Monday, July 14, 2008

Government 2.0

With all the talk about how social networking is changing the ‘net, and the advent of the truly interactive web 2.0, there’s a lot of talk about how to take our government social as well. As we become more and more electronically connected to each other, we can use this technology to better shape our democracy.

All this came to mind after finding out about a presidential debate that was brought about using Twitter. The theme of the debate was Government and Tech. The debate was carried out by a New York Times editor, and tech-related staffers from both McCain’s and Obama’s camps.

I read the transcripts of the “debate” which was really more of a “conversation”. It had a lot in common with face-to-face debates, in that it was mostly rhetorical, full of promises, and nothing was really resolved. A big difference was that each posting, being on Twitter, was limited to 140 characters, so at least the political blathering didn’t go on and on. Still, reducing the commentary to little text bites like that didn’t really allow anyone to go into any detail.

It did get me excited, however, that the two parties had considered the possibility of discourse over the ‘net, and were embracing it. It got me thinking about the plusses and minuses of interacting with our governments online.


1. Automation of the Mundane – There are a lot of day-to-day things that could be and should be run off of websites. In many states, for example, you can long into your state’s website and apply for a business license. Wouldn’t it be cool if we could just pay our traffic tickets online? Not that I get traffic tickets, of course…

2. Better Access to Real Information – Along with the mundane tasks of the day, there are often a lot of government interactions that are strictly informative. Suppose you need to check the zoning of a particular address. It would sure be cool to be able to just look it up online. Want to know which roads are slated to be fixed this year? Go to your city’s website!

3. Interaction Among Voters – One of the real benefits of Government 2.0 that we’re already seeing is that voters are connecting up with each other, sharing ideas and opinions. We are discussing politics more and more online, as opposed to only face-to-face. As I consider the positions of other voters around me, it allows me to not just vote for my own situation, but to consider the needs and lives of others.

4. Breaking News – Often the internet community is privy to information before even the traditional news media. People that are connected to the right sites online can get information on government goings on, often as it happens. For example, you can track the progress of bills that could impact your life as they move through the legislative process.

5. More Ongoing Documentation for Historians – As we generate more and more information and opinion, these years will be much better documented than in our early history. There will be much more fact and discussion to draw from when the books are being written. The challenge will be, of course, to separate the opinion from the fact.


1. Haves and Have-Nots – We’re already dealing with this issue in other areas of society. We need to be careful not to disenfranchise those that either don’t have access to the technology, or don’t know how to use it.

2. Doesn’t overcome apathy – All of this information is well and good, assuming that people care enough to look it up. All the blogs in the world won’t impact anyone that doesn’t read them!

3. Spreading Rumors – Often because of the immediacy of the net, but also because of its anonymity, it’s a great medium for spreading rumors or even outright lies. Sorting the clear truth from the murk can be a challenging task. We all need to develop some good critical thinking skills to be able to analyze what’s being said.

4. Security Issues – As we’ve seen with electronic voting, as more and more actual governmental tasks go online, the need to keep that secure is stronger and stronger.

5. Regulation Issues – When we talk about the ‘net, we like to talk about freedom and the ability to say and do what we want. But even as we walk the streets there are police. Will there need to be laws and regulations governing the ‘net? If so, how will they be enforced? How will they be monitored? How will that effect our freedom to say what we want?

6. Taxation and Infrastructure – Along with issues of freedom, another issue that gets netizens rabid is the thought of taxation. While I don’t want to pay any more for the net than I have to, just like everyone else, someone’s gotta build the infrastructure, and someone’s gotta pay for that. Who will it be? And how will all of those issues impact the look and feel of the net in the future?

And always remember, as you’re out there celebrating your freedom of speech on the ‘net: Just because we have better ways to talk doesn’t always mean we have better things to say.

Mark is the co-director of, the search marketing consulting arm of Clickincome ( Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his MoBoy blog.

No comments:

Post a Comment