When people talk about “government 2.o,” it’s often couched in terms of a new, shiny idea. Using a version number imbues the category with heady techno-futurism and taints discussions with the hype that surrounds social media and “Web 2.0” technologies.
The morning of the first day of the Government 2.0 unconference in LA featured sessions and speakers devoted to something else entirely: history. Practical applications and an open forum on how to make the language used more approachable to citizens followed Cory Andrejka’s talk on how government can adapt to exponential technological change. As he pointed out, however, analyzing open data sets to in ways that help citizens and commerce isn’t novel.
Driving Adoption of Disruptive Innovation
According to Andrejka, one area to improve lies in identifying technological innovation within the private sector and adopting it where it makes sense. In the present day, that may be digital tools and online platforms where citizens gather.
To put the challenge in content, for good or ill, adoption has often driven by crises or societal disruption. In the 1800s, the Civil War in the United States drove the development of new military technologies, often with far-reaching effect.
As Harvard’s Antonio Oftelie explained later in the morning, the Spencer repeating rifle was one such innovation.
That weapon could take seven shots for every one from traditional rifles. Unfortunately, the generals of the day within a conservative Department of War resisted its adoption for any number of logistical and tactical rationales. Spencer took the gun West, and, famously, to a shooting match with the President himself. Lincoln, a fine shot, put 7 bullets into a board, which Spencer saved. Subsequently, Lincoln put the gun into production.
Gaining access to critical “influencers” or IT buyers is no less important today. The use of Facebook, Twitter or Drupal by the White House has given each additional legitimacy as a means to engage citizens, amplify a message or collect information.
According to a Gov 2.0 survey conducted by Oftelie, however, the most valuable use of technology in government is for “enterprise-wide, net-enabled guidance and collaboration.”