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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.

Moving down the Gov 2.0 Continuum to Deep Change Agent.

In the last 5 years or so “Gov 2.0” (Government 2.0) has grown from being a name coined by William Eggers to now becoming the umbrella term for serious change in Government, and not just here in the United States, but around the world.

Many people, including myself have written much about the term Gov 2.0 – everything from “What is Gov 2.0” to lists of people leading current efforts. Lots of other angles have been covered by both the traditional media and online media.

I focus primarily on people power and how people are at the heart of any Gov 2.0 discussion, whether in print or in person. In fact I have called Gov 2.0 a “good revolution” and as we have all seen in the last few years, this is true regardless of country. I do not mean to state that Gov 2.0 is causing revolutions. Far from it. However, the openness and transparency that Gov 2.0 efforts around the world advocate for; driven by mobility and the cloud – have allowed people to be heard. To hear each other, those people whether in government or civic life, in business or entertainment.

Now thanks to the “Triangle of Gov 2.0” which is the social media and open computing use; the mobile and device specific tools; and the cloud which facilitates both; we now see individual people gaining access to information and power never seen before in our history in more than one country at a time. Now this is happening in multiple places.

People are driving the change. People are adopting the tools. People are leading the way in forcing governments around the world to be more open and accountable. With this innovation of course comes the other side. The very same tools that can promote openness and transparency can and are in turn used against the people by governments, both democratic and not.

But we are so past the “What is Gov 2.0” phase that I wrote about in 2010. We have blown past the “look the government is using twitter and facebook” phase. Indeed, we have entered the big data and deep analytical tool phase – complemented by more and more machine readable databases that are continually presenting new and innovative uses and creating new businesses and jobs. But people are still at the heart of the matter. Without courageous leaders willing to stand up to the buffeting forces of politics, budgets and fear; we would not be seeing the deep and dramatic changes we are witnessing unfolding in many countries, and many cities, and localities. People are driving this change, this is the constant in Gov 2.0 since 2007.

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.

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.