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Gov 2.0 - eGovernment Social Media Platform Deployments and Future Opportunities


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A white paper that discusses best practices in deploying Web 2.0 social media tools to help state and local governments more effectively serve constituents.

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Gov 2.0 - eGovernment Social Media Platform Deployments and Future Opportunities

  1. 1. Gov 2.0 eGovernment Social Media Platform Deployments and Future Opportunities “Too late, I found you can’t wait to become perfect, you got to go out and fall down and get up again with everybody else.” - Ray Bradbury, Something Wicked This Way Comes A new model for delivering the functions of government is emerging. That tipping point is Web 2.0, and delaying its adoption, like the Bradbury character’s notion of perfection, will only delay eGovernment’s future progress. Government IT is — rightly so — a vigilant protector of the public trust and steward of the government technology, policy, and data it sustains. That said, a government network without Web 2.0 is like a planet with no gravitational pull. So much of what government “could be” lies within the responsible and innovative application of Web 2.0. Although the role of Web 2.0 in government is still emerging, its enterprise-propelling properties are already evident in private sector IT. Web 2.0 tools provide user-driven opportunities to harvest the scattered intelligence of social networks, physical networks, virtual networks, and discrete data. For IT enterprises that have embraced Web 2.0, it has enriched employee-to-employee collaboration, improved customer service, and grown company-to-partner as well as company-to-customer networks. The net result for the business enterprise has been a competitive necessity, creating efficiencies and leveraging knowledge. It only reasons that the net result for government will be transformational as well. By creating well-planned Gov 2.0-enabled services, citizens, businesses, and the government itself can harness incremental data, leverage distributed workforce and citizen knowledge, and integrate overarching government initiatives into a purposeful intelligence system. Like the IT enterprise, the government enterprise can deploy open yet secure standards and architecture, within the policy and regulatory sphere of government, which will allow control and foster innovative collaboration between government, citizens, and businesses. Web 2.0 will expand the connection of government, and its innumerable services, to more people. A Paradigm Shift Government, like all large enterprises, again finds itself at a social and technological crossroads. Although the integration of Web 1.0 tools — including end-to-end Internet-based government transactions such as e-licensing and online tax filing — is incomplete and still the focus of current eGovernment implementations, Web 2.0 represents another paradigm shift, a shift toward collaboration. Tim O’Reilly, credited with coining the term “Web 2.0,” defines it as an amalgam of cultural traits, or a ‘meme’, and technology. The backbone of Web 2.0 is a Web-oriented architecture in which the Internet is the OS and every connected computer is subsumed in its “cloud.” Some of the concepts and tools most often associated with Web 2.0 and social media appear in the following box: Key Concepts and Tools Wikis Open, dynamic, collaborative software used to develop knowledge systems. The most popular example is Wikipedia (, but companies and some governments frequently create wikis on intranets to capture and share institutional knowledge. Mashups An individually determined mix of tools and content, combining data and/or functionality from more than once source. Alabama’s interactive maps ( incorporate historical storm data and the locations of colleges & universities, state parks, and public services.
  2. 2. Folksonomy A system of categorization that comes from collaboratively creating and managing tags or keywords to annotate content. Categorization comes from the bottom-up, from the “folks,” instead of from the top-down as in a hierarchy or taxonomy. One example of folksonomy is (, a popular social bookmarking site. RSS A Web feed that pushes/publishes specified content as it is added to a site. RSS feeds are widely used in many settings and can be subscribed to at no cost from many Web sites. APIs Application Program Interfaces are an abstract set of tools, or building blocks, which allows other programmers to build software applications. For example, operating systems write APIs so that programmers can more easily build new programs that work on the OS. There are two kinds of API publishing policies: (1) controlled and protected from the general public and (2) freely available APIs, like Microsoft Windows API. Blogs Blogs are online Web logs. Many types of blogs are common, including personal blogs, corporate blogs, vlogs (video blogs), mobile device blogs, and genre and niche blogs. In general, blogs allow readers to leave comments and maintain an ongoing dialogue with the blog author. Widget computing A mashup-building technique where small, embeddable components are integrated on third-party sites and deliver content well beyond the site. The Commonwealth of Virginia ( offers widgets for emergency alerts, popular online services, lottery numbers, road conditions, and other applications that can be embedded in blog sites as well as Facebook & MySpace profile pages. Hybrid A tool that combines and performs many of the Web 2.0 functions. Twitter is the most recognizable hybrid and uses widget computing, RSS, APIs, and mashups to deliver real-time updates. According to O’Reilly, when these technologies and concepts converge, Web 2.0 is born and creates its own force: “Like many important concepts, Web 2.0 doesn't have a hard boundary, but rather, a gravitational core. You can visualize Web 2.0 as a set of principles and practices that tie together a veritable solar system of sites that demonstrate some or all of those principles, at a varying distance from that core.... The central principle behind the success [of innovative Web 2.0 companies]... appears to be this, that they have embraced the power of the web to harness collective intelligence.” (O'Reilly, 2005) It’s something to think about. In fact, it’s something that has been thought about, and planned, and implemented, and actualized. The list of innovative private sector Web 2.0 projects is infinite and grows daily like bacteria spores in a 4th grade science project. While Web 2.0 is a part of everyday problem solving in IT enterprises, some government agencies are just now following suit – and opportunities for meaningful Gov 2.0 implementations at the enterprise level remain. Real-World Web 2.0 In this section, compare the lone enterprise 2.0 case study with the list of government Web 2.0 applications. The enterprise case study highlights one private-sector company with many similarities to government — a large, 133-year old company with 300,000 employees, an ingrained union culture, top- down hierarchy, and historically comprised of deeply rooted organizational silos. Despite the impediments AT&T faced, the results of its enterprise Web 2.0 implementation were both positive and swift. In the meantime, a review of Gov 2.0 implementations has thus far produced a short list of projects with a relatively narrow scope. To date, government has yet to embark on a transformative, enterprise-level Web 2.0 implementation.
  3. 3. As a result, many citizens, businesses, and government officials have been asking the same question: How can my government implement Gov 2.0 in a meaningful way that advances the mission of service by providing better information and knowledge, spending fewer tax dollars, and becoming more efficient? Enterprise 2.0 Case Study: AT&T Between 2004 and 2007, AT&T was acquired and combined with several telecom companies, growing from approximately 70,000 employees to 300,000. Internal-focused enterprise 2.0 initiatives began in 2004, with Microsoft Office Sharepoint Server (MOSS) providing the shared content management platform. Other Web 2.0 tools were added over time, including enterprise wikis, blogs, professional profiles, bookmarking, communities, and forums. Results • Site count increase from 13,500 to 3,500,000 views per month • 37,000+ collaborative sites growing 124% • 4,000,000+ documents housed and managed • 98% corporate user awareness • Average 8 million page view per month • Intranet replacement • Documented and realized personnel savings • Servers retired (cost transformation) • Speed of business and decision making Challenges • Awareness of Web 2.0 solutions is mixed across the organization • Education of business use and value • Social, cultural, and political issues are always present and must be addressed over time • Open vs. closed organization can also create problems since power comes from information control • Leadership is essential from the high end as well as topical subject matter experts Lessons Learned • Ensure a complete business model focus. The business model ensures that all focus areas (business development, client support, product development, service development, architecture, operations, and executive leadership) are supported by people with the right skills. • Marketing and branding are essential to long-term growth • Survey the user community every six months and make adjustments as needed • Focus on customer service and self service models of delivery • Add products, services, and solutions for the various customer segments • Users want to learn, teach them and make it easy to do business with the tools • Usability and design are critical and often over looked • Measure and monitor everything. Metrics should include both content and usage metrics This AT&T case study is documented in Cases 2.0, an online repository of enterprise 2.0 case studies initiated in 2007, and sponsored by Andrew McAfee, Associate Professor, Harvard Business School. Author of the study is R. Todd Stephens, Ph.D., and Technical Director of the Collaborative and Online Services Group for BellSouth Corp (R. Todd Stephens, 2008). 

  4. 4. Gov 2.0 Applications 
 State of South Carolina Web 2.0 Enhancements Added MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter accounts to engage more of the state's citizens using social-networking sites. A new Help Section was also created that lets users view video and listen to audio clips of FAQs. Includes Google mapping features for directions to government buildings. Rhode Island Council for the Arts Web Site Includes an art-focused blog, RSS feeds, an online grant application, and MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter accounts. A new YouTube channel also features footage of arts-specific public events and recent public service announcements. EveryBlock Robust mashup that provides contextual information on crime, restaurant inspections, permits, and street closures to answer the question, “What’s happening in my neighborhood?” Currently covering five U.S. cities: Charlotte, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, and San Francisco. Utah Govcast Features dozens of government videos, including Governor Huntsman’s news conferences, agency training videos, and citizen advisories. Offered in multiple formats with transcripts and supported by RSS feeds and Twitter alerts when new content is added. Oakland Crimespotting A visual mashup using data published by CrimeWatch, the City of Oakland’s community crime mapping Web site. Oakland Crimespotting combines interactive maps, e-mail updates, and RSS feeds of area-specific crimes to enable residents to better understand crime patterns in their neighborhoods. Crimes are categorized by type and attributed to specific locations. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) Wiki Defense intelligence wikis allow real-time information gathering, management, and timely dissemination to analysts and warfighters. Contained on classified networks. (Buxbaum, 2007) DIA Intelligence-Briefing Mashups User-driven intelligence briefings for Pentagon decision-makers. Contained on classified networks. (Buxbaum, 2007) Neighborhood Knowledge California Vigorous tool that combines mapping functionality with demographic, economic, and copious other statistical sources. Users build their own maps, based on datasets and save searches in their own profile. Shared Federal Government Intelligence Wikis “Intellipedia lets 37,000 officials at the CIA, FBI, NSA and other U.S. intelligence agencies share information and even rate one another for accuracy in password-protected wikis, some ‘top secret.’” (Crovitz, 2008) Deadliest Roads Search A University of Minnesota sponsored Web site where people can find, and view, the deadliest roads in America, including those in Minnesota. Maps combined with government-mined accident statistics provide Minnesota drivers with user-driven safety information. Cities in 3D The District of Columbia submitted more than 84,000 3D building models to Google Earth's Cities in 3D program. Releasing the GIS data to the public enables citizens to have a greater role in conversations and plans about the city's development.
  5. 5. Waiting on Gov 2.0 Policy Web 2.0 is on the doorsteps of governments worldwide. Even as some governments adopt community-focused online services, changing government enterprise in a way that embraces Web 2.0 is easier said than done. Implementing Gov 2.0 is a context-driven endeavor, unique to the operating and political environment of each government, which will require governments to adapt, leaders to lead, IT to function as an agent of convergence, and cultural acceptance of the notion that individual users will act responsibly. If it all sounds like a leap of faith, it’s not, or at least it has not been for private sector enterprises, which have become less siloed and less institutionalized because they recognize the economic benefits of leveraging Web 2.0 to increase revenues, enhance customer service, and improve internal efficiencies by sharing information more effectively. Although government currently lacks a Gov 2.0 policy footprint, there is some promise on the horizon. Don Tapscott, author of the seminal Web 2.0 tome Wikinomics, founded “Government 2.0: Wikinomics, Government & Democracy, a multimillion-dollar global research project that will identify and analyze emerging opportunities to harness new models of collaboration to transform the public sector. The project builds on a wealth of continuing research by New Paradigm and a global faculty of experts.” (Tapscott, 2008) For government leaders who are waiting on Tapscott’s Gov 2.0 project results, you might be waiting a while – and you might not find the path so agreeable, discernible, or possess the means to implement it within reason. If, on the other hand, you are waiting on other governments to forge a path, then you should know — other governments are probably waiting on you to forge the path. The message from forward-thinking Gov 2.0 experts harkens back to the middle-aged reflections of Charles Halloway, the character from Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes, who muses, “Too late, I found you can't wait to become perfect, you got to go out and fall down and get up again with everybody else.” Says James Young, Associate VP of Information Services at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology, “I’m not here to tell government to just jump in. It takes a while to adopt this stuff, because we don't know what is going to work and what's not going to work. The idea, he said, is to start out with core Web 2.0 features, such as blogs, wikis, mashups, and RSS feeds, so residents can get more information about what's going on in their municipalities and where they can offer their feedback.” (Weiss, 2008) One answer to meeting the Gov 2.0 challenge is a simple prescription: start small, use existing technology to advance government’s mission of service, and grow policy with technology over time. Social media platforms are not going away, so Gov 2.0 avoidance is no longer a working strategy. Gov 2.0 policy will coincide with the implementation process because the two are inextricably connected. The Building Blocks of Web 2.0 To formulate a starting point, it is important to understand the building blocks of Web 2.0. For the purpose of this discussion, Web 2.0 can be distilled into three fundamental elements: • Data access and control • Participation • Customer service
  6. 6. Data Data access and control, or a lack thereof, strikes at the heart of government’s apprehension about Web 2.0 and its implicit openness. However, controlling data is not the equivalent of Fermat’s Last Theorem — it can be solved with the intellectual and leadership assets available in most government IT shops. A logical starting point is to provide an interface through which citizens and businesses can pull raw data. Well-designed APIs and a Web services architecture will accommodate restrictions and codify controls. Participation The collective participation by connected partners, customers, and employees is the “gravitational core” of a Web 2.0-enabled enterprise. User-driven participation actually strengthens the communal knowledge systems intrinsic to Web 2.0 — combining discrete data with powerful tools and other government “solar systems.” During this year’s election cycle, candidates at all levels of government are leveraging social media to both communicate their positions and engage voters in an ongoing dialogue. The use of YouTube, Twitter, Flickr, Facebook, MySpace, and RSS feeds by candidates is a precursor of future Gov 2.0 enhancements that citizens will expect from government Web sites. Customer Service Customers of government services want to know: How can my government serve my unique data needs with stored information and knowledge? Web 2.0 allows customers to individually develop and drive their own solutions, combining available datasets within the readily accessible tools. By enlisting users as co-contributors, governments can realize the radical efficiencies of Web 2.0-style feedback loops by giving constituents the tools to help themselves. Taking the Next Gov 2.0 Steps Gov 2.0 implementation doesn’t have to start with a forceful enterprise-wide transformation. Perhaps the value of Gov 2.0 will be recognized in the simplest of implementations, such as using wikis for the following: • Record notes from internal meetings • Record notes from external meetings • Organize and record staff meetings • Provide a central repository of login information for software and Web-based tools • Store contact information, both for staff and key vendors and partners • Plan and manage projects and events After tackling the fundamentals of wikis, government can take the next step and begin marketing services via social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and YouTube. Conclusion At its core, Web 2.0 is technological democratization because it provides a platform for individuals to be heard, creates knowledge systems using technologies that aggregate disparate pieces of data into meaningful form, fosters community forums, and pushes government services to citizens who need them. According to L. Singer’s March 2008 social networking best practices for government CIOs, “Web 2.0 is about creating communities where the collective can benefit from the experience of other community members. Government workers are usually up to their necks in stress, caseloads and paperwork. Gathering in rooms to talk with one another is a luxury and usually limited only to field
  7. 7. offices. Creating an online gathering place for interaction – and not just a place to look things up – is what Web 2.0 is all about.” Web 2.0 is, by design, the collaborative and dynamic communication medium that promotes the simultaneous exchange of ideas between many people, thereby encouraging greater connectivity to government. Likewise, it has the potential to create an even closer pragmatic and symbiotic relationship between government and its customers. Ultimately, Gov 2.0 is less about technology and more about a shift in culture. Just as Web 2.0 itself represents a shift from a static, brochure- type Web to a user-centric “read-write” Web, Gov 2.0 will only be actualized once governments embrace the shift of engaging their constituents online. Bibliography Buxbaum, P. A. (2007, July 2). Web of Tomorrow. Retrieved July 28, 2008, from Military Information Technology: Crovitz, L. G. (2008, May 12). From Wikinomics to Government 2.0. Retrieved July 26, 2008, from The Wall Street Journal: O'Reilly, T. (2005, September 30). What Is Web 2.0: Design Patterns and Business Models for the Next Generation of Software. Retrieved July 26, 2008, from O'Reilly: R. Todd Stephens, P. (2008). AT&T Collaborative Integration Case Study. Retrieved July 27, 2008, from Cases 2.0: Singer, L. (2008, March 11) Web 2.0 and Social Networking Ideas for Government CIOs. Retrieved July 21, 2008, from Government Technology: Tapscott, D. (2008). nGenera Insight -- How full is your think tank? Retrieved July 28, 2008, from nGenera: Weiss, T. R. (2008, June 17). Web 2.0 and City Hall: What's a local government to do? Retrieved July 15, 2008, from Computerworld Government: ment&articleId=9099038&taxonomyId=69&intsrc=kc_top For More Information For additional information about Gov 2.0 implementations and best practices, please contact: Angela Fultz Nordstrom Hillary Hartley Director of Portal Development Director of Integrated Marketing 615-661-0281 415-573-2487