Tag Archives: public service sector renewal

What Governments can Learn about Citizen Engagement from Air Canada

Yes. You read that title right.

I’m aware that airlines are not known for their customer responsiveness. Ask anyone whose been trapped on a plane on the tarmac for 14 hours. You know you’ve really dropped the ball when Congress (which agrees on almost nothing) passes a customer bill of rights explicitly for your industry.

Air Canada, however, increasingly seems to be the exception to this rule. Their recent response to online customer feedback is instructive of why this is the case. For governments interested in engaging citizens online and improving services, Air Canada is an interesting case study.

The Background

Earlier this year, with great fanfare, Air Canada announced it was changing how it managed its frequent flyer reward system. Traditional, it had given out upgrade certificates which allowed customers who’d flown a certain number of flights the air-canada-logoability to upgrade themselves into business class for free. Obviously the people who use these certificates are some of Air Canada’s more loyal customers (to get certificates you have to be flying a fair amount). The big change was that rather than simple giving customers certificates after flying a certain number of miles, customers would earn “points” which they could allocate towards flights.

This was supposed to be a good news story because a) it meant that users had greater flexibility around how they upgraded themselves and b) the whole system was digitized so that travelers wouldn’t have to carry certificates around with them (this was the most demanded feature by users).

The Challenge

In addition to the regular emails and website announcement an Air Canada representative also posted details about the new changes on a popular air traveler forum called Flyertalk.com. (Note: Here is the first great lesson – don’t expect customers or citizens to come to you… go to where they hang out, especially your most hard core stakeholders).

flyertalk_logoVery quickly these important stakeholders (customers) began running the numbers and started discovering various flaws and problems. Some noticed that the top tier customers were getting a lesser deal than ordinary customers. Others began to sniff out how the new program essentially meant their benefits were being cut. In short, the very incentives the rewards program was supposed to create were being undermined. Indeed the conversation thread extended to over 113 pages. With roughly 15 comments per page, that meant around 1500 comments about the service.

This, of course, is what happens with customers, stakeholder and citizens in a digital world. They can get together. They can analyze your service. And they will notice any flaws or changes that do not seem above board or are worse than what previously existed.

So here, on Flyertalk, Air Canada has some of its most sophisticated and important customers – the people that will talk to everyone about Air travel rewards programs, starting to revolt against its new service which was supposed to be a big improvement. This was (more than) a little bit of a crisis.

The Best Practice

First, Air Canada was smart because it didn’t argue with anyone. It didn’t have communication people trying to explain to people how they were wrong.

Instead it was patient. It appeared silent. But in reality it was doing something more important, it was listening.

Remember many of these users know the benefits program better than most Air Canada employees. And it has real impact on their decisions, so they are going to analyze it up and down.

Second, When it finally did respond, Air Canada did several things right.

It responded in Flyertalk.com – again going to where the conversation was. (It subsequently sent around an email to all its members).

It noted that it had been listening and learning from its customers.

More than just listen, Air Canada had taken its customers feedback and used it to revise its air travel rewards program.

And, most importantly, the tone it took was serious, but engaging. Look at the first few sentences:

Thanks to everyone for the comments that have been posted here the last few days, and especially those who took the time to post some very valuable, constructive feedback. While it’s not our intent to address every issue raised on this forum on the changes to the 2011 Top Tier program, some very valid points were raised which we agree should be addressed to the best of our ability. These modifications are our attempt to do just that.

Governments, this is a textbook case on how to listen to citizens. They use your services. They know how they work. The single biggest take away here is, when they complain and construct logical arguments about why a service doesn’t make sense use that feedback to revise the service and make it better. People don’t want to hear why you can’t make it better – they want you to make it better. More importantly, these types of users are the ones who know your service the best and who talk to everyone about it. They are your alpha users – leverage them!

Again, to recap. What I saw Air Canada do that was positive was:

  • Engage their stakeholders where their stakeholders hang out (e.g. not on the Air Canada website)
  • Listen to what their stakeholders had to say
  • Use that feedback to improve the service
  • Communicate with customers in a direct and frank manner

Air Canada is doing more than just getting this type of engagement right. Their twitter account posts actual useful information, not just marketing glop and spin. I’m not sure who is doing social media for them, but definitely worth watching.

There’s a lot here for organizations to learn from. Moreover, for a company that used to be a crown corp I think that should mean there is hope for your government too – even if they presently ban access to facebook, twitter or say, my blog.

Big thank you to Mike B. for pointing out this cool case study to me.

The Open Data Debate Arrives in Ottawa

The Liberals are promising to create an open data portal – opendata.gc.ca – much like President Obama has done in the United States and both Gordon Brown and David Cameron have done in the United Kingdom.

It’s a savvy move.

In May 2010 when it launched a public consultation on the Digital Economy, the government invited the public to submit proposals and vote on them. Two of the top three most voted ideas involved asking the government to open up access to government collected data. Three months after the submissions have closed it appears the opposition has decided to act on Canadians wishes and release a 21st century open government strategy that reflects these popular demands.

Today, at 1pm EST, I’ve discovered the Liberals will announce that, if elected, they will adopt a government-wide directive in which “the default position for all departments and agencies will be for the release of information to the public, both proactively and responsively, after privacy and other legal requirements are met.”

There is much that both ordinary citizens and advocates of greater government transparency will like in the proposal. Not only have the Liberals mirrored the most aggressive parts of President Obama’s transparency initiatives they are also promising some specific and aggressive policies of their own. In addition to promising to launching opendata.gc.ca to share government data the document proposes the creation of accesstoinformation.gc.ca where citizens could search past and current access to information requests as well as see response times. A third website, entitled accountablespending.gc.ca is also proposed. It would allow government grants, contributions and contracts to be searched.

The announcement brings to the Canadian political debate an exciting issue that first gained broad notoriety in early 2009 when Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the world wide web, called on the world’s governments to share their data. By May of that year the United States launched data.gov and in September of 2009 the British Government launched data.gov.uk both of which garnered significant domestic attention. In addition, dozens of cities around the world – including Vancouver, Edmonton and, most recently, Ottawa – have launched websites where they shared information that local charities, non-profits, businesses and ordinary citizens might find useful.

Today, citizens in these jurisdictions enjoy improved access to government information about the economy, government spending, access to information requests, and statistical data. In the United States developers have created websites that empower citizens by enabling them to analyze government data or see what government data exists about their community while a British program alerts citizens to restaurant’s health inspections scores.  The benefit however, not limited to improved transparency and accountability. An independent British estimated that open data could contribute as much as £6 billion to British economy. Canada’s computer developers, journalists and entrepreneurs have been left wondering, when will their government give them access to the data their tax dollars paid to collect?

One obvious intent of the Liberals is to reposition themselves at the forefront of a debate around government transparency and accountability. This is ground that has traditionally been Conservative, but with the cancellation of the long form census, the single source jet fighter contract and, more recently, allegations that construction contracts were awarded to conservative party donors, is once again contestable.

What will be interesting to see is the Conservative response. It’s been rumored the government has explored an open data portal but to date there has been no announcement. Open data is one area where, often, support exists across the political spectrum. In the United Kingdom Gordon Brown’s Labour government launched data.gov.uk but David Cameron’s Conservative government has pursued the project more aggressively still, forcing the release of additional and higher value data to the public. A failure to adopt open data would be tragedy – it would cause Canada to lag in an important space that is beginning to reshape how governments work together and how they serve and interact with citizens. But perhaps most obviously, open data and open government shouldn’t be a partisan issue.

From Public Servant to Public Insurgent

Are you a public insurgent?

Today, a generation of young people are arriving into the public service familiar with all sorts of tools – especially online and social media driven tools – that they have become accustomed to using. Tools like wikis, survey monkeys, doodle, instant messaging or websites like wikipedia, or issue specific blogs enable them to be more productive, more efficient and more knowledgeable.

And yet, when they arrive in their office they are told: “You cannot use those tools here.”

In short, they are told: “Don’t be efficient.”

You can, of course, imagine the impact on moral of having a boss tell you that you must do you work in a manner that is slower and less effective then you might otherwise do. Indeed, today, in the public service and even in many large organizations, we may be experiencing the first generation of a work force that is able to accomplish coordination and knowledge building tasks faster at home than at work.

Some, when confronted with this choice simple resign themselves to the power of their organizations rules and become less efficient. Others (and I suspect not an insignificant number), begin the process of looking for their next job. But what I find particularly interesting is a tinier segment who -  as dedicated employees, that love the public service and who want to be as effective as possible – believe in their mission so strongly that they neither leave, nor do they adhere to the rules. They become public insurgents and do some of their work outside the governments infrastructure.

Having spoken about government 2.0 and the future of the public service innumerable times now I have, on several occasions, run into individuals or even groups, of these public insurgents. Sometimes they installed a wiki behind the firewall, sometimes they grab their laptop and head to a cafe so they can visit websites that are useful, but blocked by their ministry, sometimes they simple send around a survey monkey in contravention of an IT policy. The offenses range from the minor to the significant. But in each case these individuals are motivated by the fact that this is the most, and sometimes only, way to do the task they’ve been handed in an effective way. More interesting is that sometimes their acts of rebellion create a debate that causes the organization to embrace the tools they secretly use, sometimes they it doesn’t and they continue to toil in secret.

I find this trend – one that I think may be growing – fascinating.

So my question to you is… are you a public insurgent? If you are I’d love to hear your story. Please post it in the comments (using an anonymous handle) or send me an email.

Getting Government Right Behind the Firewall

The other week I stumbled on this fantastic piece by Susan Oh of Ragan.com about a 50 day effort by the BC government to relaunch its intranet set.

Yes, 50 days.

If you run a large organization’s intranet site I encourage to read the piece. (Alternatively, if you are forced (or begged) to use one, forward this article to someone in charge). The measured results are great – essentially a doubling in pretty much all the things you want to double (like participation) – but what is really nice is how quick and affordable the whole project was, something rarely seen in most bureaucracies.

Here is an intranet for 30,000 employees, that “was rebuilt from top to bottom within 50 days with only three developers who were learning the open-source platform Drupal as they as went along.”

I beg someone in the BC government to produce an example of such a significant roleout being accomplished with so few resources. Indeed, it sounds eerily similar to GCPEDIA (available to 300,000 people using open source software and 1 FTE, plus some begged and borrowed resources) and OPSPedia (a test project also using open source software with tiny rollout costs). Notice a pattern?

Across our governments (not to mention a number of large conservative companies) there are tiny pockets where resourceful teams find a leader or project manager willing to buck the idea that a software implementations must be a multi-year, multimillion dollar roll out. And they are making the lives of public servants better. God knows our public servants need better tools, and quickly. Even the set of tools being offered in the BC examples weren’t that mind-blowing, pretty basic stuff for anyone operating as a knowledge worker.

I’m not even saying that what you do has to be open source (although clearly, the above examples show that it can allow one to move speedily and cheaply) but I suspect that the number of people (and the type of person) interested in government would shift quickly if, internally, they had this set of tools at their disposal. (Would love to talk to someone at Canada’s Food Inspection Agency about their experience with Socialtext)

The fact is, you can. And, of course, this quickly get us to the real problem… most governments and large corporations don’t know how to deal with the cultural and power implications of these tools.

We’ll we’d better get busy experimenting and trying cause knowledge workers will go where they can use their and their peers brains most effectively. Increasingly, that isn’t government. I know I’m a fan of the long tail of public policy, but we’ve got to fix government behind the firewall, otherwise their won’t be a government behind the firewall to fix.

On Governments and Intellectual Property (or why we move slowly)

David H. sent me this short and fantastic article from Wired magazine last week.

The article discusses the travails of Mathew Burton, a former analyst and software programmer at the Department of Defense who spent years trying to get the software he wrote into the hands of those who desperately needed it. But alas, no one could figure out the licensing rights for the software it was supposed to work with… so it never went anywhere. Today Mathew has (unsurprisingly) left Defense and has open sourced the code so that anyone can use it. The lesson? The tangled mess of navigating all the license agreements isn’t protecting anyone and certainly not the public. It’s just preventing interesting new and derivative works from being used to render American safer.

In short, the crises here doesn’t have to do with size of government, but in a misplaced desire by many governments to protect “intellectual property.”

Now I understand the need of government to protect physical property. A forest, for example, can only be logged once every few generations, so allocating that resource efficiently matters. But intellectual property? Things like documents, data, and software code? It’s use is not diminished when someone uses it. Indeed, often its value increases when numerous people start to use it.

But rather than give to tax payers the intellectual property their tax dollars already paid for, our governments lock them down. Today, under the false belief that they are protecting themselves and potential revenue streams (that have never materialized) our governments copyright, patent and license all sorts of intellectual property our tax dollars paid for. In short, we treat ideas like we treat forests, something that only a handful of people can use and benefit from.

This has three happy consequences.

First, ideas and innovations are more expensive and spread more slowly. Remember the goal of innovation is not to license technology, its to use technology to enable us to be happier, safer or more productive (or ideally all three!). When our governments license technology that accomplishes one or all of these things they are, in fact, restricting the number of people who can benefit by giving a single actor a monopoly to sell this service (again, one tax payers funded to develop!) to tax payers or (worse) back to the government.

Second, we end up wasting a colossal amount of money on lawyers. With our governments pretending to be a corporation, managing all this intellectual property tax payers funded to develop, we naturally require an army of lawyers to protect and license it!

Finally, many governments are locked out of open source projects and communities. Since, by policy, many governments require that they own any code they, or their contractors develop, they cannot contribute to open source projects (in which the code is by definition, not owned but shared). This means free, scalable and customizable software and products that small companies like Google are forbidden within government. Instead they (and by they, I mean us) have to pay for proprietary solutions.

At some point I’d love to read more about how government got into the intellectual property businesses. I imagine it is a history paved with good intentions. However, the more I reflect on it, the more I wonder why the first order question of “why do governments have intellectual property” never gets asked. The costs are high and the benefits seem quite low. Maybe it’s time we radically rethink this.

What Munir's Resignation means to Public Servants

This came to me from an anonymous email address, but the author claims to be a public servant. No inside gossip or revelation here, but a serious question about how the public service will react to a critical moment.

The independence of Canada’s public service has been a key part of our governing system. It has its advantages and its drawbacks (discussed in some detail most recently by John Ibbitson in Open and Shut) but it has been important. Munir’s resignation reaffirms this system, how his boss and colleagues react will say a lot about whether other public servants feel the value of independence is still core to the public service.

Read on – it’s thoughtful:

Defining moments. For some individuals these are easy to identify, like when a promising young athlete suffers a career-limiting injury.  For others, such moments come later in life, but are no less real or significant.

The resignation of Munir Sheikh from his position as Chief Statistician of Canada is clearly a defining moment for him personally.  He ends a full career in the Public Service on a point of principle.  This principled stance, necessary in his view to protect the integrity of his organization, has brought pride to many public servants, including this author.

But this act may not only be defining for Mr. Sheikh; it also has the potential to impact on the broader public service.  The Public Service mantra is fearless advice and loyal implementation and we tend to be very good at this.  However, it has always been recognized that this only goes so far.  There are limits to loyal implementation.  Clear examples are when a government attempts to unduly benefit either themselves or their friends through government funds.

Deputy ministers (the position of Chief Statistician is one) are often faced with limit-pushing situations, their ability to manage the delicate political-Public Service relationship is key to their success (and survival) as senior public servants.  When these limits are in danger of being exceeded, the deputy minister can rely on delay to allow time to change the ministers’ mind, and/or intervention from the Prime Minister, via the Privy Council Office.  When these fail, the deputy can either acquiesce (partially or fully) or resign.  This is the theory.  However, in practice I cannot recall the last time a deputy resigned on a point of principle (leaving aside the potential reasons for the former Clerk, Kevin Lynch’s retirement).

Mr. Sheikh has attempted to set a new standard – disregarding the advice of a department is fine – publicly undermining the integrity of that advice is not.  It remains to be seen whether this standard will stick or whether it will in future be seen as a high-water mark for deputy integrity that will never be seen again.

The public and private reactions of the Clerk of the Privy Council will have a significant impact on how others view this resignation.  He is the Prime Minister’s deputy minister, who sets the tone and expectation for all other deputies.  He is also the Head of the Public Service, and helps set the tone for all public servants.  What, if anything, will he say about this issue, to the Prime Minister, deputies and ordinary public servants?  How should we comport ourselves when faced with such issues?

Wayne Wouters, this is your opportunity.  Tell us what you think, this can be your defining moment too.

Learning from Libraries: The Literacy Challenge of Open Data

We didn’t build libraries for a literate citizenry. We built libraries to help citizens become literate. Today we build open data portals not because we have public policy literate citizens, we build them so that citizens may become literate in public policy.

Yesterday, in a brilliant article on The Guardian website, Charles Arthur argued that a global flood of government data is being opened up to the public (sadly, not in Canada) and that we are going to need an army of people to make it understandable.

I agree. We need a data-literate citizenry, not just a small elite of hackers and policy wonks. And the best way to cultivate that broad-based literacy is not to release in small or measured quantities, but to flood us with data. To provide thousands of niches that will interest people in learning, playing and working with open data. But more than this we also need to think about cultivating communities where citizens can exchange ideas as well as involve educators to help provide support and increase people’s ability to move up the learning curve.

Interestingly, this is not new territory.  We have a model for how to make this happen – one from which we can draw lessons or foresee problems. What model? Consider a process similar in scale and scope that happened just over a century ago: the library revolution.

In the late 19th and early 20th century, governments and philanthropists across the western world suddenly became obsessed with building libraries – lots of them. Everything from large ones like the New York Main Library to small ones like the thousands of tiny, one-room county libraries that dot the countryside. Big or small, these institutions quickly became treasured and important parts of any city or town. At the core of this project was that literate citizens would be both more productive and more effective citizens.

But like open data, this project was not without controversy. It is worth noting that at the time some people argued libraries were dangerous. Libraries could spread subversive ideas – especially about sexuality and politics – and that giving citizens access to knowledge out of context would render them dangerous to themselves and society at large.  Remember, ideas are a dangerous thing. And libraries are full of them.

Cora McAndrews Moellendick, a Masters of Library Studies student who draws on the work of Geller sums up the challenge beautifully:

…for a period of time, censorship was a key responsibility of the librarian, along with trying to persuade the public that reading was not frivolous or harmful… many were concerned that this money could have been used elsewhere to better serve people. Lord Rodenberry claimed that “reading would destroy independent thinking.” Librarians were also coming under attack because they could not prove that libraries were having any impact on reducing crime, improving happiness, or assisting economic growth, areas of keen importance during this period… (Geller, 1984)

Today when I talk to public servants, think tank leaders and others, most grasp the benefit of “open data” – of having the government sharing the data it collects. A few however, talk about the problem of just handing data over to the public. Some questions whether the activity is “frivolous or harmful.” They ask “what will people do with the data?” “They might misunderstand it” or “They might misuse it.” Ultimately they argue we can only release this data “in context”. Data after all, is a dangerous thing. And governments produce a lot of it.

As in the 19th century, these arguments must not prevail. Indeed, we must do the exact opposite. Charges of “frivolousness” or a desire to ensure data is only released “in context” are code to obstruct or shape data portals to ensure that they only support what public institutions or politicians deem “acceptable”. Again, we need a flood of data, not only because it is good for democracy and government, but because it increases the likelihood of more people taking interest and becoming literate.

It is worth remembering: We didn’t build libraries for an already literate citizenry. We built libraries to help citizens become literate. Today we build open data portals not because we have a data or public policy literate citizenry, we build them so that citizens may become literate in data, visualization, coding and public policy.

This is why coders in cities like Vancouver and Ottawa come together for open data hackathons, to share ideas and skills on how to use and engage with open data.

But smart governments should not only rely on small groups of developers to make use of open data. Forward-looking governments – those that want an engaged citizenry, a 21st-century workforce and a creative, knowledge-based economy in their jurisdiction – will reach out to universities, colleges and schools and encourage them to get their students using, visualizing, writing about and generally engaging with open data. Not only to help others understand its significance, but to foster a sense of empowerment and sense of opportunity among a generation that could create the public policy hacks that will save lives, make public resources more efficient and effective and make communities more livable and fun. The recent paper published by the University of British Columbia students who used open data to analyze graffiti trends in Vancouver is a perfect early example of this phenomenon.

When we think of libraries, we often just think of a building with books.  But 19th century mattered not only because they had books, but because they offered literacy programs, books clubs, and other resources to help citizens become literate and thus, more engaged and productive. Open data catalogs need to learn the same lesson. While they won’t require the same centralized and costly approach as the 19th century, governments that help foster communities around open data, that encourage their school system to use it as a basis for teaching, and then support their citizens’ efforts to write and suggest their own public policy ideas will, I suspect, benefit from happier and more engaged citizens, along with better services and stronger economies.

So what is your government/university/community doing to create its citizen army of open data analysts?

Banned Blogs

So I’m fed up. I’m tired of hearing about fantastic blogs written by fantastic people that are banned by different federal departments of the Canadian public service.

Banned you say? Isn’t that a little dramatic?

No! I mean banned.

The IT departments of several federal governments block certain websites that are deemed to have inappropriate or non-work related content. Typically these include sites like Facebook, Gmail and of course, various porn sites (a list of well known mainstream sites that are blocked can be found here).

I’ve known for a while that my site – eaves.ca – is blocked by several departments and it hasn’t bothered me (I’ve always felt that blocking someone increase people’s interest in them), But as whispers about the number of blogs blocked grows, I find the practice puzzling and disturbing. These are not casual blogs. One might think this is limited to casual or personel blogs but many of the blogs I hear about are on public policy or the public service. They may even contain interesting insights that could help public servants. They are not sites that contain pornographic material, games or other content that could be construed as leisure (as enjoyable as I know reading my blog is…).

So, in an effort to get a better grasp of the scope and depth of the problem I’d like your help to put together a list. On eaves.ca I’ve created a new page – entitled “Banned Blogs” that lists blogs and the Canadian Federal Government Ministries that ban them. If you are a public servant and you know of a blog that is blocked from your computer please send me a note. If you know a public servant, ask them to check their favourite blogs. If you know of a site that is blocked you can send me an email, at tweet, or an anonymous comment on this blog, I’ll add it to the list. It would be fantastic to get a sense of who is blocked and by which departments. Maybe we’ll even knock some sense into some IT policies.

Maybe.

(Post script: Douglas B. has some great suggestions about how to deal with blocked sites and lists some of the ancient policies that could help public servants fight this trend).

Open Government interview and panel on TVO's The Agenda with Steve Paikin

My interview on TVO’s The Agenda with Steve Paikin has been uploaded to Youtube (BTW, it is fantastic that The Agenda has a YouTube channel where it posts all its interviews. Kudos!). If you live outside Ontario, or were wrapped up in the Senators-Pens playoff game that was on at the same time (which obviously we destroyed in the ratings), I thought I’d throw it up here as a post in case it is of interest. The first clip is a one on one interview between myself and Paikin. The second clip is the discussion panel that occurred afterward with myself, senior editor of Reason magazine Katherine Mangu-Ward , American Prospect executive editor Mark Schmitt and the Sunlight Foundation’s Policy Director John Wonderlich.

Hope you enjoy!

One on one interview with Paikin:

Panel Discussion:

Q&A from O'Reilly Media: Gov 2.0 International Online Conference

I know during my session I wasn’t able to answer everyone’s questions. However, I was able to find a few other questions in the chat and twitter stream. I’m a big believer that everyone should have a chance to ask a question so – with apologies that I couldn’t do them live – here are some responses!

@Subbob: How possible is to have real meaty policy discussion within a gvmt internal wiki, given the possibility of leaks, which may lead to a scandal?

Short answer: Absolutely.
Longer answer: I actually think there are two different points you are raising – (a) can you have a substantive discussion in a wiki and (b) can you do (a) under the threat of a leak.
I think (a) on its own, is definitely doable. Indeed, it may be the best place to have a substantive discussion. It allows a diversity of actors (with the civil service – and possibly some invited from the outside?) to participate. The key is creating a culture where people explain the underlying logic of their arguments and avoid positional statements. Lots of stuff I can port in from the negotiation and collaboration theory space here. Take a look at my presentation “Community Management as the Core Competency of Open Source.”

The threat of a leak increases the range of choices by which one leaks a document, but not the risk (in my opinion) stays the same. Did the installations of telephones in government employees offices increased the risk of leaks? I’d say it just lowered the transaction cost. But should we tear out the phones from government employees offices? Absolutely not. They need them to work. More importantly, as I shared on the conversation – I’m really disturbed by the unintended consequences of these decision to disallow tools cause of the risks of leaks: what does it say about the trust government has in its employees – and its ability to attract or retain top talent. (I talk about this point in more detail here, little bit about it again here.

Much like 3rd world leapfrogged 1st world in mobile, do you see the same thing happening with Gov2?

Super interesting question.

Short answer: Yes

Long answer… it is more complicated.

First, we are definitely straying on the edges of where I’m knowledgeable enough to talk about this, so take everything I say with grains of salt (of course you should approach everything I say, or anyone for that matter, with a healthy amount of skepticism). I think there is an opportunity to governments in developing countries to leap straight to Gov2. Indeed, some of the opportunities around fighting corruption (not have human tellers for many services, who sometimes demand to be bribed before helping) is driving this in places like India. Moreover, I think the cellphone network in Africa may drive some governments to build themselves around such networks, which could cause them to create themselves in networked as opposed to hierarchical manners.

I see two major obstacles. One structural, one cultural.

The structural challenge is the nature of how democratic systems do (and should work). The accountability model found in democracy often means that strong hierarchical lines of control extend out of the executive. This is even more the case in authoritarian regimes. My suspicion is that even though sometimes weak, emerging democracies or emerging markets have as much “unlearning” to do as we do in rethinking these models. Given they may be smaller this might be easier, but…

Never underestimate the culture challenges. For better or worse the Western World has held up its democracies and government institutions as “the model” against which others should measure themselves (and, we should collectively note, in many cases have tied our development funding to promoting that model). This means that rather than inventing something new, replicating what exists in the west has become the gold standard for democracy and governance. I suspect that in many cases replicating these models is actually the goal of many public services in emerging markets or developing democracies – so the barrier is that those on the ground and a goal that will likely steer them away from gov2.0.

Really tricky question that one… Would love to see what examples of gov2.0 exist on the ground in some emerging markets. What a wonderful opportunity.

What is state of knowledge capture in Canada crown agencies? Earliest SoMe projects in US included use of forums as pseudo-wikis for internal knowledge capture.

Great question and I confess I do not know (for those unfamiliar with the term a Crown Corporation is a company owned by the government but run independently – so, for example, Canada Post, would be a Crown Corp). If anyone knows of some projects in this space please comment or send me an email.