FOSE 2009: For the people, by the people…

12 March 2009

Although I attended Vivek Kundra’s keynote address this morning, the highlight for me was still Chris Anderson’s “The promise of Gov 2.0” keynote on day one of the conference – my original reason for going. Turns out Anderson is not only the award winning author of The Long Tail, but also holds a degree in physics from George Washington University which pretty much makes him a local.

While GW bars don’t do much for me, I would have gladly met Anderson on his home turf to underscore his uber-key message to the U.S. government – “meet us where we live.”

Here’s what Anderson had to say:

The Google Generation
The younger generations have grown up with Google and Facebook as their entry points to information. When we need information on a topic today, is Google not the first place we turn? If we accept this general principle, we must then ask ourselves why most government services are not optimized for Google. Government websites don’t use search engine optimization technology, they’re not searchable, etc. If it’s not in Google, it doesn’t exist.

Websites are poor communicators
The younger generation, and frankly the rest of us, wants the news to come to them. People don’t want/have time to go to a website and navigate their way to information. They want updates and news on their own terms – i.e. Twitter, RSR, email, Facebook updates, let them opt in and opt out to things. The idea of a one size fits all website doesn’t work anymore. A good example is one pushed by Vivek – a Twitter page for D.C.’s Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (dcra) to address public complaints and suggestions.

Feeling the Pressure to Change
Although it seems obvious for government to implement some of these changes, according to Anderson the barriers remain high – outmoded client/server software, security and privacy rules, procurement rules and more importantly lack of urgency/pressure. The private sector has the threat of competition driving companies to evolve with the times. The U.S. government has…its citizens? The Obama campaign had the right philosophy and approach to technology engagement, but it’s yet to be seen who can inspire actual government agencies to do the same.

In the end, I have a lot of faith that Obama and Vivek can bring about some much needed change in the way the government engages with the public. We’ve already seen some of this new form of engagement come to life through the and websites. The good news is that the bar is so low right now that if all they did for the next four years were these two sites, they’d already be ahead of the curve.

For those of you that might be thinking about attending FOSE next year, here’s some images to get you excited.

Paul Bart, FOSE cop

Paul Blart, FOSE cop

new sheriff in town

new sheriff in town

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2 Responses to “FOSE 2009: For the people, by the people…”

  1. Shanna Hunt

    Nice read. Although the pics are my favourite part.

  2. Lindsey Pahs

    I’m not making this up. One of the guest speakers at the iNACOL conferencea few years back told a packed audience this. He said, “If it’s not in Google, it doesn’t exist.” Seriously, I’m not making this up. Let me tell you a little more. The conference was about all about online learning. The guest speaker was a recent high school graduate who had done all of his schooling online. He was there to give us his perspective on the world of online education. Much of what he had to say was very helpful to us as we were in the planning stages of creating our own online school in my district. The the idea that everything of value is catalogue by Google was laughable. Apparently this kid had never been to a bookstore. This was before GoogleBooks deal. Just for fun, I Googled the quote, “If it’s not in Google, it doesn’t exist.” Guess what? 27,100 results! There are a LOT of people who apparently feel this way. Somewhere along the way in the education of these individuals, they missed the part where knowledge CAN and DOES EXIST outside of Google.

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