need to approach people with something specific that helps them do their job in hand better.

    You touched on this generic issue with you post on ‘tool-specific’ social media sessions. In the particular case of gov2.0 I can’t see what desirable atttributes it brings with it, esecpailly when you look at the era of web2.0 hype (indeed with the open data work governments are showing some ankle on web3 before web2). bill eggers book on web2.0 was mainly what in the uk we would recognise as transformational government.

    I speak as someone who has come up with labels in the past (inc transformational government) and learned through experience.

  3. It’s a fair question and the answer ought to be yes but government in the UK in particular isn’t designed to be transformational. It’s designed to be predictable, auditable and accountable for those services which get them into the news when they go tragically wrong. Those of us who talk about gov 20 are not those who use a lot of government services.

    There should be a single basket but I don’t believe that Government needs to own it, it just needs to participate in it. Until we can see a way forward with this we won’t get to seriously tackle the issues of identity and accountability that will need accompany the changes.

  4. Maybe what the various elements of Gov 2.0 mentioned in the post have in common is that they are about breaking up existing services and processes so that they become more personalised around individuals and communities and user groups instead of being monolithic provision of services to ‘the public’.

    If that is the case then a term I’ve been playing with in a paper I’m currently writing is ‘microgovernment’, a concept where people drive government rather than vice versa.

    It also has the advantage that, as a term, it isn’t a bolt-on to government but represents the fundamental change that is now possible.

    Say hi to me via @problybored if you’d like to see a draft of the paper!

  5. I agree that Gov 2.0 is simply another vehicle for eGov, like eParticipation has been for eDemocracy. Reinventing the wheel keeps people in jobs, IT sector or not.

    I think I’ve said this before but Gov is actually doing quite a lot (particularly here in the UK), possibly more than the corporate social responsibility folks at a bunch of our blue chip companies. Tesco might be on twitter but they don’t see them doing much eConsultation around new store openings or where they source their Bananas.

    I share the sentiment of my fellow community ambassadors that we now risk neglecting the “traditional” channels in the scale of attempts to divert resources into improving digital ones.

    Give me more citizen centric design, now.

    Happy Xmas All

  6. I like the term gov2.0 – as to me it represents a useful shorthand for a re-versioning of government – keeping the good stuff, but trying to get rid of some of the bugs and adding in some new functionality. Anyway – it provides me with a useful and relevant delicious tag.

    I think part of the reason that it may have failed to gain full traction is that there seems to be little appetite for real transparency – and the transformational power of real accountability. UK government isn’t used to providing it and UK citizens aren’t used to demanding it.

    If Gov2.0 is just another way of saving money – then it fails against its own principles. How and how much public money is spent is absolutely important – but really this is about the inherent value of democracy. If you can’t buy into that it’s just tinkering around the edges.

Comments are closed.