Gov 2.0 Week in Review: Summer Heatwave

Government apps, more .gov launches, open government, social media, contests and innovation.

What do you get when you combine summer heat with government technology? Like the rest of the Eastern seaboard, Washington has been beset by a heatwave, which means that air conditioners, linen suits and lemonade are very much in vogue. Before you quip “meltdown,” check out the new mobile apps from the new USA.gov and the new .gov sites that have gone up since the last Gov 2.0 Week in Review.

usa.gov-screenshot.jpgGovExec’s Aliya Sternstein report on the GSA overhaul of USA.gov, includes the cost, features and new mobile apps available at the redesigned and relaunched site.
Sunlight Foundation designer Ali Felski graded the revamped USA.gov, suggesting a number of potential improvements.

Across the Atlantic, a tight emergency budget in the United Kingdom has a put razor focus on outlays. A BBC report that the UK government had spent thousands on apps led the Cabinet office to suspend development, for the moment, a move that prompted some criticism amongst tech observers in the U.S. Notably, the Cabinet office classifies such apps as a “marketing and advertising” expense.

Back in the U.S., however, even if “Uncle Sam’s App Store” is about 999,990 apps behind the iTunes store, but the release of a US government apps store is worth noting.

More on government apps, .gov, open government, social media, contests and innovation after the jump.


There’s a (Government) App for That?

One of the most useful new apps on Apps.USA.gov may be a product recalls app connected to Recall.gov. It’s only available on the Web and for Android, however, unlike the TSA app, which is also on the iPhone. The alternative fuel locator, by contrast, is solely available on the mobile Web. And the UV indicator app is available for BlackBerry, Android and the mobile Web.

Will Apple approve more government apps soon? Keep an eye on Cupertino.

Facebook + 10 Downing Street = Cost Savings?

In what Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes described as “the largest public engagement project ever launched by the British Government,” Downing Street and Facebook announced a initiative today focused on reducing public spending. The partnership adds to the existing online “Spending Challenge” to engage the 26 million British citizens actively using Facebook to do something, namely contributing policy ideas. Notably, a link that the UK Treasury would also be partnering with WikiLeaks on its Spending Challenge is no longer active.

Below, British PM David Cameron chats with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg about deficit reduction:

As Nancy Scola points out on techPresident, however, “somewhat confusing matters: Facebook’s involvement in the Treasury Spending Challenge seems limited to, at this point, linking from its Democracy UK page to, yes, a custom-made official British government website.”

Youth, Technology and Government

This week, Politico reported “Silicon Valley: D.C. doesn’t get tech.” Conversations on government 2.0 over the years have certainly implied the opposite is true as well. Over time, events like the Gov 2.0 Summit and Expo may help to bridge that gap.

The implications of adding – and retaining – young innovators from the tech community to agencies, state houses, councils, courts and legislatures are substantial, particularly as the government becomes increasingly socially networked. Those network effects aren’t negligible, as research into health outcomes as shown. As James Fowler put it, “you must be the change you wish to see in your network.”

Speaking of which, White House deputy CTO for Open Government @BethNoveck joined Twitter. So did the State Department’s Katie Stanton, albeit in a more permanent role: she’s headed west to Twitter to begin work as a VP of international business strategy. As one might expect, she announced the move in a tweet. In an outgoing interview with Nancy Scola in techPresident, Stanton remained diplomatic about innovating in D.C., though she made some key points regarding culture, risk and innovation.

lincoln-cfa.jpgLooking to the youthful innovators is one reason to celebrate the Next Generation of Government. So is celebrating civic geeks and the new millennial revolution using technology to change government with Code For America. If you missed rocking the Red, White, and Blue in binary over the Fourth of July, you can get your very own t-shirt now. Once you get one, you can even work it for GovFresh’s t-shirt contest. Government big and small is worth it.

New research on mobile and millennials drives home the importance of getting this all right. 59% of adults now access the Internet wirelessly via laptop or cellphone, according to new research on mobile access by the Pew Internet and Life Project. The numbers on higher usage by minority populations are particularly significant. Can mobile phones narrow the digital divide?

A new report on millennials and social sharing also suggests that Gen Y “will retain their willingness to share personal information online even as they get older and take on more responsibilities.”

The State Department Published Its Social Media Policy

Young people considering joining the State Department can now see the boundaries they’ll operate within, embedded below.

State Dept Social Media Policy

Tech Updates From The White House

Back in the oven that is Washington summer, President Obama issued a memo to make 500MHz of federal and commercial spectrum available over next 10 years. As the @WhiteHouse Twitter account wryly put it, that means “you Twitterers” will get some more bandwidth. It also means the White House found a way to move the F.C.C.’s broadband plan forward through executive action.

In a significant move for into the new centuty, U.S. government websites can now use cookies and Web analytics.

That move represented two of the three privacy initiatives released by the White House Office of Management and Budget, as Andy Oram’s analysis here revealed. The White House also released a draft of “National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace,” including a means for people to comment upon it online. Yes, the government has an online identity plan for you.

OMB Director Peter Orzag also announced a plan for cutting waste by reforming IT. While the move carries risks in of itself, in terms of freezing upgrades to financial software, federal CIO Kundra undertaking detailed reviews of the highest risk IT projects across the federal government is a step towards accountability. The memo is embedded below:

Reforming the Federal Govt Efforts to Manage IT Projects

On that count, in testimony before Congress federal CIO Kundra continued the Obama
administration support for cloud computing, while agencies weigh the risks. Consideration of cloud computing by the House Oversight committee was, if anything, overdue, given how far many agencies have already moved.

Finally, as reported by Mashable, the U.S. will invest $2 billion in solar power. Apt news during a blistering month.

New Apps Contests and Challenges

This past week, the Health 2.0 Developer Challenge officially launched. As Tim O’Reilly observed, this is “an Important opportunity to hack for good.” My previous reporting on how HHS is making community health information as useful as weather data is key context here.

The State Department launched Apps 4 Africa on July 1, teaming up with entrepreneurs to unleash African tech talent. “Apps for E. Africa, by E. Africa” doesn’t have any projects yet, however… observers should watch code.apps.4africa.org, as Clay suggests.

The XPRIZE Foundation announced a $10 million “Oil Spill Clean-up Challenge” at TEDxOilSpill in D.C.

The 2010 SAVE Award launched on July 8, where .gov workers can submit your savings ideas. Nancy Scola has analysis of the SAVE Award at techPresident. The President’s message is embedded below:

New .gov Launches Galore

USA.gov may be the biggest government website to see a refresh but a crop of new .gov launches have gone online in recent weeks.

When President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into law, federal health officials had 90 days to build a website for the American public to access to critical information on available health insurance plans. Healthcare.gov is that site.

The White House launch of a healthcare transparency site will merit careful examination over time.

The potential of the new Healthcare.gov is considerable, as Radar’s own Andy Oram explored. The cost of adding prices to Healthcare.gov will be an interesting element to watch, as Nancy Scola adroitly asked.

In another news, “agencies responding to the BP oil spill launched a Web site compiling information and updates on the response,” tweeted EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson earlier this week. Check out RestoreTheGulf.gov for more.

The website for First lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” fitness campaign, LetsMove.gov, is online. She’ll be taking questions through an online chat moderated by AOL Health on July 13.

Government 2.0 Bits and Bytes

California launched a government news social media aggregator, News.CA.gov.

The Veterans Administration is seeking to turn employee-generated ideas into reality.

The National Academy of Public Administration Collaboration Project released an online dialogue guide for effective citizen engagement, embedded below:

Gartner launched an open government maturity model.

Twitter nears the Gov 2.0 tipping point,” suggested Steve Lunceford in Federal Computerweek. GovTwit, his government Twitter directory, now has almost 3000 IDs.

The Smithsonian Commons project makes museums nerdier, more accessible, awesome,” wrote WeLoveDC. The prototype does look cool.

CSPAN has a new, nifty URL shortener, cs.pn, through a partnership with bit.ly. Here’s an example of it in use: http://cs.pn/Gulfoilspill

Widgets and Twitter will fuel FEMA emergency alerts, reported Government Computer News. Check out fema.gov/widgets for examples, or check out the hurricane preparedness widget below.

Add “CDO” & “CGI” to list of cool Gov 2.0 job titles: The FCC appointed its first Chief Data Officer, George Elin, and a chief geographic information officer, Michael Byrne. Their domain will be reboot.fcc.gov/data. As Elin wrote in his post on the FCC’s Data Innovation Initiative, they’ll be helping to “help clear away the Agency’s data cruft and keep it cleared away.”

CheckbookNYC.com went live in NYC, offering “A Peek Inside New York City’s Checkbook” by posting city financial. The New York Times’ Stephen Ceaser has more.

Out at the Aspen Festival, CNN’s Eric Kuhn reported that federal CIO Vivek Kundra and craigslist founder Craig Newmark are “trying to change the government culture from ‘there is a form for that’ to ‘there is an app for that.'”

In New York, the MTA continues to open its doors, as a “civic hacker” at OpenPlans.org pointed out.

And in summer fun, Rep. Charles Djou made history a few days ago, when he tweeted that “The House Parliamentarian told me that I’m the first Member of Congress to ever use an iPad during a floor speech.” [Hat tip CNN]

Tweeting from a sub? It could happen. “One of the world’s impossible-to-plug-in places may finally get online,” reports Wired. What to call an underwater tweet? I suggest “ping.”

What else is happening in Gov 2.0?

Inevitably, we’re going to miss some links, so make sure to follow my Gov 2.0 list on Twitter, embedded below. And as always, if you have tips or suggestions, please email them to alex@oreilly.com or leave links in the comments. This week, a special additional plug: For excellent coverage of tech policy throughout the week, subscribe to the digest provided by Tony Romm and Kim Hart at Politico’s new Morning Tech.

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  • Mark H

    British/Facebook partnership is significant as it represents continued convergence of government, private industry, and personal data into a unified online cloud, available to myriad of apps and data mining tools.

    The Brave New World steams ahead, it’s participant oblivious to its destination.

  • Judah Mahay

    This is a great list. Thank you for keeping on things.

    There is another site just created which I believe is worth a look, Civipedia.com. It allows citizens to post legislative ideas and vote on them. At the end of the year the ideas with the highest votes will be sent to the appropriate legislatures whether regional or federal.

    http://www.civipedia.com