Engaging Gen Y with Govt 2.0

Opening up public data online through government-as-a-platform can create public value, says author who adds that the younger generation wants to be engaged in governance.
Written by Liau Yun Qing, Contributor on

Governments should break the old top-down governance model and seek to engage citizens by opening up data for citizens to create public value, said an author who reckons that the younger generation are keen to be engaged in governance.

Don Tapscott, chairman of nGenera Insight, was in Singapore to speak at the SIM Annual Management Lecture. The co-author of Wikinomics and soon-to-be-released MacroWikinomics took time to talk to ZDNet Asia about how governments can benefit from mass collaboration using government-as-a-platform and how the younger generation view governance differently.

According to Tapscott, the move from the industrial to digital age has changed how governments create services for its citizens. He said: "The old model is 'I'm the government, you [the citizen] vote for me. You give me tax dollars, I create services and give them to you. I hope you enjoy it'."

He advocated a government-as-a-platform new model, which is how government data can be opened up for the four pillars of society--private companies, civil society, government agencies and citizens--to create public value.

He gave the example of opening up data of bicycle accidents and allowing citizens to create map mashups of the danger zones. With the mashups, people can avoid such areas, which can save lives, he said.

Tapscott's vision of government-as-a-platform is already happening in Singapore. The government aims to make more geo-spatial and textual data public to spur the creation of innovative services among its private and people sectors.

In April 2010, the government launched OneMap, an online map service where government agencies such as the Housing & Development Board, Singapore Land Authority and Ministry of Education contribute location-based services and information. OneMap also includes basemaps for users to mash up with their own data and publish the maps on their Web sites using an Application Programming Interface (API).

Gen Y wants to be engaged
Tapscott also touched on how the younger generation view governance differently. The old model where citizens vote and the government rules does not work with this generation, he said.

"[The younger] generation wants to be involved or [else they're] not going to have anything to do with it," he said.

To engage the younger generation, governments need to move beyond "liking" Facebook pages, he added.

One of the ways governments can engage its citizens is to organize challenges, or "glorified contests", as Tapscotts puts it. The government can call for proposals from its citizens to solve the problems it is facing. The citizens will then contribute their ideas, much like how private organizations crowdsource.

MacroWikinomics, set to be released in September 2010, explores mass collaboration beyond the enterprise setting to include financial institutions, education, healthcare, government and media.

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