Monday, December 13, 2010

Is Gov 2.0 Losing Steam ?

Andrea Di Maio talks about the 5 necessary truths about Gov 2.0 in this article.

Also included is this downbeat note:

Also, a recent Gartner survey of government clients’ priorities for 2011 indicated a drop in rank for Government 2.0. Many governments are struggling with fundamental sustainability issues because of the global financial crisis and sluggish recovery, and there is a concrete risk that Government 2.0 might be put on the back burner.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Is Ontario Privacy Commissioner Advocating Open Gov ?

Privacy. The internet.

Scared ?

Old media especially loves to scare us about privacy and the internet. I suspect this strategy keeps a certain type of person from abandoning their television and newspaper and joining the rest of us online where information is interactive, not just served up as product for consumption.

In this context, the title "Ontario's Privacy Commissioner" sounds like someone who can reach through the monitor and handcuff those evil Nigerian prince scammers, who threaten to cheat our parents out of our inheritances.

But Ann Cavoukian showed up on my radar this week for some statements she made recently. These weren't statements about protecting our privacy, but rather providing us with open data from our public institutions. Her document "Access By Design" "The 7 Fundamental Principles" was released in May:

"The demand for government services continually increases, while governments constantly face the need for cost reduction measures. By embracing Access by Design, public institutions can improve their information management practices by eliminating the inefficient process of “reactive” disclosure, and yet provide more streamlined access to public information. Further, citizen groups can also utilize public data to spot inefficiencies in, and improvements for, government services – increasing efficiency by reducing demand on government resources."

She seems to get it. New media has the potential to provide the fabled "third way" for our healthcare systems: publishing performance data so that costs and services provided are easily monitored. The downside to governments, though, is that there is no hiding from open data, and our current Ontario government hasn't distinguished itself as being a risk taker in this area.

But, still, it seems like something is going on. Check this excerpt from the Cornwall Standard Freeholder, ostensibly about new limits on hospital lobbying:

"It will provide access to hospitals' general records, including records relating to operational and financial functions," said Ontario's information and privacy commissioner, Dr. Ann Cavoukian, in a news release."

I used to say "stay tuned" at the end of these pieces, but maybe I should say "keep hitting F5".

Monday, October 18, 2010

Even Government 2.0 is Bigger in Texas !

Dustin Haisler is the assistant City Manager in Manor, Texas. In his article on, he explains how he uses technology to:

  • post information (town website,open data)
  • collaborate (idea suggestion and brainstorming, discussion via social media)
  • collect information from citizens(crime reporting, reporting of needed repairs)
  • improve processes (publishing forms online)
  • improve other areas (project management, operations management, record retention)

    None of these things is revolutionary, but just a matter of someone taking the time to do the little boring things that can add up to big successes.
Let's hope that Manor, Texas succeeds (as I think it will) and becomes a model for other governments to follow.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Online Voting Discussion

O'Reilly interviews CA Secretary of State Debra Bowen, on the topic of online voting.

As California resident Ryan Alfred observed during Bowen's conversation with Tim O'Reilly, open source voting platforms sound great in theory -- but can technology increase the percentage of citizens who vote?

I object to the implicit message that getting more people to vote is virtuous. The act of voting is only the final steps, in the duties of a civic-minded person to stay informed and participate in our processes. Why aren't we paying more attention to how we communicate issues, from government to the people, and from the people to each other ?

Part of the problem is likely that communication analysis isn't natural. People seem to think that the way they communicate is the way they always have communicated and that our changing media (even as they change before our eyes) don't have an effect on the message. McLuhan taught us differently, though.

Information has been reduced to bytes in all media. If you doubt me, see if you can watch a television newscast from 20 or 30 years ago, and notice how long and information-rich the stories appear to be. That's television. On the web, we actually pay for our information on a byte-by-byte basis so shorter is always better. O RLY ? Yes, really.

The electoral process is always changed by changing communication practices, but there are things we (and they) can do to promote deeper consideration of issues, more even discussion. Turning the voting process into another internet online poll is not one of these changes, however.

We should be approaching the problem as writer Jane Jacobs approached traffic problems in big cities: challenge all assumptions, and don't assume that the most volume of throughput is the best answer. One way streets, and speed bumps regulate traffic, and prevent neighbourhoods from becoming freeway scenery. Small obstacles to voting, such as having to physically walk a few blocks to do it, may represent a small control on the quality of the voter.

It seems counter-intuitive but more isn't always better. Sometimes better is better.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Healthcare, IT and the US Veterans Administration

Very weighty article from Andy Oram on the US Vetrans Administration approach to IT and Healthcare.

"The VA provides a model being adopted around the world -- Leading health care institutions in several countries, notably Jordan and Mexico, have implemented or are implementing VistA and its information-driven care model. It's happening in the U.S. too. Adoption is slow to start with because there are only a few small companies actively marketing VistA solutions (and they don't cooperate as well as they should). But the huge provider Kaiser Permanente interoperates with the VA and uses many of its techniques."

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Gov 2.0 From the Left AND Right

Nat Torkington on O'Reilly gives us a nice comparison of how two different views of politics will continue to reflect in Open Gov. To summarize: is it better services or doing more with less ?

The governments of Obama and Cameron have indicated different rationales for pursuing Government 2.0 but the goal is the same: open and responsive government, with a better connection to the people they are enlisted to serve.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Fioretti on Citizens in Open Government

Summary of a talk given by Marco Fioretti in Santander, Spain.

Fioretti correctly points out that far fewer citizens are interested in being members of an active thinking 'public' than one of the television-supplied 'masses'.

You can download the full talk at The main points were:

  • Using computers doesn't automatically make services more efficient
  • In and by itself, using only Free/Open Source software on government computers gives no openness: you can build the perfect police state using ONLY “Free as in Freedom” software
  • Publishing data online does very little good if it doesn't come with the right laws and practices

and, above all:

  • the crucial role EU senior citizens may play in acceptance of Open Government is really overlooked
  • Open Government done right destroys many more white collar public jobs than the economic crisis: will people accept it once they realize the impact on what is the biggest employer in many states?
  • Open Data work only if many more citizens are both willing and able to process numbers than it is the case today

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

It's NOT Open Data After All !

The zzzoot blog points out that 'open data' is not open and subject to 'terms of use'

While it is a great positive change that data is being released through numerous efforts around the world, data release is not the same as Open Data release. A number of Canadian cities have announced Open Data initiatives, but they are not releasing Open Data. They are just releasing data. Of course, this is better than not releasing data. But let's at least be honest ...

Monday, July 19, 2010

Interactive Journalism Tools ?

As a devoted McLuhanite, one would think that I would be prevented from falling into the trap of rear view mirror thinking, right ? But the goblins of technology will mesmerize and trick you time and time again. Never think you're safe from being fooled.

How was I fooled this latest time ? Well, my thinking about the future of new media, and how it can be used as an engine to drive public discussion has always referred to text, video and images... because those bits of content have been the building blocks of expressing an idea for a long time now. On this blog and elsewhere I talk about stories versus graphs with explanations. Sometimes I have considered interactive graphs, but haven't considered rich interactive tools.

But this is no longer the case.

The Washington Post Article on Top Secrecy in America provides an interactive application, a scrollable map, search engine, articles and intro video on one page. Will such a website eventually replace what today we call the 'news story' ?

Interactive media are the grown-up descendant of video games, and great-great-grand child perhaps of toys. And they can express things in ways that static content can not: by allowing the user to enter a model of what is being described, rather than view a diagram, or read a description; by showing motion (of money, or information for example) ; by showing complicated relationships such as many-to-many relationships between entities. We saw this latter example in the recent UK Gov interactive application that showed relationships between political contributions and contracts.

The possibilities for a new model raise other questions: who will be the audience for such tools ? will such tools be able to provide long views of how the modeled entity (government, for example) operates or will these be one-off toys ?

Keep watching the skies.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Open Gov As Healthcare Consumer Tool

From Tech President:

On a press call earlier this afternoon about launch of the Obama Administration's new, I asked HHS Chief Technology Officer Todd Park whether the country's major health care insurance companies are on board with releasing the specifics insurance plan prices that are slated to be added to the new site by October 2o1o, which is three months from now. With refreshing directness, Park responded, "We'll find out."

Government providing a tool to assess the market and assist consumers in getting the best deal possible regardless of what advertising says. I think it gives the consumer a new advantage, but is it too Soviet ?

Monday, July 5, 2010

News Reports NOT News Stories !

Julie Starr on the Evolving Newsroom blog talks about the "tyranny of the 10 per cent".

She says "I wonder how much our perception of ‘the news’ would change if news stories as a whole were curated, packaged and distributed differently. "

News is designed to meet the requirements of those who consume that news. So it's understandable that a news meant for wide distribution can only provide a limited amount of depth to a mass audience. Luckily for Julie and for me, the channels for delivering news are evolving quickly, and the packaging and distribution is changing as well. So we have more options to look at in comparing said packages.

What new options do we have, or more interestingly what might we see over the next few years ? To answer that at a high level, look at how television changed when the number of channels increased. Television producers began to narrowcast into smaller niche segments, that demanded specific programming. Even if the low-quality shows persisted, there were more choices - including a new array of high quality programmes.

Today, the web is changing now news works. From the experience with television's narrowcasting, I expect the web should provide those of us who want higher quality news with a product geared to me. But, how will it be different ?

The answer to that question is revealed in what Julie wrote about a 'handful of stories'.

A story is a narrative arc with a beginning, middle, and end. Stories may offer us a moral, but they don't offer much to our real lives. They contain information, but they are not information of themselves. But they are popular. As a result, today's news is predominantly narrative, i.e. story-based. News stories are a necessary construct of a news market that meets the needs of the mass of consumers.

I am part of a growing segment of the public that wants more from the news, that wants information, without too many stories.

I don't care if the masses want their stories - crime, the misnamed "human interest" story, or celebrity gossip - in fact, I like those things as much as anyone. But I'm also a member of interested public who wants to consume something that filters out the noise. We need to get news 'reports', not news stories. There's nothing elitist about this, I just want a news product to help make sense of this world we're living in. Personally, I get enough stories in fiction. There is always a human element in a news report, but added personal perspectives on stories feel, too often, like filler to me.

Here's an example of how I would like to see my news packaged for me into a 'report':

If the government pledges to provide resources in order to found a program to create jobs, then a media outlet should provide the interested public with the information for that project from the outset: by providing the resources allocated, and the projected goals (eg. new jobs created) over a timeline.

A report can start giving us information from day 1, with updates given periodically just as happens with a well run project. That report can be a small narrative, with a few graphs - quite simple. At key milestones, we can evaluate whether the objectives are being met. The report can make use of the interactive aspects of new media as well, by existing on the web as a bookmarked link or an RSS feed without having to do it all in a few pages read one time through, as a story does. At any time during the project, the interested public will know from the report how it's progressing towards its objectives.

A news story on the same subject typically only happens a few times during the course of the project, and is be replete with political spin, and would undoubtedly feature the trappings of narrative: characters, conflicts, some dramatic images and the like meant to 'tart up' the information given in order to give it mass appeal. With a report, I can add the most of the analysis myself if I like.

If the media make a concerted effort made to frame and provide information - reports rather than stories - then intelligent members of the public will be drawn to those channels, and will better equipped to make decisions in an era of change. And hopefully the higher order news consumer will be drawn to such channels, and would bring attention to them.

Those of us who see the need for such a change now need to start talking about it now.

The Guardian UK Goes Diving...

The Guardian UK tries a little deep diving, looking into underlying data on the success of medical procedures. As Dr. Ben Goldacre explains here, there are problems however let's celebrate that something new appears to be happening.

News sources are increasingly moving towards providing richly supported information that can be analyzed and discerned by intelligent, and presumably influential readers.

With the advent of point-to-point communications via the web, we once again have a 'public' versus the masses. And the public wants good information, not mass marketing.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A Hint at the coming Revolution

In this article from we get a hint at the next steps for application development and Open Government.

Bryan Sivak - Chief Technology Officer from Greater Portland - kindly points out:

"We don't tend to release a lot of information about how things work internally," he says. "Once we start to do that and start to get some of that information out there, and start to get interest from citizens and developers in how the internal processes of government can be shaped and changed, I think we can actually start to leverage a lot of value."

Of course, how willing are department heads going to be to let us know how things work 'internally' ? Or for that matter - mayors and counselors ?

Let's see.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Open Data in the UK

Richard Poynder blogs about the movement in the UK in Free Our Data:For Democracy's Sake.

He also discusses the Messina Bridge and the Open Gov efforts of Dr. Marco Fioretti.

Interestingly, the European and Australian projects seem to me to mention budgets and citizens-watching-government more often than the American projects do.

In putting the transparency case to O'Reilly's Andy Oram, Fioretti cited the planned construction of the Strait of Messina Bridge (at an estimated cost of €6.1 billion). When the government announces how many tax dollars it plans to spend on a project like this, Fioretti asked, how can the public know that the costs are reasonable if it does not have access to all the data?
This is just an impression I have from a handful of articles, but I did notice that.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Australia's Gov 2.0 Taskforce report mashup Winner

... is impressive !

Australian Senator Kate Lundy returned from Government 2.0 Expo 2010 and filed this report on her blog. Including this tidbit:

  • LobbyLens was the winner of the Gov 2.0 Taskforce report mashup competition. This comp was held on the ANU campus (which was great, ‘cos Canberra’s my home town and I was able to get along and see how things were shaping up….) It shines a spotlight in lobbying efforts in relation to decisions made by government.

The LobbyLens network graph application is a step forward in Government 2.0 applications in that:

1) It is animated, colourful and fun to use

2) It shows data that empowers people to form opinions on their government, (i.e. by showing connections between business & government) not just to use killer apps that they have provided for you.

Unfortunately, it's a little unweildy but do check it out nonetheless.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

“Social and technological change is pushing government into unchartered waters where it must behave differently.”

Dr. David McClure - 'open data guru' - talks about the coming changes to government.

Getting government agencies to embrace open data is a big challenge, he said. “We love scorecards in the US government. We use them to create competition and boost transparency – we score agencies on their open government plans.”

This is revolutionary - creating competition without having an economic system to push it. Does anybody realize what is coming ?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The 3 Phases of Government 2.0

Something like a history of the movement, as early as it still is...

Mark Drapeau

I've seen three phases in what most people would agree is "Government 2.0" -- a phase of surprise, a phase of experimentation, and a phase of solutions.

Monday, June 21, 2010

New Study on Open Government Data

This one from Italy, interesting because it highlights the publication of government project information - costs and goals:

Several problems impelled Fioretti to propose this study:

  • Government claims are hard to verify. When the cost of the huge Strait of Messina Bridge project is announced, for instance, how can the public determine whether it's reasonable? (And why, I might add, do most projects experience cost overruns but none ever come in under budget?)
    Marco Fioretti to study open government data in the EU

Friday, June 18, 2010

Gov 2.0 Hero Day !

I missed it !

I heart Gov 2.0 HeroesGov 2.0 Hero Day is held annually on June 15 to celebrate citizens inside and outside government who go above and beyond the call of duty and creatively leverage technology to build a more open, transparent and collaborative democracy. These dedicated citizens are commonly referred to as Gov 2.0 Heroes.

June 15th -> From Luke Fretwell

Value proposition of open data : a framework for measuring success

Laura Wesley gives a simple but convincing argument for open government in her blog.

This is part of govloop:

What's the story with GovLoop?

GovLoop was created in 2008 by one awesome fed with an idea. He thought there was a need for a social network for the government community to connect and share information. And thus, he created this website to foster this communication.(**Update**) Fast forward 18 months and what started out as a passion has grown to over 30,000 government innovators across the world. Steve moves full-time on GovLoop as President of GovLoop, a subsidiary of GovDelivery, a small company out of Minnesota.

Sunday, March 28, 2010


"Patriotism is the last refuge of advertising agency creative directors with American car industry clients"

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Let's call It Government 1.9

Those of you who know me know that I have dedicated much of my political blogging to the examination of how current technology (i.e. the web) continues to affect our politics. I have blogged about political divisiveness as a symptom of the technical landscape that we use for communications today. That landscape has, in the past generation or so, grown to include opinionated and biased mass-media pundits, supported by an immature and fractious political internet. Unfortunately the web has only become TV that yells back at you.

The natural uses for the web with politics have only just started to emerge, and they are starting to stir the political world very slightly: online fundraising, political blogs and videos are the leading edge of this change. The higher-order uses of the web for political discussion that I can envision, though, support productive and responsible political discussion on a personal level as well as for larger groups. A political web such as that more closely matches the media mix in place during the 18th century, when philosophers and pamphleteers published ideas and debates happened person to person.

Luckily for us, that immature and fractious web is constantly evolving, mellowing, refining itself, and blending into mainstream media At some point in our lifetimes, it will grow roots - real political institutions that will supplant television as the medium of choice for political communication. That will be a joyous day but although I can get a glimpse of that future of politics I haven't been able to see any way for us to get there until now.

Today - Shawn Micallef writes in Eye magazine about the start of the TTC Riders Union:

The TTC Riders Union is a brilliant idea because it contains all the touchstones of old media organization and could have existed as a protest group at any point in the last generation. But it is also a Facebook group that reaches across the technological divide to the larger citizenry. This model could mobilize groups that respond to old world and new world (or no world) technologies.

Better yet, the new-media aspects of this group will be able to provide a designated intellectual forum where principles, priorities and ideas can be executed efficiently. As such, it has the potential to solve problems not just for the TTC, but to serve as a model for other such action/discussion groups. As Mr. Micallef points out, the group itself needs to be
designed to be non-partisan and non-ideological, purposed towards promoting the general interests of TTC riders only.

So this is not Democracy 2.0, but perhaps Democracy 1.9. A little less technology based, and a little more people based. As such, we hope that this initiative gains hold of the public imagination.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Likes and Dislikes about the 2000s

Things I liked about the 2000s: 1. Internet 2. New Foods & Drinks 3. TV Got Good 4. Music Great 5. Globalization - the better things about it 6. Environmental thinking went mainstream 7. Social Change continued - congrats to all engaged and married queers out there 8. Video Games - don't get them but something strange and wonderful is happeing there 9. Design & Art - guys, guys, you keep popping my eyes

Things not Liked about: 2000s 1. Movies sucked 2. Hard drug use pervaded society 3. Health and healthcare went downhill 4. Politics didn't get better 5. Spirituality has apparently left the public consciousness 6. Environmental damage continues