Thursday, May 27, 2010

Government 2.0 Expo - Part One

For the last two days, I have been attending the Government 2.0 Expo at the Washington Convention Center. It has been an inspiring event looking at the application of new technologies in the public sector. I'm only halfway into my second day, but I thought I would share with you some high-level observations of the conference so far.

The keynotes have been inspiring and I strongly encourage anyone who has any interest in how our government is using Web 2.0 technology to check out the conference videos. It is well worth your time.

My general observations:
  • Cloud Computing: The Federal Cloud Computing Initiative (FCCI) is behind the strong cloud application focus. The belief is cloud computing will allow government agencies to be more efficient and facilitate transparent, collaborative and participatory government. This is quite a departure from a few years ago. The government seems to be moving away from hardware discussions and to practical application and engagement tools to facilitate the Open Government Initiative. What's inspiring about this is that there is no shortage or seemingly no limits to the types of interactions and engagement that can be developed and used by all stakeholders to make accessing government data, services and programs easier and more user friendly.
  • Say 'YES' to Passion and Creativity: Sounds crazy, but the reality of it is that I've seen more case studies here about successful government projects that REALLY challenged if not disregarded the dry approach of government communications. THAT'S A GOOD THING. For example, the City of Bryan, TX, turned their annual water quality report into a calendar for citizens that not only included report highlights, but also the real government employees in charge of keeping the city's water system safe. It is a FABULOUS example of government communications being presented in a straightforward and fun manner while celebrating the employees who work hard everyday.
  • Help Wanted: It could take 12-18 months for a program to be implemented after a government contract award is given. What is fascinating are the examples of using contests and open development to drive government innovation. For example, The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) Developers Initiative opened up five of the city's bus line route information to developers to see if they could build applications to inform the public. The results were astonishing. In just two months, more than a dozen applications had been built by developers including smartphone apps, SMS services, a phone system, and event an LED sign. The outcome was so amazing, that MassDOT is opening the data for all 180+ bus routes to continue innovation.
  • Another example of this call for innovation can be seen in the numerous public-private partnerships that are driving citizen engagement. A partnership with between NASA, JPL-Caltech and Microsoft drove the creation of the Be A Martian website. The purpose of the website is for the public to participate as citizen scientists to improve Martian maps, take part in research tasks, and assist Mars science teams studying data about the Red Planet. Websites like this not only educate, but provide an opportunity for collaboration.
  • Adoption is going to be fast. Greater government adoption of Web 2.0 technologies and applications is within sight. The tipping point for almost all levels of government to actively participate and engage with the public is not far behind. There is a palpable energy driving the adoption of these tools and infinite possibilities to make our government, cities, towns and our world a better place with the proper development, execution and oversight of these tools. Now is the time to start to contribute and become involved.

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