Each generation in United States Government has created an internal revolution. From the Pony Express and telegrams, to typewriters and carbon paper, to computers and email. Now we are in the middle of yet another technological revolution: Social Media in Government or the more common moniker, Government 2.0.
A week ago, I sat in as a panelist on a Web talk show regarding Government 2.0. There have been many discussions in the main stream media, bloggers and in the hallowed halls of Government buildings on who will be and what is the proposed "Chief Technology Officer's" role. In all the talk about the Presidential Transition, I have felt that maybe Barack Obama and quite possibly the digital world are fixating to much on just one type of CTO. During the Web cast I posed the thought, "maybe what the people really want to see of their Government is transparency? So why not a "Chief Transparency Officer?"
I believe if we are going to use the term Government 2.0, we might as well come to terms what that means for those inside the Federal, State, and Local Governments, as well as what does it portend to the U.S. Citizen. I cannot profess I know all the definitions of either side of the coin, but I can shed some light as to what I think is essentially one of the many parts of a User-Generated Government. I am going to break this down into two parts: Citizen 2.0 and Patriot 2.0.
"Citizen 2.0" or a proletarian revolution is what I believe the above-average social media user/voiced U.S. citizen. While its more likely that an American has a MySpace account versus Twitter and/or FaceBook, both social media sites continue to reach bigger audiences, the average "Citizen 1.0" doesn't necessarily go online to use social media sites or vote for that matter. The Citizen 2.0 crowd are the citizens and constituents that engage the Government by writing their congressional representative, vote and create questions on HubDub or ObamaCTO.org or engage in online debate with others via Twitter or to their pundits on main-stream media programming.
"Patriot 2.0" types are those within the U.S. Government who are those willing to fight for bureaucratic change of the archaic processes and vicissitude. This also covers those willing to become versed in and change their existing work processes based on the efforts of those agents of change. In my experience I have seen most employees either pragmatic or idealistic, and some are a little of both. It is those who are a little of both who I feel are the change agents, the music makers:
We are the music makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams;—
World-losers and world-forsakers,
On whom the pale moon gleams:
Yet we are the movers and shakers
Of the world for ever, it seems.
-- Arthur O'Shaughnessy, British Poet
The need for transparency for the incoming and outgoing President appears to be in digital demand by both the Citizens 2.0 and Patriots 2.0. And I say this with the upmost respect, but nerds and geeks have indeed taken over the world. The digital divide of Gen Xer's and Millennials vs. Boomers in office is clear. Boomers and old generations are more likely to get their news and information about Government via traditional news media on television or from a printed newspaper. While the younger generations are more and more getting their news from social media Web sites and other alternative methods.
Each week I get the White House Weekly Highlights delivered to my email, which includes the President's schedule of the past week. We can watch the President-Elect via YouTube or iTunes (at the time of writing this article Barack Obama's "Video's from the President-Elect" are number one on iTunes) or follow the news of President George W. Bush's White House @TheWhiteHouse on twitter (Will he turn over this account to his successor?). It doesn't stop there. I have seen several Web sites/blogs that have been compiling lists of who's who in the U.S. Government of the United States.
While it may look like Obama is with the times when we see him in public using his Blackberry, can we really expect the President of the United States to stay on top of all his personal and work-related correspondence? Take a moment and think about that for a second. How many email accounts do you have, how many unread messages? If you declare email bankruptcy more than likely no one will die from you having set your inbox to zero. But can the same be said for the President? And after Obama's account was recently hacked, how safe would you feel having sensitive national security issues or private correspondence leaked and posted on bulletin boards across the Internet? When the person takes the oath of office, they are no longer a person, but an Institution. (I learned a lot from the "West Wing" -- and now's the time to dust those DVDs off and re-watch the series).
So is the appearance of the Presidential transparency tied only to his hand-held device? No. There are other ways the White House and the U.S. Government can appear and be transparent without the fear of a security breach. For the first time in the digital age we have the tools and demand to put information from the source of an incoming President. While President-Elect Obama (or his campaign staff) has not tweeted since the morning after his historic victory, the information on the feed from @change_gov is a steady flow.
So as readers, which part of Government 2.0 are you? The Citizen or a Patriot? Or Both? What is the U.S. Government doing right when it comes to transparency and what is it doing wrong?
Andrea R. Baker is the Director of Technology for Navstar, Inc. and a Social Web Evangelist for the United States Intelligence Community. Under this role Andrea has helped their customers utilize Enterprise 2.0 tools effectively. She specializes in the user community advocacy and an application developer liaison, through tools like wikis, blogs, and other social Web tools. You can follow her on Twitter and via her personal blog.