How well do you think government is doing when it comes to using and implementing Web 2.0 technologies? To find out I spent a morning a couple of weeks ago speaking at an event sponsored by Adobe on Enabling Transparency And Citizen Centric Services featuring presentations and discussions by representatives from GSA, TSA, and HHS. So what is the Federal government doing well when it comes to Web 2.0?
- Some agencies are quickly and effectively taking advantage of Web 2.0. Lynn Dean from TSA talked about her efforts at TSA to implement the Evolution of Security blog focused on the citizen experience at airport checkpoints nation wide. What drove the beginning of a blog at TSA? Former TSA Director Kip Hawley essentially told his staff that he wanted an official TSA blog or that he would continue to comment on other people’s blogs. When the agency director wants something like a blog and issues a memo saying so, that makes for a heck of an easy business case! Yes, Lynn who was tasked with implementing the blog, faced the common issues around the unique legal aspects of government including how a government agency responds to comments, recordkeeping requirements, etc. But she was able to overcome them and put together a top rated blog. And if you have an issue with TSA, go ahead and post a comment. And they really do publish them!
- Crises are great opportunities to showcase the value of new media. Did you hear about the recent salmonella outbreak related to peanuts? Odds are that how you received that information was either directly or indirectly influenced by HHS’s use of Web 2.0 tools including twitter. Andrew Winston from HHS spoke about the lessons learned in turning to new media tools to quickly inform the public about a critical issue. Yes, they used traditional media also, but Web 2.0 tools were a critical part of their toolbox.
- GSA, along with the White House Office of New Media, is taking the lead. Under the new Obama Administration, there is a more definite push to use Web 2.0 tools to make government more transparent and more citizen-centric. Teresa Nasif from GSA presented on GSA’s efforts to encourage to adopt Web 2.0 technologies as a key tool in becoming more transparent and citizen centric. There are a number of great tools on the GSA Web site that are of value to government and non-government. Just go to the Government 2.0 page and check out what GSA is doing along with the tools and lessons learned that they are sharing.
What are some of the issues that government still faces?
- Not everyone believes or agrees with the value of Web 2.0. There are still many in government who don’t recognize the value of transparency through technology, who are concerned about the security issues, and who don’t want to make all this information so easily accessible. To be honest though, there are still a lot of people in corporate America who feel the same way. But if you at all watch the growth in social media use by Gen Y, Gen X, and even the increasing use by the Baby Boomers and the Silvers, you can’t help but see this as a growing tidal wave that you can either ride or get swept away by. My recommendations for civil servants facing this? Show them the great outcomes TSA got from their blog, or how the Stimulus law was so effectively made available by GPO, or how HHS handled the salmonella issue. Success is a great argument for doing more.
- Government still needs to better target who their users are. Yes, every agency is responsible for responding to everyone in the public. But each program also has a specific targeted constituency that are likely to be the ones visiting their sites, reading their blogs, and reading their tweets. For example, people who are individual taxpayers expecting a refund are the perfect target for IRS’s Where’s My Refund application. If you are a college student, or the parent of a college student, than it makes sense that Department of Education’s Student Loan FAFSA is perfectly targeted to you. What it comes down to is if you are in government, you still need to think about using personas and scenario design principles and then designing sites and Web 2.0 efforts accordingly.
Bottom line? The Federal Government is making great strides in harnessing the power of Web 2.0, and in some cases are further ahead than many large corporations I have worked with. That being said, there is a lot of opportunity to build the business case for a more “social” government and a lot of work being done in aligning the customers, desired outcomes, and technologies employed.
*My thanks to Rob Pinkerton and others at Adobe for inviting me to attend.