Tag Archives: government 2.0

What is Gov 2.0? Carl Malamud putting the SEC online in 1993.

What is government 2.0?

Some days, it seem like there are as many definitions for Gov 2.0 as there are people. Tim O’Reilly says Gov 2.0 is all about the platform. In many ways, Gov 2.0 could be usefully described as putting government in your hands. And in three weeks, people will come from all around the world to learn more about what’s happening in the crucible of people, technology and government at the Gov 2.0 Summit in Washington.

I’m looking forward to the event and have been enjoying writing about many of its constituencies in the Gov 2.0 section of O’Reilly RadarThe Huffington PostReadWriteWeb and Mashable.

As I’ve previously observed in writing about language, government 2.0, jargon and technology, I believe the term should be defined primarily by its utility to helping citizens or agencies solve problems, either for individuals or the commons. Defining it in gauzy paeans evangelizing world-shaking paradigm shifts from the embrace of social media by politicians isn’t helpful on that level. That’s particularly when they’re broadcasting, not having conversations that result in more agile government.

Earlier this morning, I was reminded again of the history of the movement in the United States when, through serendipity, I ended up watching the first few minutes of Tim O’Reilly’s webcast, “What is Gov 2.0?” I participated in the webcast when it premiered this spring but was struck again by a particular vignette:

“The first person who really put Gov 2.0 on my radar was Carl Malamud. Carl is really the father of this movement in so many ways. Back in 1993, that’s pretty darn early in the history of the World Wide Web, he put the SEC online.

He got a small planning grant from the  National Science Foundation, which he used to actually license the data, which at that point the SEC was licensing to big companies.

He got some servers from Eric Schmidt, who was the chief technology at Sun. And he basically put all this data he’d gotten from the SEC online, and he operated that for something like two years, and then he donated it to the federal government.

Carl’s idea was that it really mattered for the public to have access to SEC data.”

He still does.

Just look at PublicResource.org, which is dedicated to making information more accessible. Consider his years of working towards Law.gov, which would provide access to the raw materials of our democracy.

For even more backstory, read more about his work as “Washington’s I.T. Guy” in the American Prospect.

Here’s what the SEC wrote about the effort in 1996.

The Commission would like to extend its appreciation to Carl Malamud and Brad Burdick of Internet Multicasting Service. We would also like to express our thanks to Ajit Kambil and Mark Ginsburg of New York University, Stern School (http://edgar.stern.nyu.edu). Operating under a grant from the National Science Foundation for the past two years, IMS/NYU have been providing the EDGAR database to the public via the Internet as a pilot program. It has been an unquestioned success and has provided a significant public service. After the grant came to an end on October 1, 1995, the SEC decided to continue making the vast EDGAR database available to the public from an SEC facility. In addition to the EDGAR data, the Commission has also made available numerous investor guides, Commission reports, and other securities-related information. Much more will evolve from this initial service in the coming months.

Today, I found it notable to be reminded that Malamud was supported by the future CEO of Google in getting the SEC online. That’s the sort of public-private partnership that has substance beyond a buzzword, like his FedFlix effort to digitize films and videos produced by the government,

If you’re interested in Gov 2.0 and open government, the entire webcast with Tim is about 51 minutes long but well worth the time.

If you have some time, I highly recommend it for perspective on the history of Gov 2.0 and insight into what could be possible in the future.

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On Wikileaks, government 2.0, open government and new media hurricanes

The war logs from Afghanistan may well be the biggest intelligence leak ever. Wikileaks represents a watershed in the difficult challenge of of information control that the Internet represents for every government.

Aeschylus wrote nearly 2500 years ago that “in war, truth is the first casualty.” His words are no doubt known to a wise man, whose strategic “maneuvers within a changing information environment” would not be an utterly foreign concept to the Greeks in the Peloponnesian War. Aeschylus and Thucydides would no doubt wonder at the capacity of the Information Age to spread truth and disinformation alike.

In considering the shifting landscape above, Mark Drapeau has asserted that “government 2.0” is the “newest reality of new media.” I’m not convinced by his assertion that “no one is answering” the call to engage on that information battlefield. Given constant answers from various spokesmen over the past week, or this afternoon as the war logs leak breaks, that doesn’t appear accurate.

It’s similarly unclear to me that, were government agencies to develop a more agile media culture, it would sustain a more informed electorate. It’s not clear that it would lead to more effective data-driven policy, nor the transparency that a healthy representative democracy needs to thrive.

More nimble use of new media is important, particularly for the armed services, but given the existential challenges posed by energy, education, healthcare, environment, unemployment and the long war it’s hard to support the content that it should be the focus of open government efforts.

As for his consignment of “journalistic standards” to the company of “other quaint attitudes,” I’d posit that differentiating between propaganda, agitprop and factual journalism matters even more today.

I don’t see standards for separating fact from fiction as quaint at all; if anything, the new media environment makes that ability more essential than ever, particularly in the context of the “first stateless news organization” Jay Rosen has described.

There’s a new kind of alliance behind the War Logs, as David Carr wrote in the New York Times.

That reality reinforces that fact that information literacy is a paramount concern for citizens in the digital age. As danah boyd has eloquently pointed out, transparency is not enough.

What is the essence of open government?

Governments that invest in more capacity to maneuver in this new media environment (the theater of public affairs officers and mainstream media now occupied by the folks formerly known as the audience) might well fare better in information warfare.

Open government is a mindset, but not simply a matter of new media literacy. To suggest that the “essence of open government” is to adopt a workplace environment that both accepts the power of new media and adapts to it seems reductive. I’m unconvinced that it is the fundamental element of open government, as least as proposed by the architects of that policy in Washington now.

It would also seem to have little to do with what research suggests citizens expect of government, even those of a libertarian bent.

Citizens are turning to the Internet for data, policy and services.

Given an estimated 1.47 trillion dollar budget gap estimated for next year, I wonder whether citizens might prefer a leaner, more agile government that leverages technology, citizen participation and civic hacking than a more new media-savvy culture. Those are, after all, the elements of social government or government 2.0 that I’ve heard about from him for years.

There’s also the question of fully addressing the reality that in a time of war, some information can and will have to remain classified for years if those fighting are to have any realistic chances of winning. Asymmetries of information between combatants are, after all, essential to winning maneuvers on the battlefields of the 21st century.

There’s no doubt that government is playing catchup given the changed media environment, supercharged by the power of the Internet, broadband and smartphones. This week we’ve seen a tipping point in the relationship of government, media and techology. Comparing the Wikileaks War Logs to the Pentagon Papers is inevitable and not valid, as ProPublica reported

It’s not at all clear to me, however, how the military would win battles, much less wars, without control over situational awareness, operational information or effective counterintelligence. Given the importance of the ENIGMA machine or intercepts of Japanese intel in WWII, or damage caused by subsequent counterintelligence leaks from the FBI and elsewhere, I question the veracity of the contention that “controlling information better” to limit intelligence leaks that damage ongoing ops will not continue to be vitally important to the military for as long as we have one.

More transparency and accountability regarding our wars to the nation, Congress and president are both desirable and a bedrock principle in a representative democracy, not least because of the vast amounts of spending that has been outlaid since 9/11 in the shadow government that Dana Priest reported out in “Top Secret America” in the Washington Post.

Wikileaks and the Internet add the concept of asymmetric journalism to the lexicon of government 2.0 to the more traditional accountability journalism of Priest or database journalism of the new media crew online at Sunlight and elsewhere. Fortunately for their readers, many of those folks continue to “adhere to journalistic standards and other quaint attitudes and rule sets and guidelines.”

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Hired: I’m the new #Gov20 DC Correspondent for @OReillyMedia!

I’m thrilled to announce that I have a new job! Earlier today, I accepted an offer from Tim O’Reilly to be the Washington, D.C. correspondent on Government 2.0 for O’Reilly Media.

I’m hitting the ground running here in the District of Columbia, since O’Reilly’s upcoming 2010 Government 2.0 conference is only a few weeks away — and there’s plenty to do.

Over the following months, I expect to write – a lot – about how technology is being used to help citizens, cities and national governments solve big problems.

I also expect to frequently explain what “government 2.0” is, since the term is in my title! I’ve written before about the language of government 2.0, the history of disruptive innovation and the ways government adapts to technological change. That’s part of it. So is Tim O’Reilly’s concept of government 2.0 as a platform, naturally.

And so is writing about government transparency, the Open Government Directive, relaunches of .gov websites like SupremeCourt.gov or Reboot.gov, and the people behind the technologies that are driving change and innovation.

There’s no shortage of case studies to highlight, from the local town green right on up to the federal or international level. Just listen to the voices from the Gov2.0 LA unconference for a small sample of the perspectives on the issue.

O’Reilly’s goal in Washington D.C. is to “create a context in which people can think” differently about the role of technology in government, and the role of government in society. I look forward to helping to create that context.

In service of that goal, I’ll be blogging, conducting short interviews with government officials and industry participants, writing features and using the rest of the tools for digital curation I’ve been honing in the past several years.

I’m very excited to get started. I expect my new position to be challenging, engaging, rewarding, occasionally frustrating and never dull.

I also expect the process of writing about government 2.0 case studies to be a reciprocal process, as readers help me to understand more about what stories are important to them and which voices deserve to be heard.

I hope that in the days and months to come that you’ll share your perspectives, ideas and suggestions with me.

The story of government 2.0 is already being written every day by citizens, civic hackers, advocacy groups, government employees, researchers and technologists.

As a digital pilgrim, I look forward to chronicling that progress.

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