October 15, 2008 By Blake Harris
Many new web developments, now collectively referred to under the umbrella of Web 2.0, are receiving increased scrutiny in the government sector. Basic questions arise. Is Web 2.0 simply another hype storm created by technocrats and marketers in an attempt to generate new demand for products? Or do these technologies offer a real answer to some of the traditional shortcomings of citizen government interaction?
A new white paper from the Digital Communities' CIO Task Force explores these and other questions as part of coming to terms with what these CIOs are now calling Government 2.0 - the efforts undertaken by communities, states and the federal government to implement the new tools and technologies that extend the utility of the Internet.
"Government 2.0: Building Communities with Web 2.0 and Social Networking is the first in a series of Digital Communities white papers that will be produced by our task forces," explained Todd Sander, deputy director of the Center for Digital Government and director of the Digital Communities program. "It provides a candid look into the thinking of CIO Task Force members as they struggle to balance the opportunity for broader community engagement with issues of security, infrastructure capacity and public perception."
Among those jurisdictions that have chosen to explore the possibilities, the consensus seems to be that Web 2.0 can help government enhance its existing relationship with citizens by creating new avenues of interaction. But based on research conducted by the Center for Digital Government, it is clear that for every community that has decided to explore the possibilities another has decided not to; at least not right now.
According to Sander, the reasons for this are varied. "Some cite excessive demand on limited infrastructure and bandwidth, others security concerns, and many the difficulty overcoming the perception that such sites demonstrate no recognizable or defensible legitimate business use and provide little more than the opportunity for public employees to waste time at work," he said.
Yet a number of jurisdictions who are exploring some of the potential of Web 2.0 technologies are gaining positive insights, some of which are detailed in the white paper.
Moreover, the vision of government is starting to shift. As the white paper notes, "Perhaps the greatest potential for Web 2.0 technology in local government is its ability to, as Washington, D.C., CIO Vivek Kundra said, 're-establish the public square' and create and connect communities of interest."
That notion alone makes this an intriguing white paper, well worth a read.
A full copy of the white paper can be downloaded free from the Digital Communities Resource Center.
All over the country, community leaders are looking to boost economic development through various initiatives. One key element in many of those initiatives is the use of information technology. When local governments build IT infrastructure, create e-government applications, assist high-tech startups or otherwise focus on technology, they create conditions that draw businesses to their communities and help retain skilled workers. This paper discusses and provides examples of these various ways local government can use technology to ultimately make a community more attractive to businesses, visitors and residents.