Fear of change brought on by sudden onslaught of #gov20

My business partner and I were in meetings this week with a government agency dealing with sudden onslaught of “Gov 2.0.” Deja Vu. It came full blast this week from the year 2008. We might as well have been in an episode of the TV show “Fear Factor” as at some points fear was the major chasm to be crossed in the room.

Government 2.0 initiatives have been in full force since late 2009, early 2010. In 2008, however, the U.S. Government had not yet passed the Open Government Directive or the Joint Chiefs of Staff Open Source memo milestones. Officials were scared of change. Social media was a big angry beast that was not understood, not clearly developed in a government sense and something just to shy away from.

But we have moved to a point where major federal agencies not only have printed and published guidelines and existing working programs – but we are witnessing global cooperation on the Government 2.0 stage and collaboration is now fostering success. In late September of 2011 there will be a meeting of over 20 countries dedicated to Open Government and Government 2.0 around the globe. This is an exciting time for people like myself, advocating, pushing, pulling and even getting yelled at to accomplish change.

But still fear lingers, its wraith like fingers coming in the dead of night, or in the depth of a boardroom on a sunny day. Social media has its heroes and demons alike that is clear. But mobility, social connectivity and the desire for more transparency and openness create strange bedfellows. Just when an agency indicates a real need for Gov 2.0 – someone inevitably throws cold water. Sometimes freezing cold water, but still the movement continues, and the forward progression of the adoption of a new way of business for government continues uni-directionally.

My solution for fear based discussions about Gov 2.0? Look around. See all the successful implementations of open data, of social connectivity for Government and Citizens alike and see the results. It is not hard to find an example of government agencies adopting various parts of this big picture. Just ask your local fire department how they are using location based services. Or ask your local police department how they monitor social media for evidence of crimes. Look at the military using social media in offensive, defensive methods as well as for recruiting and publicity. Look at how the FBI regularly uses social media to tell the story about what they do. Look at the State Department’s continual innovations in new uses of mobility and social media. That is how your agency overcomes fear brought on by a sudden onslaught of Gov 2.0.

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2 thoughts on “Fear of change brought on by sudden onslaught of #gov20

  1. Great post, Alan. It is interesting to read about how fear of the unknown slows the progress of open government. Often, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” to quote a great American president. Actually, when you go back and look at the context of that quote by Franklin D. Roosevelt, in 1993 when the depression had reached its full depths, we can learn today from his first inaugural address in the context of our Gov 2.0 and the economy. He says: “Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”

  2. I would suggest that, unfortunately, for every success story in a government organization, there is probably at least one or more failures to extend gov2.0 with clear examples of double speak or regression. For example when TEDX was held at the Pentagon last year, there were military units who could not watch it because TED.com is blocked. And the continuous blaring of cyber threats while relevant also encourage the risk averse to seek the easy way out by not permitting gov2.0 access. I don’t have any good solutions but there will continue to be shades of 2008 as new factors (e.g. Wikileaks, UK/London riots, BART) enter the decision process. Government is deeply hierarchical and slow to change at any time but especially when the environment around it is changing at lightening speed.

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