Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Discussing government 2.0 with policy analysts

I just came back from presenting on the topic of Web 2.0 and government with a group of transportation policy analysts, of course the exact province shall remain nameless to protect the innocent as usual :-).
Paul Macmillan and myself were expecting a half an hour meeting with 4 or 5 folk, it ended up being a 1 1/2 hour meeting with around 40 people. I think my ability to improvise in getting a lot better, and of course Paul is a master.
This is about the sixth presentation that I have given within the last year on Web 2.0 and government and there are two things that I consistently come across.
1) excitement: I can say that with out almost any exception, members of government are incredibly eager to trying new Web 2.0 approaches to more effectively collaborate with citizens, concerned organizations, and each other. There is a palpable frustration around the churn involved using today's methods of providing information and getting feedback on matters of policy.
2) frustration: right now existing procedures and policies are making it very difficult for various members of government to engage using online forums, with user blogs. Facebook is banned for provincial employees within Ontario. So are many other social networking communities. Any time a group of government employees try to set up their own externally facing network they get hit with various roadblocks like the official languages act.
The issue here is that exchange is made on these types of forms and blogs, and message boards are much more like conversations than publicly broadcasted material. In fact the whole differentiation between a private conversation and a public conversation become a a lot murkier when using these kinds of tools. Clearly laws need to be updated, and policies need to be rewritten. It's a bit like the wild West out there currently. I find it difficult to advise on these issues except to say that being a risk taker by nature, I would recommend starting a social networking site anyway even if it violates a couple of policies. In this case it seems clearly easier to beg for forgiveness and ask for permission...

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