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Digital Diplomacy, 4 years and now change.

Wow. There is a sea change happening in the Middle East. The 2013 Iranian Election will mark the end of one cycle, and the beginning of another. What a long path to this point.

The cycle ending is the cycle of the first few revolutions/civil wars and government overthrows that happened in full view of, and in part due to social media. The one beginning is going to become the post-social media middle east. One where the power of the people, won out, country after country.

Just a brief history.

In the late spring and early summer of 2009, Iran was in the throes of pre-election frenzy. There was a moderate trying to overthrow the conservative leadership through peaceful, democratic means. But it turned bad, and turned bad fast. The Green Revolution as it was called, inspired people to great heights of hope and also tremendous depths of despair that resulted from the horrific human rights abuses, torture, death, kidnappings, rapes, that were committed by the Iranian Government and it’s religious and civil allies to prevent the Green Revolution from succeeding.

I documented this struggle of the Green Revolution on Twitter, on Facebook and on You2Gov which was the website I had started in 2008 and which we put into hiatus in 2010. Here is the twitter history. In fact it was this period with the efforts I and many others did to document the digital, social history; and to learn from it that was one of the reasons I started “Gov20LA” in the first place. People’s voices need to be heard. In a good and positive way that allows everyone, those in government and those outside to feel comfortable making changes. Changes have to come from multiple parts of society not just one. But this has to be in moderation.

Since then we have seen the Occupy movements spring up in cities around the world. We have seen Tunisia, and Egypt fall with in the same week almost in 2011. I talked about this at the opening of Gov 2.0 L.A in 2011. We actually did a “Digital Diplomacy Panel” at the 2011 Gov20LA event. In part the exploding use of social media and mobile technology was openly discussed in a live stream during that panel.

Now, we see Turkey struggling with their own version of the “Arab Spring” that many people are referring to as #OccupyGezi on Twitter and other social media. Syria and Russia are going through massive social change again, with Syria in middle of a bloody and growing civil war; and Russia moving to limit rights of protestors, and curtailing free speech more and more.

But four years after the Green Revolution, the people of Iran have delivered a surprise to the world. A moderate. With none of the bloodshed or violence of the Green Revolution from four years ago. This time around #Iranelection is a positive hashtag with huge meaning. No longer meaning death, torture.

I think it is time for Syria, Turkey, Russia to pay attention and start making changes now. Because clearly, the power of the people when amplified by social media and mobility, is world changing power. Power in the hands of the people.

You Have Been De-centralized!

There is temporary bi-partisan outrage at the recent revelations about PRISM and BARNEY and other strangely named programs. Rightfully so. Perhaps it is time for a new version of the Church Commission. The Digital Version. The last time I believe we have seen this type of temporary bipartisanship in the nation’s capitol was actually right after the tragedy of 9.11. So let us unite in a great cause then. Preserving our democracy.

Governments around the world are kind of missing the point. The point is not that they can siphon off our digital lives and chew on the digital breadcrumbs we all leave behind. The point is not that they are spying on us. That part should have been pretty obvious to anyone paying attention to Democracy since the Patriot Act was first written, then edited and updated and added to and continually re-authorized. But don’t kid yourself. This is not new.

The point is: The world has become de-centralized. Your life is decentralized in ways you could not have imagined even 10 years ago. You carry the power of what was the world’s most powerful computer 20 years ago in your pocket now. What used to take the resources of a government agency or large commercial entity can now be done by the crowd-sourcing of your life. You want the best new restaurant in town? Ask your friends on facebook. Need to get instant feedback on something? Tweet it. Want people to do a deep dive on something or really read it? Post it on Google+ or blog it. The point is. That we all can access information about anyone, anytime, almost as simply as by asking.

Technology has just rapidly increased the capabilities and speed of something that in one form or another has been going on for centuries. Governments have long spied on mail sent through postal services. The telegraph and telephone scaled that into a more real time (sort of) methodology. Now we have satellites, digital transmissions and our knowledge skills and access to powerful technology on a scale never seen in human history before. So governments are spying. So are big businesses. Every time you fill out a form online, or submit a sweepstakes entry, or use your credit card, or phone, or email, or go online, or drive your GPS enabled car.

Who then is really Big Brother? Governments around the world using spy gear and deep packet inspections to virtually rape your online life, or the corporations doing the exact same things, and or worse? Welcome to the future. Your future decentralized life. It is here now. Complete with two big brothers. Governments and Corporations.

Rocking Citizen Power in 2012.

As the 3rd annual Gov 2.0 L.A. (Gov20LA) approaches on April 21, 2012; I have been thinking a lot about why I started this conference and what it means for you, for me and for our futures. A few years back I wrote this piece “What is Gov20LA All About?”

In the 3 years since we have seen huge growth in social media, cloud computing, mobile technologies and the subsequent explosion of citizen involvement with our governments. This has caused all kinds of situations, good and bad. On the good we are seeing country after country begin to adopt open data and transparent aspects to their internal and external operations. We have seen citizens empowered to use their voice, many for the first time ever. We have witnessed several countries fall to “soft power” of people organizing, and then acting on the organization to effect change of a type we have never seen in our collective human history. On the bad, we are seeing totalitarian governments around the world cling to these new technologies and indeed even the people’s response to them; to crack down, imprison people, kill people and break up organized groups.

I have written in the past about the two headed side of #gov20 and social media in general with regard to Governments and the people who interact with them. This dichotomy is growing, not abating. We see people using technologies to force change yet at same time we are witnessing governments around the world investigate the same technologies to prevent change.

Gov20LA was created to act as a forum to collect the best and brightest people and their ideas and enable them to tell the world their stories. The idea has always been to empower people through learning about the cutting edge applications of technology in government and by the companies servicing them. We feel that by letting you see the speakers in a casual, yet live setting online – we all can learn from the human conversation and dialogue.

Technology is great, solves lots of problems and saves money when properly applied. The problem with most technology conferences and events is they are too jargon laden and usually do not encourage open dialogue with the speakers. We do the opposite. We want the dialogue. We want our speakers interacting both with the live audience in the room and the global Internet TV audience. So we have created an open environment, with some truly amazing people from inside and outside government leading the dialogue.

I am personally so humbled and excited by the continued awesome response Gov20LA receives worldwide. I can’t wait for this year. Join me. Thank you.

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3 Themes for Gov 2.0 LA 2012 (and it’s our 3rd year!)

The third Gov20LA is coming up soon. In fact in April of 2012 at the same location as this year.

As we have in the last two years, the event will be fully live-streamed and interactive with twitter, facebook, chat.

We are past the point where the “Gov 2.0″ in our name does more than evoke recognition. It is time to focus not on the theoretical but on the practical. This past year the world has witnessed upheaval and change on a scale that is new to all of us. When we did Gov20LA this year - Tunisia had just fallen, and the crisis in Egypt was just erupting in full; we had a collection of the some the world’s leading thinkers about guess what, social media in times of crisis and governments. It was to be sure pretty amazing timing. Hopefully the drama this coming year will once again be focused on the amazing speakers we will soon be announcing and the world eyes will be watching us with the ability to learn without being present in the room necessarily.

The three themes of this upcoming Gov20LA are going to be:

1. Business inside Government and how it is rapidly becoming different, things like SCRM are being deployed and government is basically being forced to restructure itself.

2. Goverments’ use and management of social media in crisis like the earthquake, hurricanes, riots.

3. Engagement is now being taken as a for granted thing, “everyone has a facebook page” but how real is it and how are crowd-sourcing and public private partnerships re-arranging the landscape?

We are requesting two things from you.

1. If you would like to submit a panel idea or speak please contact us here.

2. We will be issuing a follow up post before January 1, 2012 with regard to sponsorships and corporate opportunities, but if you are interested in sponsoring the event or some part of it, please contact us at Gov20LA@Gmail.com. Once again we appreciate all of the previous sponsors of the past two years, and could not have done it without each and every company and person who stepped up to sponsor the event.

Gov 2.0 gets the short end?

There is a huge amount of news pouring out of the middle east right now. Oil prices are shooting up. The “stable” countries in the area are eyeing their “unstable” neighbors quite warily and there is tremendous unease in general.

One of the by-products of the strife, conflict and chaos occurring in the Middle East has been a laser like focus on the role that social media has been playing in the drama unfolding daily in a new country, almost country by country. One facet that has made social media have the impact it has had is the shortness of messaging allowed by services like Twitter and now Facebook as well as other sharing sites.

As anyone who has used Twitter more than once knows, the easiest way to submit a long link (url-uniform resource locator) is to shorten the link using anyone of other popular shorteners available for free and in paid versions. If you use a client like tweetdeck, the odds are you use a shortener powered by something ending with .ly (the extension) When you shorten, you cloak the real url, and re-direct the user to another – which in itself is a recipe for disaster. When you add in executable code that can be like a payload – with ddos, malware or other problematic attacks embedded. Your computer could turn it on without you even knowing, simply through the act of the redirect itself.

(Now I am about to say some things that will get some people annoyed so a disclaimer of sorts: I am not attacking any company nor service with the .ly extensions. Rather I am asking some questions in the hopes of helping to create some constructive answers and help allay some fears in the user base.)

This is an even huger problem as the .ly extensions are clearly and most definitely controlled by Libya. It is up to the Government of Libya to approve, deny or block content and users of .ly extensions according to both Islamic law and Libyan law. Libya is violently cracking down on it’s citizens and is using threats of and actually shutting down the internet. Why should Western companies think they are going to stay away from these troubles?

So not only is there a threat of shutdown – there is the more pernicious problem of the potential abuse of any redirect necessitated in any shortener program. These shorteners start executable code on your computer to do the re-direct. You don’t always know where you are being sent. Recently the Isreali government demonstrated that DDOS and other malicious code can be inserted into the backend of shorteners, a stern warning any government should be paying attention to. The United States Government recently issued it’s own shortener, based on Bit.ly professional (paid) version with some changes to the T.O.S. and other things. They have a secondary company supporting this. To the credit of the GSA, when I inquired through a tweet about the use of .ly shorteners with regard to Government agencies and the current crisis, I got a real response within minutes showing Gov 2.0 in use. However I seriously question the reliance on a company that is in turn relying on an extension controlled by a brutal dictatorship with no regard to human rights let alone western corporate rights. There are other shortener companies that do not rely on the .ly extensions. Why create a potential back door for mischief? I talked to many federal workers today, and received many emails and direct messages with varying degrees of use/non-use of the .ly extensions. One thing became very clear. In this age of Gov 2.0 and Web 2.0 - we need to be careful to guard against the rush of technology leading to rash decision making.

There has been a spate of recent stories about the problems with shorteners in general, and .ly extensions specfically, long before the current problems heated up. So I would suggest to the U.S. Government, and to other Governments, that they look seriously at using non .ly related shorteners, and come up with a way to take the mischief component out of the equation, in a bid to make the internet a safer place while still keeping the immediacy of the message intact.

Update:
Bit.ly has issued some statements on Quora as well as it’s own website with regard to the status of the .ly extensions. There still seems to be confusion over what would happen with a full shutdown, as there is a 28 day report period after which Icann will not take further information from a non addressing extension. At the same time, there are multiple hosting points, and of the 5 for .ly only 2 are in Libya. So while this provides some clarity – it does not address the payload issue, or why the shortener industry decided to rely on .ly extensions which still fall under the Islamic/Libyan law situation I laid out above.

re-posted from www.silberberginnovations.com

Takeways from Gov 2.0 L.A. 2011 Listening and Learning

Gov 2.0 L.A. 2011 is now behind us. Such an amazing experience. Thought leaders and practitioners, entrepreneurs and government leaders all came together in one place, for an out of the box weekend filled with very smart people and ideas as well as collaboration and innovation.

My big takeaway as the Founder of Gov20LA:

The amount of listening and learning going on now at all levels of Government, whether international or local is vast. We learned from the Canadian, British and United States Governments just how much active listening is occurring on the global social media stage right now. These countries are both pushing out content in their own and many other languages, but are actively listening and seeking engagement from citizens (not always their own) in other countries. This is a profound statement, and shows clearly the need for Governments to create social media listening command centers (like Dell has for example.) At the same time, we learned from local leaders some of the challenges they face not just in listening but in creating actions out of the issues at hand. I must have heard the term “listening” from almost every panelist and speaker this weekend.

The other big takeaway is the amount of learning going on right now. Two, three years ago, the learning was “so what is this social media/gov 2.0 stuff anyways?” Now – that learning has leapfrogged to best practices, to what is working and not working, and to what lessons can be applied from the private sector into the public sector and vice-versa. We have gone from “what is open source” to “which open source platform/software are you using and why?” The learning is going on from one level of government to another, from one country to another and from one person to another. Remember word of mouth? Social media just expands on that and creates a broader cycle and more rapid response to the word of mouth.

My third powerful takeaway: there is a quiet evolution occurring that is actually creating new companies, new jobs and new possibilities for the marketplace. The explosion of open data is creating new pathways for entrepreneurs to attack centuries old problems in some cases. The interest of the news media and society at large in social media as intensified in recent months due to the continued use of social media as a change agent in the middle east and due to the fact that social media is becoming ubiquitous in much of society. But we also have a very bifurcated social media arena globally. In the west social media means internet (mostly) based platforms and networks. But in many places in Africa, or Latin America, the only social media available is SMS based off of mobile platforms with no graphics or video. But yet these SMS based social networks allow for micro-finance banking to occur in areas where even just a few years ago there were no communications abilities let alone “banking” abilities. So the changes that these tools and technology are producing is profound already.

Did social media cause the events in Egypt, Tunisia? Most of the attendees seemed to agree (loosely) that while social media and mobility played a huge role in these events, it was not the social media itself that was the cause, but rather a highly efficient tool that was tactically and strategically applied in a chaotic situation. There has always been “viral marketing” we have just moved from slower forms of communicating those ideas to instant delivery. What social media did do in those countries was provide a place for planning, strategy implementation and networking and recruiting. But it still took real people to make a real decision to put their real feet on the real streets. So social media was but just one part of a much larger picture driving these historical events unfolding in front of our very eyes.

We are way past rhetorical and ontological debates about “What is Gov 2.0″ or “what is Opengov.” We are now into the delivery phase of the good revolution we call loosely “Gov 2.0.” In fact anyone still spending time debating what “it” is has already benched themselves from the tremendous action and movement in this space now.

My most quoted statement from the weekend:

“*We* are the shareholders. *We* own this business called government.”

Facebook Credits is going to change Gov 2.0.

Facebook credits. My definition is a virtual currency. Here is Facebook’s definition. In all transparency: I know of them but have not used them yet. I have personally used Skype credits – and also Google credits – as well as participated in various virtual worlds and made use of those virtual currencies – so I have some understanding at least. All of these are basically re-purposed financial transactions given a virtual edge if you will. I read some of the history of virtual currencies, there have been many false starts, and some minor success stories like Linden Labs. But nothing on the scale of what Facebook might be able to do.

But Facebook Credits is different. Why? Because Facebook is the equivalent of the third most populous country in the real world, with over 500 million people around the world. Already, credits are becoming a money earner for Facebook in real cash.

So when this virtual currency (credits) begin to be used in non virtual situations what happens to real world currencies? How does the value of the credit relate to the item being purchased (swapped/bartered/traded?) How do Facebook Credits relate in price and value to the major currencies of the real world? Who will come up with this formula? If you buy Facebook credits in your home country, in your currency, then travel somewhere else and buy something what is the value of your credits? In which currency?

Already, “Virtual Currency Monetization” is it’s own tiny industry and growing very fast with a handful of start-ups and other companies chasing a market based on converting virtual “credits” to real money and or products. There are even companies touting themselves as “Virtual Currency Exchanges.” How long till the real currency exchanges push into this action? Facebook itself is advertising it’s partnerships with Rixty and Coinstar in supermarkets across the U.S to collect coins and convert to pre-paid Facebook credits debit card. So apparently the move to turn Facebook Credits into at least something like a real currency is already on.

Why this matters to Governments, Gov 2.0 specialists and practitioners, is pretty basic:

A. If a transaction is done in Facebook Credits for a real world item, what is the tax basis and who collects?
B. If a transaction is done in Facebook Credits that results in cash back – what currency denominates as the basis for a “Global currency?”
C. If and when Facebook starts to push to have it’s virtual currency become a real currency, what will it be weighted in? How will this affect real world currency fluctuations and global trading?
D. If Facebook successfully pushes it’s credits into the real world – will they be traded like other currencies? Who will regulate?
E. For all the Government agencies with “Facebook” like buttons on your properties? Did you know that you are part of a virtual economy? Are you tailoring your fee acceptance rules (ie check, cash, credit card) to include Paypal, Google checkout at the least, let alone Facebook credits? If not, why not?

The Mobile Gov 2.0 Influence

Mobility is the key. Government 2.0 and it’s namesake online “Gov 2.0” are already looking down the tunnel of version one – ie social media.

Version two is mobile. Mobile growth is explosive around the World. More and more people are using their mobile devices to become smarter, at least on the go smarter. Projected growth for mobile phones from the lowest phone only version to the smartest ones with “on-board life controls” is in the hundreds of percent over the next few years.

I have written about the Digital Divide many times.  The response has always been powerful. Why is this? Because it is a sensitive issue driven by fear of rich vs poor thinking. Unfortunately it’s true. As I have said before, a big part of the digital divide is now those “with smart phones” and those with “basic cellular” phones.  This is due to the increased mobility of our society as the continued economic realities around the world are changing living situations and human migration rapidly.

The person with the smart phone is able to go almost anywhere, find almost anything and be informed of alerts and information relative to their life no matter where they are. The person with the “basic” phone – or none at all does not. Pretty simple.

I caught a lot of grief for writing about the Social Darwinism of Gov 2.0 recently. Some people suggested I was loosely using a term I “did not seem to understand.” However, the economic situation is turning more and more of our society into us vs them/rich vs poor/smart info vs dumb or no info. I stand by what I wrote.

Just because the truth hurts does not mean it should not be told. The Mobile Gov 2.0 influence is already clear. Market leaders like www.citysourced.com and www.seeclickfix.com have been demonstrating that for a few years now. But there are a host of iphone apps and smartphone Gov 2.0 applications now available for download from dozens of companies. This past election showed the power of social media combined with mobile.

How many SMS messages were generated from a social media site visitation or share?

What percentage of the decision to vote was done through advanced, real time, mobile conversations flowing between campaigns and people’s pockets?

Think about that. Then think about how useful Government 2.0 applications become when the people, You 2.0, are in control – no matter where they are. This has huge implications on what is happening now, and what is to come in the next 18 months or so.

Look for the fusion of social media and mobility into Gov 2.0 in a real way. Look for how Government agencies start to be graded on their mobile access and Gov 2.0 access. Wait until the AARP or other large interest groups start issuing Gov 2.0 report cards along with the customary budgetary efficiency and policy effectiveness reports.

Trust, Transparency and the Gov 2.0 Triage

Republished from http://www.silberberginnovations.com

Lately there has been lots of news about a breakdown in trust of those in Government. Bell, California is just the latest obnoxious example of gross malpractice and criminal activity in a Government. Trust is something we have always tried to demand from those running our Governments. It does not always work out that way though. One would think that with social media we would have become more aware. One would think that with “OpenGov” initiatives sprouting up like weeds the days of Government officials doing things in secret would be over. Don’t go to Vegas and bet on that.

    If anything, there is a dark side to Gov 2.0 – that it may conveniently offer up yet another bureaucratic layer if not implemented carefully.

I have been working on a political campaign this cycle. It’s blog was hacked recently, and attempts were made to hack the website too. In this case the hacker is known to the campaign, and is being dealt with appropriately. But it brought another side of the trust prism to light: through social media we let total strangers “into” our lives, both digitally and sometimes literally. Little things that seem innocuous suddenly loom huge. Strangers get to peek in, you get to in return. To what end? How does this flow to the people’s oversight of the Government?

Recently I wrote about the need for the “G” chip – my name for it. My point, and I am going to quote from what I wrote:

” * How do you know when you go from a commercial site to a government site? This will become a more complicated issue as governments start rolling out new sites with commercial elements on them.

* How do you know if the government site you are on is using persistent tracking cookies or other web information services to not only identify you but deliver appropriate services?

* How do you know if the government site you are on has partnerships with another company; say, Google? Whose terms of service are you under?

My anti-virus program uses red and green lights to indicate safety of my system and safety of websites I may be visiting. Perhaps we need a “G” chip dashboard with a similar layout. One that lets you know you are crossing into government owned e-space, and one that alerts you to different persistent tracking techniques, and one that alerts you to multiple Terms of Services on one site.”

This would go a long way towards addressing the the open wounds that failures in trust and transparency have created. A “Triage” if you will from Gov 2.0 and even You 2.0. But there is more to it than just knowing where you are and how you got there. Part of what the Gov 2.0 Revolution is inspiring beyond new companies and and ideas into a new way of Governing too.

Gov 2.0 will be meaningful in a very deep way when it transcends from a nifty way to do something to an embedded and permanent transparency window into how our Government officials serve us, the people.