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November 8, 2010

Adobe Government Assembly 2010: Better Citizen Engagement

The 2nd Adobe Government Assembly was held last week in Washington D.C. Over 500 attendees gathered to discuss innovative ways to engage with citizens more efficiently. The major topics of discussion centered on improving engagement on the web, across mobile devices, using the cloud, and using social media.

Blue Ribbon Panel: Rob Pinkerton, Tom Davis, Gwynne Kostin, Craig Kaucher, and Alan Cohn

Blue Ribbon Panel: Rob Pinkerton, Tom Davis, Gwynne Kostin, Craig Kaucher, and Alan Cohn

One recurring theme in both the keynote and the Blue Ribbon Panel was about the future of engagement as citizens shift how they access the Internet. In particular, this means preparing to engage constituents across multiple screens. In the opening keynote Shantanu Narayen, Adobe’s CEO, discussed technology trends that will affect Internet access in the future. The punch line of all this is that governments will need to engage citizens across multiple screens. In a few years, citizens will migrate to accessing the Internet on mobile devices, tablets, TVs, other a number of devices that aren’t traditional PCs. What technology trends are going to lead to multi-screen internet access by citizens? According to stats cited by Narayan:

  • Wireless internet bandwidth (such as LTE) is predicted to exceed broadband internet bandwidth in 3-4 years;
  • Computing power in portable devices is advancing rapidly, for example, today’s smart phones already pack more processing power than a PC from 2003; and
  • Internet access by consumers using mobile devices is expected to exceed access from PCs in 3-4 years.

What does this mean for governments?  On the plus side, it means a decrease in the digital divide.  In particular, according to the Pew Research Center (see report here), demographic groups that lag in Internet use today, are beginning to close that gap.  How?  By accessing the Internet from mobile devices.  And doing so at higher rates than the general population.  This means more people that need to access government services will be able to do so using online self-service channels instead of relying on less efficient walk-in channels.

On the less positive side, it means government will soon be faced with the challenge of reaching citizens across a much, much wider range of devices and platform.  Craig Kaucher, the CTO of the Department of Defense’s Defense Media Activity, made the point pretty clearly, “Multi-screen will happen”.  It is inevitable.  Consumers are going there and Government must follow.  Governments won’t have the luxury of controlling what consumers decide to use.  Government will have to engage on the devices consumers choose to use.  But for government this will mean more work to ensure online services work as expected regardless of device, screen size, or platform.  In the very near future, you will not be able to assume that the majority of citizens will access your services online using a PC interface.

If you want to watch the sessions, the recordings are available on-line:

  • Morning Keynote – Shantanu Narayen, Adobe.
  • Blue Ribbon Panel – Alan Cohn, DHS; Tom Davis, Deloitte; Craig Kaucher, DoD; Gwynne Kostin, GSA.
  • Mobile Devices –  Kevin Brownstein, McAfee; Andy Blumenthal, ATF; John Landwehr, Adobe. (spotty audio due to equipment issues)
  • Cloud – Thomson Nguy, Amazon; Avi Bender, U.S. Census Bureau; Mitch Nelson, Adobe; Marion Royal, Data.Gov.
  • Maximizing Your Web Presence – Loni Kao Stark, Adobe; Selene Dalecky, GPO; Ronnie Levine, DOI; Steven Webster, Adobe; Andrew Wilson, HHS.
  • Social Media – Bobby Caudill, Adobe; Wayne Moses Burke, Open Forum Foundation;  Megan Kenny, DHS; Kay Morrison, EPA.
  • Afternoon Keynote & Awards – Barry Leffew, Adobe; David Plouffe, Author, The Audacity to Win, and Campaign Manager, Obama for President, 2008

For more program info and session descriptions look here.