The missing links of Government 2.

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I was working on my Boston 140Conference presentation last night. It is focused on government 2.0 and I was thinking of the great examples of success as well as thinking of those efforts that are struggling to take off. Steve Ressler, aka Mr. Govloop, posted a question this morning that prompted me to think about this further, Is Gov 2.0 in a Sophomore Slump? As Gwynne Kostin notes, “Sophomore slump means that there was an original hit record”. While progress is being made it is still primarily happening in a piecemeal fashion. The missing links in all of this work is citizen awareness and energy. In a well functioning Government 2.0 environment information flows freely throughout, with the citizen always remaining at the center of the environment. Citizens weigh in on what is working (they vote) and citizens help set the goals. Government 2.0 must be citizen-centric to succeed.

Today, however, Government 2.0 efforts most often looks more like this:

Politicians, Journalists, and Government agencies are sharing information and thinking but citizens are more on the outside, receiving information, not engaging in two way dialog. A large part of the problem is citizen apathy more than any intentional effort to leave citizens out of the conversation. For the most part people understand that citizens are a key component of this system. However, if we look at US voting statistics, it’s fairly easy to see a lack of engagement. 56.8% of the voting age population turned out to vote in the 2008 elections (source: http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0781453.html#axzz0ywarw5CK ). The good news is that this percentage has remained relatively unchanged in the last three decades, so apathy on this front has not grown. The bad news, 43.2% of the population that is eligible to vote simply does not bother. Citizen awareness, citizen energy/passion, requires national and local efforts. How can this be resolved?   Journalists and media outlets need to provide free-time, free space, for promoting the early success stories of Government 2.0 movements. There are millions of them. Free conferences that focus on bringing all members of this system together must become a regular occurrence. I am launching CityCamp Boston in early 2011 and others are taking this same approach to bring citizens, journalist, government employees, politicians, and developers, together to help build momentum. The semantic web, seen in platforms like IdeaScale, UserVoice, BubbleIdeas, are critical. Providing a location for open communication and idea sharing opens the door for broader engagement, broader awareness, and provides a place for citizen energy to be used to make a difference.

In other words, we need to build an effective marketing campaign that educates and energizes everyone. How will we know that we’re on the right track? The first signal may be the use of our basic Government 2.0 tool, voting. Who knows, maybe by 2012 we will be able to return to the 60%+ range we saw back in the 1960s? John

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