How Web 2.0 Is Changing Business of Government

You2Gov CEO Alan W. Silberberg was interviewed on Federal News Radio today, in Washington, DC. Below is the blog post written by Dorothy Ramienski as well as the original link to the Federal News Radio website, as well as the audio links.

Thanks to Chris Dorobek and everyone at Federal News Radio who made this possible.

Alan Silberberg
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Lloyd Howell
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By Dorothy Ramienski
Internet Editor

Web 2.0 and social networking tools are changing the way the federal government does business.

While some are hailing this as a good thing, there are still concerns about privacy and security.

Alan Silberberg is chief executive officer of You2Gov, a Web site that was created to connect the public with its political representatives.

Lloyd Howell is Senior VP at Booz Allen Hamilton and leads a team of more than 2,000 consultants who serve a broad range of clients in the global government and commercial markets.

Both have been using 2.0 to operate in the private sector and with the federal government. They shared their insights on the Daily Debrief.

Howell said it’s a very exciting time for both the government and the public, because 2.0 isn’t simply about technology. It’s about making government a platform and making data available for public use, rather than having government act as a simple service provider.

“Today, as taxpayers, we kind of see the IRS as the Boogeyman, but in the future, we would also see it as a consultant of sorts where, not only would the IRS be able to provide various tax forms, but also maybe a bit of history — a bit of performance — around audits and things of that sort. So if you’re a small business, you would begin to better appreciate through self-education and the ability to talk to others what’s out there,” Howell said.

Open source is a term that has become widely used over the past decade. Concepts, like Silberberg’s You2Gov Web site, were on the forefront of using open source to change the way government works.

“The initial idea was to allow average citizens to contact their elected officials in a clear and secure and efficient way. To that end, we created a proprietary database of all members of Congress — all 50 state legislatures and all of the constitutionally elected officers in every state. . . . It’s one of the few tools that any citizen can jump onto the Web and start contacting their elected officials without party affiliation, without having to check off the box that you support a certain issue.”

Silberberg said the idea behind their work had to do with empowering the average citizen, “We’re looking to provide free and open access to every citizen of this country.”

2.0 also carries with it the issue of transparency. Howell said this notion can be difficult for some, mainly because the word means different things to different people and groups.

“I think in this case, it is intended to be transformational. I think, by having such transparency, what we will find is various agencies will discover that maybe what they thought they were doing in terms of executing their mission is a bit misplaced. There may be some additional dimensions to what they need to do going forward that is informed by feedback and communication with citizens. Similarly, maybe citizens don’t fully appreciate the breadth of what a government agency does . . . and I think that interchange presents a lot of potential in terms of both understanding what they may not have understood, but also through that . . . transparency, being able to affect some change,” Howell said.

Another important aspect of government 2.0 has to do with e-authentication and trust networks, which Howell said have been used for quite some time.

“I think with e-authentication, however, what it represents is an opportunity for everyone to leverage some of the open ID and information card technologies that will allow the communication between the public and the government to [happen] in a trusted way, to be secure and to maintain privacy,” Howell said.

He added that this is now possible because of the various standards of authentication, compliance and security put in place by the government in the hopes of reassuring the public.

Silberberg said, from his perspective, 2.0 is generating a lot of excitement, but there’s still some confusion when it comes to applying some 2.0 tools to everyday experiences.

“There’s so many different applications of these tools. We’re all just beginning to discover some of these applications and I think what’s really most interesting to me is the discussion between what could be happening and what’s already happening. To that end, I point to our own Web site. We’re already operating as a government 2.0 Web site. . . . The government, obviously, is in the discussion phase . . . but right now I think there’s a real dichotomy between what’s already happening, what already exists, and what’s being rolled out — and the things that are just ideas.”

There are still concerns, however, both when it comes to utilizing the technology and interacting with the public. Howell said there is no silver bullet, no matter how much feds might wish otherwise.

“For a health percentage of us, we are not necessarily comfortable with the latest fad. We question — appropriately so — is this a meaningful change or is this the flavor du jour? The way I look at it is I take a step back and say, ‘Ok, when we had Web 1.0, it was really about enabling networks. It really allowed enterprizes to change their systems, build their Web sites, publish information and offer services. . . . The next evolution is Web 2.0, which is really now about enabling individuals’,” Howell said.

While it might not be too comforting, it is true that governments around the world are facing the same challenges when it comes to 2.0.

Silberberg said this means there are challenges — but also opportunities — to be had.

“The technology has flattened all of our ability to get access to information. It makes everything much more real-time and the idea of governments sort of having these databases that nobody could access except them — those days are over. The idea that governments can operate in secrecy or total secrecy — those days are also over.”

The bottom line is that social networking and 2.0 technology has already changed the way governments interact with the public — and how the public interacts with itself.

Now, ironing out the secondary kinks associated with the next generation of business operations is the foremost goal.

On the Web:

You2Gov – Web site

Booz Allen Hamilton – Lloyd Howell, Jr. bio

(Copyright 2009 by All Rights Reserved.)


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