Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Class 11: Open Innovation in the Public Sector - Guest speaker Dustin Haisler, Spigit

Next week, Dustin Haisler will join us for a conversation on Open Innovation in the Public Sector. Dustin is the Director of Government Innovation, Spigit.com.

Please prepare the assigned readings and take a look at coverage about Dustin's work when he was the city manager in Manor, TX, covered in the Statesman.com, Government Technology magazine, and FastCompany.

Follow Dustin on Twitter: @dustinhaisler

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Class 10: SeeClickFix.com, Ben Berkowitz

On Monday, March 26,  Ben Berkowitz, CEO and co-founder of SeeClickFix.com will join us to talk about issue reporting, Open 311, and distributed democracy. 

To learn more about Ben and is company take a look at these articles in Inc., GovFresh, and FastCompany

Start to follow Ben on Twitter and leave your questions for him here in the comments.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Class 9: Reusing public sector information

Our next guest speaker is Mark Headd who will join us on March 19, 2012. Mark Headd is the Senior Developer Evangelist at Voxeo Labs and Founder Civic Innovations. Mark is a Maxwell School alum and will talk about his experience designing web and smartphone applications that are using government data.

This class section is designed to move us into best practices and real-life applications of social media use in government. The session will include conversations about civic hackers, reuse of existing government data, but will also include issues around transparency in government.

Please check out Voxeo Labs and Civic Innovations, start to follow Mark on Twitter: @mheadd, and leave your questions for him here on the blog.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Unanswered Questions about Gov 2.0

As the conversation about improving government services through social media networks deepens, there remain a few questions on my mind about the prospects of a whole new mode of citizen engagement through these maverick websites. Having interacted with Bill Greeves in a Government 2.0 class, I was glad to hear someone address the truths about the several impediments to successful citizen-government interaction through social media. 

The first question I've had centers around citizen trust in government. Historically and in contemporary times, citizens and government officials have been on opposite ends of the social interaction spectrum, and there seems to be mutual distrust between both. Popularity ratings of government officials typically nosedive in crisis situations and hardly stay above water when 'all is well'. Interaction between citizens and governments have begun to increase in recent times; obviously the advent of social media has helped, though it might not be the direct causal factor, yet it has undeniably aided the bridging of the gap. The question therefore is "Will social media usage significantly increase citizen trust in government?" I haven't yet found a convincing answer to the question; my country, Nigeria being a case in point: the presence of the President on Facebook over the last two years has not done significantly much to increase trust in his government. While certain personalities take to routinely praising the President on his Facebook page, the page has granted citizens a more direct platform to rain insults on the President (whether he manages the page personally is another issue). Will an under-performing government save face by its constant presence on social media or will social media serve to expose the government's weaknesses? 

My second question is about adopting the proper social media strategy by government: "Is every social media site appropriate for government?" Understandably, the purpose of Government 2.0 is for government agencies to be where the citizens are in order to engage them there and meet their needs, but the question still lingers: "does government have to be EVERYWHERE citizens are"? Aren't there some spaces reserved for citizens to just be themselves without having the government interfere and attempt to show that they care? Facebook started out as a hangout spot for kids until parents and governments showed up; Twitter was an alternative to paying for text messages and broadcasting the messages to several followers at once until government showed up; Youtube was for watching cool videos until government showed up; LinkedIn was for networking with potential employers and colleagues until government showed up; Flickr was for posting pictures of parties and pets until government showed up and now government has shown up on Pinterest again! Can't people just post pictures for fun without government trying to prove to be cool? Does government have to be on EVERY social media site? 

Finally, the link between Gov 2.0 and policy implementation seems to be unclear to me. As Bill Greeves rightly noted, there aren't any specific case examples of government implementing policies based on the feedback generated from social media networks. The Obama administration has made a lot of talk about crowd-sourcing ideas through www.challenge.gov but the question remains "How soon until citizens feel the direct impact of their feedback on government policies?" Since social media sites can serve to open up new channels of communication between citizens and government, is the communication just a means of keeping citizens silent, assuming that their contributions are welcome while the same old agenda is implemented? Or is there really something to it? It won't take a long time to fool citizens: if an administration assumes that posting cool pictures on Flickr will suffice or tagging postcards on Pinterest will quieten citizens, it will have to rethink that thought. If anything has been learned about citizens, it is that they will always find means of channeling their grievances as soon as they realize that they've been fooled. 

These are only preliminary questions and obviously, more questions are bound to arise over time as governments establish a clearer presence on social media sites.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Where is the collaboration?

So, after all the readings we've done for PPA730 and general interaction with government practices in social media, I believe something is still missing. For me, it is collaboration.

Whether it is horizontal collaboration -that the government actually does something to promote citizents to collaborate among themselves- or vertical collaboration -that citizens work with the government to do something.

Citizens collaborate amongs themselves using social media all the time and for several reasons, that is for sure. But the collaboration was, in most cases, not kindled by the government, but by the citizens themselves. Collaboration, I believe, should be better achieved between the local government and the citizens and it seems that counties like Roanoke are the exception, not yet the rule. Not all the agencies are as creative as the Census2010, that reached out for traditionally hard to count groups via social media.

Don't get me wrong, I am all for government 2.0 as long as it provides additional points of contact between government and citizens -which indeed does. I think web2.0 uses for transparency and general information management have been impressive, especially during disaster management or in highly dynamic agencies.

If government2.0 is to actually change the way governments function beyond the added transparency and media exposure, we, as citizens or public managers, need to use it not more, but better so that it is more than a virtual complaint and suggestion box that sometines gets looked into, and sometimes does not.