Open Government is everywhere. Governments at all levels, municipal, city, and federal agencies are taking dramatic steps to open the traditionally closed processes and reform their IT structures to go open source and embrace cloud computing. What is the end goal? Well, there are several. At the highest level one could say it is to use the latest technology and social web tools to provide better services to constituents while opening up channels for communication between government, its employees, and citizens to gather feedback and new ideas on pressing issues such as the budget, safety, and transportation.
In September of 2009, Tim O’Reilly (who coined the term Web 2.0 in 2004) wrote an opinion piece outlining his vision for Government, or Gov. 2.0 and stated it was more about transforming government into a technological platform. In it he references sites like Whitehouse.gov and data.gov, highlighting the difference between governments providing a purely static informational web site or a site that is a kind of ‘collaboration platform’ and offers web-based services that provide more value to the user.
Open Government has been championed not only by President Obama in his Directive, but also on a city level, with Mayor Newsom’s Open Gov Initiative for the City and County of San Francisco which focuses on open data, open participation and open source. With the recently launched ImproveSF.org, the city is furthering its commitment to recognize and tap the valuable ideas from city employees on the city’s most pressing issues, starting with the budget. The campaign, open to all city employees, has only been running for a few weeks and since launching in late February, has gathered 300 ideas, 380 comments, and over 2,000 votes.
There are many other forms of open government popping up in lesser known town and city governments across the US. And the trend is not just limited to the United States. Your Country, Your Call is an online competition looking for ideas that will create jobs and prosperity for Ireland. The brainchild of President McAleese’s husband, Dr. Martin McAleese, two winners will receive 100,000 Euros each and benefit from a development fund of up to 500,000 Euros per project. The site is definitely garnering local and international attention and is being promoted through traditional mediums such as television ads as well as through social media channels like Facebook and Twitter. Over 35,000 visitors from dozens of countries have checked out the Your Country Your Call site since its launch a few weeks ago, with thousands voting and commenting on the over 2,000 proposals already submitted.
Ireland’s Your Country Your Call TV AD
As more and more towns, cities, and federal governments opt to embrace part or all of what Open Government stands for, the platforms that power these initiatives will become more central to their overall success. Brightidea has been offering open-innovation solutions through its WebStorm, Switchboard, and Pipeline offerings for years. These truly enterprise-level platforms incorporate the best of the social web and allow governments to link individual public or private initiatives, create rollup activity reporting across multiple campaigns on a centralized admin dashboard in order to track and monitor activity at all levels. These functions could truly help expand the rollout of Gov. 2.0 as a standard technological platform (as Tim O’Reilly pointed out, one that reaches well beyond IT) which truly transforms the way people interact with government, bettering the lives of citizens all over the world.
Janelle Noble is the Digital Marketing Manager at Brightidea and frequently contributes for Brightidea’s corporate blog, Innovation at Work. Follow her on twitter @janelletnoble.