internet as seen through candles

Gov 2.0 Listening in 5 World Capitals.

Change is here. It is happening everywhere. I have been fortunate in the last few months to speak and also do a tremendous amount of listening and asking pertinent questions of minister level officials in 5 national capitals, on 4 continents. The pace of change in government use and implementation of social media, gov 2.0, open gov, egov and various other monikers is extremely rapid, in some countries it is breakneck.

But still the old bogeyman is hanging around. Fear. I have written about the role Fear plays in the gov 2.0 and open gov discussions around the world, but this recent world tour just confirms that fear is still the largest inhibitor to successful implementation of new plans, and actually stops some excellent programs right in their tracks. I have personally witnessed the role fear plays with minister level officials down to low level staffers as well as with political functionaries in multiple countries. I have been in meetings just this year where fear is so palpable in the room; that literally nothing gets done with the exception of voices being raised in anger or out of frustration.

That being said, there are also tremendous advances being made – both those that have been officially sanctioned and budgeted and those where courageous government workers are sticking their necks out to test, take chances and experiment. More and more it is less the top down movements and more the individual workers who are making the real changes. Because a shift in acceptance of a new role; of a new place in the workplace is well underway.

But besides fear, economic concerns are also hitting this movement, both positively and negatively. In USA budgetary crisis are causing ripples up and down the Gov 2.0 movement as it is called here. But at the same time the budget crisis globally is refocusing anew the issue of legacy system investment versus investment in new technologies that are often more cost effective and much more efficient.
So pretty soon we will be crossing the chasm of decision making from supporting older legacy systems and protocols with the need to be competitive on a data basis in an increasingly competitive and real time 24/7 world.

The time to make decisions about abandoning old legacy systems with a sunk investment versus the new-found results and applications available for cheaper alternatives is upon our society, and much like Y2K there is at least partially a ticking clock. This time it is how long will current systems last before not being able to operate in a new world?

In Europe which is also facing severe economic contractions, the funding for these programs is in fact increasing for now, but that may change if the EU financial situation continues to get worse. Additionally, certain European countries need to make a mind shift from cyber space equaling protection of assets versus cyber space being a multilateral space where protections of freedoms are just as important.

Australia is committing funding and new initiatives that will drive the adoption of these practices, including the NBN (national broadband network) which will effectively wire most of the continent to be able to implement egov and open gov quickly.

Canada is struggling with funding issues and a perceived innovation gap – but at the same time it actively encouraging the open gov coalition and just recently announced a new web standards policy and it is clear that there are some powerful ministers and ministries looking to adopt egov and open gov sooner than later.

The UK is getting ready to reveal its next new initiative “GovUK” currently in Alpha, getting ready to be launched in Beta, which will serve a government wide portal along the lines of Govusa, but with a much more direct call to action and a major change in how UK gov websites will be run and maintained in the near coming future.

Russia has a small but extremely active egov movement, and there are surprising strides coming out of Russia, including a gov 2.0 proponent now running for the Duma on an open gov platform. But given Russia’s history of top down management of its people and government, the egov movement in Russia struggles against the state dominated ownership and manipulation of both the media, and the infrastructure necessary to provide open gov, like ISP’s government maintained choking of internet access and the ability to shut off the internet from the people in a very dramatic fashion.

What I have learned mostly though, is that the breakneck pace of change that has been rattling the government and e-government spaces since 2008 is having real results globally. I will leave it to others to pick apart my statements or point to specific case studies. But reality is social, mobile, cloud are here and have forever changed how governments interact with themselves and with us.

As published on Silberberg Innovations

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.

Gov 2.0 Leadership and Visionary Moves

Well. Here we are.

As of May 24, 2010 – “You2Gov.com, You2Gov.org, You2Gov.net” are all now officially part of the History of the evolution of both the Internet and Government 2.0 The site is still up, and you will notice it up and down over next several weeks. It is not an identity crisis. It is not a retreat. It is a next step as one of the leading Gov 2.0 Companies in the United States.

Yes. It is true.

Being one of the pioneering and visionary Government 2.0 Websites in the United States and helping to unleash the Government 2.0 and Citizen 2.0 Movements is hard work. Along with being one of the principal private companies driving the innovative ideas now percolating through Capitols; State and Local, Federal and International, it is time for us to take a pause.  It is time to breathe.

We have worked tirelessly to build a citizen engagement platform. The Government loves us. The media loves us. But few people take the time to actually make use of these tools as of right now. After two years of providing cutting edge Government 2.0 capabilities – guess what happened? The Government 2.0 Community is growing. Fast. It is growing on Facebook, it is growing on Twitter, it is coming to a locality near you. But NOT necessarily as a platform. It may involve a real fabric of tools and applications; carefully woven together to increase transparency, open our governments to all of us, and stop organized corruption.

Instead of competing in a bloody red ocean over yet-to-be defined profit points – we have  decided to close the platform side of our business while focusing on other areas like further innovation and strategic consulting. Why? There is tremendous competition that is extremely well funded that is now just on the horizon, in those clouds over there. There is also amazing opportunity on the innovation, strategic consulting and multi-media aspects.

You2Gov is not going black.

Just our websites (sometimes) until the next generation of it/them appears.  That might seem counter-intuitive. But we are not focusing on this side of the Gov 2.0 equation anymore. We do have our sights focused on some other pieces that many are yet to be talking about. So instead of focusing our efforts on a platform that is now being replicated by many others in different forms, we will be addressing new areas of the Gov 2.0 and Gov 3.0 space.

Some of our highlights to now:

Being named to PC Magazine’s Best of 2008 List after only two months in existence.

Craig Newmark Taking an Interest in You2Gov’s Mission and following thru.

Rollout of Direct Democracy 3,0

Being Interviewed by Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris (several times, even with kids in tow!)

Creating the groundbreaking (and Taking Lots of Heat for it) GOV20LA

Executing on an incredible Gov20LA 2010. See all the  Long Form Videos Here.

Thanks to all who have in your own way helped to make this early part of You2Gov’s existence be such an exciting ride.

I especially want to note the following: Ralph J. Shapira, Lisa Cohen, Craig Newmark, Lewis Shepherd, Lovisa Williams, Bev Godwin, Naomi Caietti, Debra Bowen, Scott Johnson, my brother, my parents and everyone around us who support what the You2Gov platform is all about.

Sign up on the right over there —– subscribe to this blog, and learn about all of our next moves. Because – there is lots coming down the pike – and sometimes as progress and changes happen, so do unexpected movements. Innovation requires forward thinking and sometimes innovators make moves that are not clearly understood at the time, but reveal themselves as part and parcel of a larger process.

Alan W. Silberberg

Co-Founder, CEO, You2Gov, LLc.

State of Economy, 2008

If you have ever read or seen a Russian LATA, this may mean more to you. But basically, this sums up the state of the U.S. Economy, circa 2008. The picture is courtesy of 3 toddlers who took the LATA apart in minutes and a mobile phone.  Note the wheels and hubcaps missing, as well as the engine. That about says it all.

State of U.S. Economy, 2008

State of U.S. Economy, 2008