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Gov 2.0 Week in Review

Data.gov 2.0, Law.gov, cloud computing at Apps.gov, open data, Facebook Communities and government, and the future of the Internet and democracy.

This past week in government 2.0 news was full, as always, particularly for this correspondent as the Gov 2.0 Expo comes to Washington next week. Bernard Kouchner may have written that the “universal spirit of the Enlightenment should run through the new media” but this week, the zeitgeist of the government information revolution online was powered by open data. As always, if you have comments or suggestions, please send them to alex@oreilly.com or reply to @digiphile on Twitter.

Data.gov 2.0

Thumbnail image for data-gov-2-small.jpgThe news that earned the most headlines was of the relaunch of Data.gov, which has seen substantial growth and improvements since the U.S. federal government published the first data set at the online repository a year ago. Federal CIO Vivek Kundra called data.gov: “pretty advanced for a 1-year-old” at the White House blog and talked at length on Federal News Radio about the anniversary of the website. The best coverage of the relaunch came from Wired’s sneak peak at the redesigned Data.gov. Read NextGov for another good take on the update to the nation’s data warehouse. And on the first anniversary of Data.gov, the Sunlight Foundation officially announced the launch of the National Data Catalog.

Government as a Platform

Over on the West Coast, Debra Bowen, Secretary of State of California, talked with Tim O’Reilly about Law.gov at the University of Berkeley. Video is embedded below:

Open Data

“The more open a government agency is, the more it seems that the public trusts it,” mused Chris Dorobek in his post on public trust and government. If so, the creation of a “right to data” under the “Big Society proposals” from the new United Kingdom government could be significant. For those interested, there’s a good overview of European mashups of public data at OurData.eu.

Up in Canada, David Eaves explored “open data as an example of the long tail of public policy at work.”

Back in the United States, as Luke Fretwell pointed out at GovFresh, USAspending.gov relaunched this week as well. Fretwell approved, noting in his review that the new site “includes a cleaner, more elegant user interface and search filtering on all federal government spending.” The new version of USASpending.gov was developed in Drupal and is partially hosted on NASA’s Nebula cloud computing platform.

And up in space? It turns out that open space data from NASA can improve lives – and save birds. The new evangelist for Data.gov, Jeanne Holm, explained what an international ontology of open space data is and why it’s important.

What’s next for open data online? A Senate bill would require agencies to post public records online. It’s a companion to legislation (H.R. 4858) introduced in the House by Democratic Rep. Steve Israel of New York earlier this year. One example of open data online is at data.seattle.gov, where the city is now publishing 911 data in near real-time via the Socrata Open Data API.

If you’re interested in exploring open data further, follow the brilliant statistician Hans Rosling, the man behind gapminder.org. Speaking at the World Bank today, he posited that “open data will foster innovation,” an contention that may be borne out by the applications created around the data.worldbank.org. You can see Riesling’s ably expressed in the Ted Talk embedded below, “Let my dataset change your mindset.”

Internet freedom, government and democracy

Will the Internet bring more freedom and representative government? How should governments treat the online world and citizens? An important article from Rebecca MacKinnon, “In search of Internet Freedom,” went deep into that question this past week. Back in April, Google’s D.C. Talks featured “Democracy Online – Can the Internet Bring Change?,” a forum in its Washington office that featured Pablo Chavez, Managing Policy Counsel, Google, Larry Diamond, Professor & Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University, Daniel Calingaert, Deputy Director of Programs, Freedom House, and Omid Memarian, an Iranian blogger. It’s embedded below:

This past week, Micah L. Sifry, Andrew Keen, Jimmy Wales and Farhad Manjoo came the National Press Club in D.C. to debate whether the Internet was good for democracy. Video is embedded below. You’ll see this correspondent ask an overlong question about open government, Internet freedom and global democracy about 70 minutes in.

There was a notable demonstration of the Internet’s ability to connect people outside of government filters when the @DalaiLama used Twitter to communicate with Chinese Web users, as reported by the Associated Foreign Press and the Associated Press.

The week ended with a lively discussion, “Does the Internet Favor Dictators or Dissenters?” The live webcast featured Eric Schmidt, Alec Ross, Tim Wu and James Fallows.

Facebook, privacy and government

Early this week, each user’s interests, hobbies, work and education choices became Community pages on Facebook. That switch over also included associating locations, like cities, and government agencies, including federal entities, with these pages.

As Altimeter analyst Jeremiah Owyang made clear in his report, changes to Facebook Commmunity pages and privacy impact brands — including government entities. The switch over is poised to cause some confusion for citizens looking for official accounts, and potentially some frustration for institutions that had entered into agreements with Facebook as a media partner. Compare Facebook’s Department of Defense Community to the official agency page, Facebook.com/DeptofDefense.

facebook-DoD-search-results.jpgIs this “govjacking,” as Adriel Hampton suggested in his post on Facebook and government pages? As the screenshot on the right shows, these Community pages are currently ranked higher in search and are not curated by agencies, though both conditions may change.. The Terms of Service that the federal government agreed to with Facebook contain a clause that their agreement that would supersedes any changes to the general Terms of Service that conflict with it.

Given the use of official seals and the absence of a clear disclaimer on the pages, some citizens may be confused, despite the fact that Wikipedia content makes up much of the page. Facebook does note prominently that “You can also get us started by suggesting the Official Facebook Page,” with an associated submission form. The official page did not, however, appear after I input the correct URL.

Resolving confusion about the official nature of a page may be a point of concern for government Web managers and citizens alike over the coming weeks as the rough edges of Community pages are smoothed out. Trust and identity are both bedrock issues for government use of social media, including Facebook pages. Government agencies appear to be considering options: the General Service Administration’s @GovNewMedia account tweeted on Tuesday that “We’re taking a look; see earlier tweet: http://is.gd/ceISC For reference, here’s the amended Facebook ToS: http://bit.ly/aw5B6V.”

UPDATE: When reached for comment, Facebook offered the following official statement: “We are working on a process right now, which will be available shortly, that will give Page owners the ability to request administrative control over a Community Page and have the content, as well as the people who’ve liked that Community Page migrated over to their Official Page.” Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes also emphasized that Community Pages “are still in beta” and that we’re working on ways to improve them.

Gov 2.0 Expo Draws Near

This past week, I appeared on Gov20Radio with Gov 2.0 Expo Co-Chair Laurel Ruma, where we talked with host Adriel Hampton about the upcoming conference. You can listen to the episode, “Government as a Platform is Here to Stay” at BlogTalkRadio.com or stream it below.

During the show, we discussed the panels, speakers and workshops we’re looking forward to next week, including many of those cited in Steve Lunceford’s 10+ “hidden gems” not to miss at Gov 2.0 Expo. I’m looking forward to learning the winner to Sunlight Laboratories Design for America contest.

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New Media Challenges, Competitions and Milestones

before-after-paving.jpgRecovery.gov has a Flickr pool that is aggregating pictures of projects from citizens and public servants alike. For instance, the Oregon Department of Transportation posted a “before and after picture of a paving project (left).

OhMyGov.com reported that the Maryland government may soon require political candidates and government agencies to identity official social media sites.

Nancy-AnnDeParle.jpgFolks who follow Gov 2.0 on Twitter may have noticed problogger Heather Dooce engaged in a real-time question and answer session on healthcare reform with the White House on Twitter Nancy-Ann DeParle answered @dooce from @WhiteHouse, though without context or signing some of the tweets she might have left a few of the 1.75 million followers wondering what was happening. That said, DeParle also answered a question from someone other than @dooce, showing that she was willing to engage in a broader conversation.

Over in the House, the GOP Conference’s “New Media Challenge,” which began back in mid-April, also came to an end this Friday. While winners have yet to be announced, the competition heightened fueled growth in the use of social media by Republicans in Congress.

Not every member of Congress, however, is comfortable with tweeting yet. So why does the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff tweet? As it turns out, the @TheJointStaff) has a well-developed social media strategy, as Swimfish CTO John F. Moore pointed out: “Engage, Align, Drive, Expand.”

The White House delivered another episode of “West Wing Week,” embedded below.

Government 2.0 Bits and Bytes

The General Services Agency launched Info.Apps.gov to serve as a “place where agencies can gather information about how cloud computing.

How do you move from a culture of “need to know” to a culture of “need to share?” Have you heard of StateBook, Virtual Presence Posts or Diplopedia? How does the U.S. State Dept use social media *behind its firewall? I wrote about how the State Department uses social software to support eDiplomacy this week.

Dr. David Blumenthal, National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, posted a summary of where his office stands in building a Nationwide Health Information Network.

Both USCourts.gov and Commerce.gov relaunched. As the Washington Post reported, USCourts.gov now includes a court locator, court services and employment links.

Chicago’s new data portal
shows Freedom of Information Act requests.

How do app contests get government going? My in-depth interview with Peter Corbett on how app contests are unlocking government innovation went live today. The closing data for Apps for Army, These apps are being developed using the Department of Defense’s secure RACE cloud computing platform to emulate mobile hardware. And as Corbett pointed out this week, there’s now an “Apps for Democracy” in Norway.

The Sunlight Foundation showed again how an embedded webcast, CoverItLive and data feeds can define coverage of legislative debate at SunlightFoundation.com/live.

There’s a livestream of the leaking drill head on the floor of the Gulf of Mexico hosted at House.gov, appropriately entitled “Oil Spill Cam.”

California created a portal for the state’s 10,000 IT workers.

John Udell wondered what could happen if there were permalinks and hashtags for city council agenda items.

The Air Force reclassified 3000 communication officers as “cyberspace officers.”

Reno Web Manager Kristy Fifelski shared how Reno.gov is “going gov 2.0” at govfresh.

Laptops continue to plague government health data keepers.Health IT security and privacy are critical to this aspect of key Gov 2.0.

The Dept. of Energy is accepting applications for agency CIO in Second Life.

The FBI CIO unveils his “next-generation” IT strategy.

Chris Berendes wondered how measuring Gov 2.0 would apply to DHS’s #opengov tool for the oil spill cleanup.

What’s missing from the Gov 2.0 movement? Education, says Manor CIO Dustin Haisler.

The U.S. Census will improve its use of the Web in future population counts.

Love tech policy, regulations and social media? The FTC is looking for a social media specialist.

I interviewed Booz Allen Hamilton principal Grant McGlaughlin about online participation & engagement by federal agencies. The video is embedded below:

And at last, if you made to the end of this week’s Gov 2.0 in Review, we’ll send you off into the weekend with a smile: the Onion reported that the “Majority Of Government Doesn’t Trust Citizens Either.”

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  • Keith Moore

    Hi Alex. the interview with Grant McGlaughlin is a rather accurate and revealing description of how the pace of the culture change has been moving under the Directive.

    I hope to meet you at Gov 2.0 and I absolutely offer the opportunity for demonstrating what we believe at Open Government TV to be the second most important aspect of the Directive which is collaboration.

    I believe media outlets, seasoned like O’reily Media, and infants like Open Government TV, have a significant opportunity to drive the pace of this cultural change. So again, I look forward to connecting and hopefully ultimately engaging, as I believe OGTV has engaged in a market that currently is not a participant in this revolutionary time.

    Thanks for sharing.

  • Alexander Howard

    Thank you, Keith. I look forward to meeting you as well.

  • Amanda Pustilnik

    Very rich post. The speed and frequency of new Gov 2.0 innovations is breathtaking.

  • Hjalmar Gislason

    I was at Gov 2.0 Expo last week. Thanks for a great event.

    My focus was on the Open Data sessions, and what I found astounding was that the private sector companies there seemed to be most interested in selling the government their products and services, missing the REAL opportunities that lie in Open Data.

    An enormous amount of valuable data is becoming easily and freely available all over the world. This data has real, practical and monetary value to virtually every business, household and individual. But only a tiny fraction of them know that yet.

    The real commercial opportunity in Open Data lies in helping people discover all this data, see its potential and realize how they can make use of it to run their businesses better, make better decisions and identify new opportunities.

    More on this here:

  • http://skforussia.ru Adam

    This is really cool. Nice article.

  • http://www.establishingsolutions.com Jimmy H

    Very accurate on the culture change.

  • http://www.elitelawyerproject.com Kim

    Hello Alex, WOW, thanks for the jam packed post! The links you provided in the article are insightful. I particularly like the one by Rebecca MacKinnon, “In search of Internet Freedom”, worthwhile read for anyone that makes it to this blog.

  • http://cloud9health.com/anti-aging-products/slow-age-progression-buy-protandim.html Chris Protandim

    It is all a mess now you hear about how the Iphone and Ipad has been tracking your every move. I can see both side be great for solving crimes but at what expense?

  • http://aperionspeakers.info Aperion Speakers

    That’s good to hear the government is making an effort to be open with the public, but knowing our government I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s just a ploy to make us trust them more ya know… ugh

  • http://www.bankruptcychapter-7.net Simon

    I think we need more open governments as we move incresingly towards a global community

  • http://www.usmilitary.com The Government