The Purpose of Government 2.0

Apparently, there are two schools of thoughts in Government 2.0. On one hand you have Gartner analyst Andrea Di Maio and many others who believe government agencies will embrace Gov2.0 only when it’s proved beyond doubt that Gov2.0 will help them do their job more efficiently and effectively (yellow circle). On the other hand, you have many Gov2.0 evangelists such as Tim Berners-Lee (creator of internet and Gov2.0 lead for the UK), Don Tapscot (author of Wikinomics and MacroWikinomics) and Tim O’Reilly who believe government agencies should whole-heartedly support Gov2.0 initiatives because, well, it’s the right thing to do (blue circle). Of course, both sides acknowledge the importance of each other’s perspective and it’d be interesting to see what turn this debate takes in time to come. In the meantime however, we at Wipro believe that these two approaches are not orthogonal; in fact, there’s a huge overlap between the two (as we’ve tried to show in the diagram above). To appreciate how these two approaches reconcile with each other, it’s necessary to have a deeper understanding of the emergent nature of digital media, the principles of open value creation and the rise of participatory culture among citizens (brought about by web 2.0). Drawing on our decades of experience in implementing government transformation technology; shared services, cloud computing, enterprise collaboration platforms, business process optimization, change management practices and social computing consulting, we’ve developed one of the most sophisticated and evolved Government 2.0 consulting practices in the world. If you are a government agency trying to make sense of this beast called Gov2.0 or perhaps you are already involved in Gov2.0 related activities and want to identify and prioritize the most critical areas, we believe the following list of challenges and suggested approaches will come handy for you:


1. Challenge - ROI from Gov2.0 initiatives
  • A Balanced Scorecard approach can help government agencies see how a “right-thing-to-do” Gov2.0 initiative can transform into a “profitable-thing-to-do” project in future. In fact, government agencies that are looking at returns on only financial perspective are at a loss because financial perspective is a lagging indicator. They should seek returns on all 4 perspectives of Balanced Scorecard. Wipro’s Gov2.0 balanced scorecard is great at helping government leaders connect the dots.
2. ChallengeSustaining Gov2.0 initiatives
  • Sustaining any initiative whose success depends on external participation is a huge challenge. A Gov2.0 initiative will succeed only when it can provide compelling reasons for its stake-holders to engage in conversations for longer periods of time.  However, conversations don’t happen in a vacuum, they coalesce around social objects. Campaigns, data and agencies aren’t compelling enough as social objects themselves. Sustainable social objects are usually related to a passion, lifestyle or a cause. It’s critical for a government agency to first identify suitable social objects for its audience in order to build engaged community around its Gov2.0 initiative.
  • Pilot programs and data mash-up competitions (http://mashupaustralia.org, http://www.appsfordemocracy.org, http://data.gov.uk/apps) are right steps in this direction as they help us nurture and understand emergent nature of citizen engagement.
  • There are several other important Gov2.0 characteristics that are critical to the success of any Gov2.0 initiative; for instance, if you have not accounted for all of the following characteristics in your Gov2.0 initiative, you might have left room for failure:
    • Is it citizen-driven?
    • Is it employee-centric?
    • Have you accounted for emergent behaviour of digital media? (I.e. have you left room for improvisation? We are only beginning to understand how digital media influences people’s behaviour and it’s possible that the outcome of your Gov2.0 initiative could be very different from what you initially planned, albeit a good outcome.)
    • Have you planned to deal with the transformational nature of your Gov2.0 project?
    • Are you providing a blend of planning and nurturing?
    • Have you adapted your management style to deal with the outcomes of your Gov2.0 initiatives?
    • Are you using the principles of “Open Value Creation”? Open Value Creation is at the heart of Gov2.0 (or in fact any social media initiative that involves co-creating value with customers/citizens)?
3. ChallengeScaling Gov2.0 initiatives
  • Government agencies don’t know they are going to face scalability issues – yet. Most successful web 2.0 initiatives start small, reach a tipping point and then spread like wildfire. Government agencies should procure and implement suitable and scalable technology infrastructure to ensure that their Gov2.0 initiatives are not compromised when it’s time to scale. A few key technology focus areas are:
    • Semantic web technology (for opening and linking government data)
    • Community platforms (for listening, consulting and collaborating)
    • Cloud computing and shared services (for cost-effective, agile and scalable infrastructure)
4. ChallengeManagement and Culture changes required to deal with Gov2.0 initiatives
  • Leadership focus is identified as one of the key drivers of Government 2.0 in Gartner’s Open Government Maturity Model, along with value focus and technology focus. Leadership is also identified as one of the three pillars of Gov2.0 in Australian Gov2.0 Taskforce Report. It goes without saying that unless senior leadership is committed, Gov2.0 initiatives will only see limited success. The extent of changes required in management culture for Gov2.0 to succeed cannot be achieved through bottom-up approach alone. Decision makers and leaders will have to be educated and convinced about the new role of government agencies as enablers and facilitators of change rather than control centers of change.
  • Envisaging the big picture (see figure above) of a government agency that has fully embraced Gov2.0 is an interesting way of communicating ideas with leaders and stake-holders.
5. ChallengeDealing with “Big Data
  • Considering the huge social implications of big data, it’s critical for government agencies to plan and deal with it in a way that benefits the society and addresses its concern for privacy. Additionally, government agencies will have to understand how they can support the many innovative usages of big data. For instance, Hal Varian, Chief Economist at Google, says Google data can reveal future economic trends a week or two earlier than official government statistics. He has also made the rounds in Washington “to make the case that government agencies should use Google tools to better draw current snapshots of consumer sentiment, corporate health and social interests”. Can forward looking government agencies continue to ignore such usages of big data? The recent Wikileaks episode only vindicates the point that traditional ways of handling government data is not suitable for our time.
Acknowledgement – We have been deeply influenced by the insightful ideas shared in Australian Gov2.0 taskforce report. It has been and will continue to be a guiding force for our Gov2.0 consulting practice. Other sources that have helped us refine our thinking include MacroWikinomics (Don Tapscot), Digital Britain Report and inputs from Gartner analyst Andrea Di Maio.



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