The Beneficiaries of Gov 2.0
I’ve been following some of the commentary coming from the recent Gov2.0LA unconference and one topic in particular caught my attention. Specifically, the possibility that there is a divide between the goverati and the general public interested me. In one post, Christina Gagnier wrote about Bill Grundfest’s thoughts on Government 2.0 and his insights were quite compelling. Boiling it down, Mr. Grundfest is suggesting to the Government 2.0 evangelists that they should reconsider how they are presenting themselves and the ideas of open government to the general public, that the language and jargon being used is clearly not engaging the very people who are to benefit from open government efforts.
In a thoughtful response to this post, Dr. Mark Drapeau asks the question: “Does the Public Currently Need to Know What “Government 2.0″ Is?” In this post, Dr. Drapeau points out that the American people are not the current audience for Government 2.0 conversations, the tech and government elite are. He goes on to explain that any complicated field of study has it’s own vocabulary and set of jargon. Ultimately, his conclusion is, no, the general public does NOT need to understand what Government 2.0 is, that so long as they get the services and information they want, they don’t care too much about how it all works.
And thus does the divide start to become apparent. On one side, we have the general public who does not understand government 2.0 or the possible implications it could have on their daily lives and on the other side, there is the “goverati” working hard to define and drive Government 2.0. Now I’ll be the first one to admit there’s no way I can be aware of every activity going on in this space, however, I’ve found very little evidence of either side attempting to bridge the gap. So, if behaviors can be used to illustrate my point, I suspect most average citizens don’t realize they can or should make an effort (or, if they are interested, how) and at least some segment of the tech and government elite seem to believe they shouldn’t have to.
At this point, my software development experience kicks in and I start my system development analogies, if the designers and developers (in the case the goverati) are not talking directly to the end users (the average citizen), how can there be much hope of a successful implementation? Who’s in charge of gathering the real requirements? Who’s in charge of defining the desired outcomes? (Yes, this list of questions could go on for quite awhile!) In my 25 years in technology and government, how many times have I seen efforts fail at the very end when the system is rolled out and the end users, who have never seen it before, revolt and refuse to use it?
So, after giving this some thought, I agree with Dr. Drapeau that the goverati must keep on with the hard work of defining the vocabulary, jargon, policies, however, I also agree with Mr. Grundfest that more must be done to pull the average citizen into the process.
My conclusion: The average citizen DOES need to understand Government 2.0, albeit at a layman’s level, and everyone needs to understand and agree on the desired outcomes!