A history lesson in disruptive innovation applied to modern government [#gov20LA]

When people talk about “government 2.o,” it’s often couched in terms of a new, shiny idea. Using a version number imbues the category with heady techno-futurism and taints discussions with the hype that surrounds social media and “Web 2.0″ technologies.

The morning of the first day of the Government 2.0 unconference in LA featured sessions and speakers devoted to something else entirely: history. Practical applications and an open forum on how to make the language used more approachable to citizens followed Cory Andrejka’s talk on  how government can adapt to exponential technological change. As he pointed out, however, analyzing open data sets to in ways that help citizens and commerce isn’t novel.

Driving Adoption of Disruptive Innovation

According to Andrejka, one area to improve lies in identifying technological innovation within the private sector and adopting it where it makes sense. In the present day, that may be digital tools and online platforms where citizens gather.

To put the challenge in content, for good or ill, adoption has often driven by crises or societal disruption. In the 1800s, the Civil War in the United States drove the development of new military technologies, often with far-reaching effect.

As Harvard’s Antonio Oftelie explained later in the morning, the Spencer repeating rifle was one such innovation.

That weapon could take seven shots for every one from traditional rifles. Unfortunately, the generals of the day within a conservative Department of War resisted its adoption for any number of logistical and tactical rationales. Spencer took the gun West, and, famously, to  a shooting match with the President himself. Lincoln, a fine shot, put 7 bullets into a board, which Spencer saved. Subsequently, Lincoln put the gun into production.

Gaining access to critical “influencers” or IT buyers is no less important today. The use of Facebook, Twitter or Drupal by the White House has given each additional legitimacy as a means to engage citizens, amplify a message or collect information.

According to a Gov 2.0 survey conducted by Oftelie, however, the most valuable use of technology in government is for “enterprise-wide, net-enabled guidance and collaboration.”

Oftelie outlined four broad areas where collaborative technology platforms can be useful and are being employed now:
  • Policy
  • Productivity
  • Equity
  • Legitimacy
“We want to know how things are being decided,” he said. “There’s unprecedented interest in transparency into policy, fairness.”
Oftelie observed that while the potential for collaboration technologies to create transformational change is substantial, the transition for most government agencies or other organization can be rocky.
Hierarchies of authority are disrupted, even while new models for remote, asynchronous service with fewer interruptions emerge. Citizens are increasingly expecting (and finding)  self-service options on government websites.
“All of the challenges that government faces cut across organizational boundaries,” said Oftelie. “Most technologies aren’t easy to learn, and they’re even tough to implement.”
Note: Security concerns about social media are also relevant. (See the Federal CIO Council’s Guidelines for Social Media [PDF], embedded below, for some best practices for agencies).
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Filed under research, social media, technology

3 responses to “A history lesson in disruptive innovation applied to modern government [#gov20LA]

  1. Pingback: Video Captures the Energy, Message of Gov20LA « You2Gov’s Weblog

  2. Pingback: Voices from the #Gov20LA Unconference: On Innovation and #Gov20 « digiphile

  3. Pingback: Hired: I’m the new #Gov20 DC Correspondent for @OReillyMedia! « digiphile

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