Tag Archives: O’Reilly Media

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.