Gov 2.0 Week in Review

On open data, open government, open cities, open source and more.

Last week, I watched Tim O’Reilly talk about Gov 2.0 and Code for America with Shira Lazar on CBS News. Their interview focused upon how Gov 2.0 uses the technology and innovation of Web 2.0 to address the needs of government. As Lazar put it, the future of government is in your hands.

The call to civic action that is implicit in that vision for Gov 2.0 may resonate withGeneration Y in unprecedented ways. New Research on millennials by the Center for American Progress (CAP) and the “the generation gap in government” suggests a a majority of millennials “would be more likely to support political candidates who embrace improving government performance, effectiveness, and efficiency.” The poll from CAP suggested, in a larger sense, that Americans want better government, not smaller government.

The potential for open government, open data and innovative technology to empower citizens, save costs and inform better policy is compelling the summer of 2010. Consider the video case for open transit data below, or the rest of the news in this week’s Gov 2.0 Review after the jump. As William Gibson has observed, “the future is already here – it’s just not evenly distributed.”

Open Government

Open government is a mindset. Will it be sustainable over the long term?

A “historic milestone in making government more open” went live this summer when the new Federal Register beta launched at As deputy White House CTO Beth Noveck observed, “Federal Register 2.0” is “collaborative government at its best.

The Secretary of Education announced the Learning Registry, a government-wide initiative that would create a platform for educational content across. Steve Midgley blogged about the Learning Registry at “It’s an important and challenging opportunity that raises hard technical questions about federated search and hard process questions about cross-agency collaboration,” said Noveck.
Social Security announced an open government video contest on “how Social Security has made a difference” in citizens’ lives.

And speaking of video contests, the winner of the EPA’s “Rulemaking Matters – Let Your Voice Be Heard video competition” is worth a watch, if you’re interested in the ideas behind

The video below, also from the contest, is a fine example of “Schoolhouse Rock for Rulemaking,” as deputy White House CTO Beth Noveck observed on Twitter.

The state of open government and transparency in Ireland, as that government opens the processes of democracy to scrutiny is also worth considering.

The signing and release of Law.Gov core principles show what a proposed distributed repository of all primary legal materials of the United States could be.

The schedules for the President and Vice President of the United States are online are now available to the public online.

Open government also means understandable and usable government communications. NPR’s Liane Hansen interview Dave McClure from the GSA about “America’s Website Newly User-Friendly,”

Open Data

“A year ago, two representatives from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (@MassDOT) met with a group of developers and interested citizens to talk about opening up public transportation data, including subway, bus, commuter train, boat, highway information, and RMV,” said Laurel Ruma, O’Reilly’s Gov 2.0 Evangelist via email.

“MassDOT wanted to know what data developers would find interesting, figure out how best to serve it up, and get a feel for what the developer community would do with it,” she said. “Many meetings, two contests, and a holiday party later, the results have been outstanding: visualizations, applications, signs, and even an IVR system built from scratch (see the MassDOT Developers Page).”

In just one year, said Ruma, “Boston has gone from having stacks of paper schedules to real-time feeds for 135 out of 185 bus lines in the MBTA system (the rest will be available by the end of summer). Not only did the state government give citizens what they wanted, but they encouraged an innovation economy, built community, made the papers, and, in general, built goodwill.”

Way to go, Bay State! (As anyone who has read my ode to Boston knows, I have ample affection for New England.)

Elsewhere in the blogosphere, “Data Are Not Information,” wrote Jeff Stanger, exploring the relationship between open data and open government. Open data needs open source tools, argued Clay Johnson. Johnson also points to a thoughtful post by Dan McQuillan that contends that open data does not empower communities.

Finally, consider a compelling piece by Mark Headd at Govfresh on Delaware’s progress towards Gov 2.0, “the opposite of open government.” As Headd writes, “When it comes to environmental data, and data on contaminated groundwater, open government is not about citizen convenience or improved government efficiency. It is about giving people the information they need so that they can make informed decisions about their own lives and the lives of their families and children.”

Government: Is There An App for That?

The nation’s largest library celebrated a the launch of its first official iPhone app, when the Library of Congress got a mobile app.

General Sorenson, the CIO of Army, announced the winners of the Apps for the Army in Florida. The contest more than doubled expected participation, writes Peter Corbett.

Mobile applications from government or that work with government data are changing the way citizens navigate the world. Forbes recently shared a great list of ten socially responsible mobile apps.

Federal Computer Week also published a solid selection of government Web apps that get results, including the Twitter earthquake detector, the State Department’s Haiti tech resource page, USAID’s Global pulse and more.

Gov 2.0 and Accessibility

The power of technology and equality came into sharp focus this year on the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Gov 2.0 and Web 2.0 at odds over accessibility in Australia> where a low-bandwidth, text-only Web is key to open government goals and addressing the digital divide. Australia’s CIO urged civil servants to become “Gov 2.0 activists” and shared some tough talk on accessibility.

In the United States, the new faced a tough critique of accessibility.

The new F.C.C. team aims for accessibility,” reported Politico in a profile of the folks behind

Wikileaks, Wookielieaks and Secrecy

This summer, the Robin Sage experiment obtained a photo of a soldier in Afghanistan w/embedded location data, reminding everyone of the national security risks of Gov 2.0 and the social Web.

The unprecedented release of more than 92,000 documents in Afghan War Diaries by Wikileaks is an powerful reminder of the power of technology to disrupt traditional information flows. For more on Wikileaks and context, make sure to read the Nieman Lab’s excellent week in review. The photography of Afghanistan on display at’s Big Picture photoblog add visual context for what’s at stake.

“The release of these documents has not affected the strategy. Many of them were very, very old,” said Admiral Mullen on “Meet The Press.” Both he and Defense Secretary Gates were extremely critical of the release of the names or locations online and the moral culpability of the sight. “They have put this out without any regards whatsoever for the consequences,” said Secretary Gates this week.

The Wikileaks conundrum could change the way reporters deal with secrets.

The relationship Wikileaks, government 2.0 and media hurricanes is likely to be hotly debated for months to come. The story continued to evolve this week when the Pentagon threatened to compel Wikileaks to hand over the Afghan war diaries. Given Wikileaks’ distributed architecture, that may be unlikely.

What is unquestionable, however, is that the “Wookieleaks” meme that exploded onto Twitter quickly produced more tweets than War Log documents. Marc Ambinder called Wookieleaks the “best hashtag ever,” while NPR reported that Wookieleaks was popular because geeks like to go deep on things. The best Of Wookieleaks certainly show that geeks have a sense of humor.

Facebook, Privacy and Government

Yes, Mr. Zuckerberg went to Washington, where Facebook faces online privacy concerns. For more on the online privacy debates in Washington, including hearings where Facebook’s CTO and CSO testified before Congress, read my most recent post.

A White House proposal, reported by the Washington Post, that would ease FBI access to records of Internet activity” is a reminder that governments themselves have complicated relationships with electronic privacy. So is the news that the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia would move to block Black Berry messaging. Putting RIM’s ‘security’ challenges in perspective is important, as is government’s own record on online privacy.

Does Government Get Social Media?

There are unprecedented ways that government is leveraging the Internet as platform for communications. As President Obama’s YouTube addresses are the fireside chats of the 21st century. I was reminded when I watched his comments on Detroit and the automobile industry this weekend. “In 1934, FDR was in a similar place with the economy,’ said Doris Kearns Goodwin on “Meet the Press,” adding context to the President’s message.

Despite the new media prowess of the White House, however, the Knight Commission blogged that a <a href=""survey tells two tales about feds’ social media use. As Ellen Miller observed, “40% don’t use or don’t know” about it. Many government officials or agencies are broadcasting messaging online, as they would on radio or television, instead of engaging and including citizens in a more participatory democratic process. For instance, in a new angle on public diplomacy, UN Ambassador Rice and the U.S. mission to the UN is now on Facebook but isn’t replying to comments there.

One agency that does get social media is NASA. They hosted another NASA Tweetup in Washington, which was streamed live online at NASA TV and discussed at The event featured @astro_tj, who was the first man to tweet from space.

Will Social Security get social media in the Government 2.0 Age?. It won’t happen right away. The challenges of identity proofing online mean that a Web-based authentication methodology for citizens are necessary before federal agencies can move ahead with adoption, particularly on third-party platforms.

Congress is another matter. Gary Bivings took a look at which elected officials are tweeting. TweetCongress tweeted that over 200 members of Congress are now tweeting. A new study on Twitter in Congress asserted that Democrats use Twitter for transparency, while Republicans use it for outreach.

For a useful perspective outside of the United States, First Monday published a terrific Gov 2.0 case study in government and e-participation at Brazil’s House & Presidential websites.

And in a novel use of crowdsourcing, Delhi police are using Facebook to track scofflaw drivers, in the latest example of Clay Shirky’s “Cognitive Surplus” at work. For a reminder of that concept, check out the TED Talk below.

Open Source and Government

Lockheed-Martin went open source, posted Red Hat’s Gunnar Helleks, but “tinfoil hats abound.” Check out for more the open source project.

This past week, a miltary open source unconference in Washington explored innovation in this space. Whether considering when code disappears in the government or how a CIA software developer went open source, as you can see at


If you missed OSCON in Portland, Oregon, several videos that discuss open source and government are worth watching.

Jennifer Pahlka of Code for America and “Coding the Next Generation of American History

Bryan Sivak, DC CTO, on the District of Columbia on open source

Mayor Sam Adams of the city of Portland on “America’s open source city

Gov 2.0 Summit Draws Near

As Tim O’Reilly wrote this morning, the upcoming Gov 2.0 Summit in Washington will be about opening the doors of government to innovation. His argument that “Gov 2.0 is all about the platform” has continued to mature since last year’s event, including the ways open government spurs innovation. This year, education and health care will be key themes.

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Gov 2.0 Bits and Bytes

If you missed it, President Obama demonstrated the new

As Macon Phillips observed, this was not your ordinary website demo. When the President used online video to go straight to the American people to explain a new online resource, it’s noteworthy.

In late July, there was a Virtual summit on Apps for Local Government.

An oil pipeline leak in Michigan meant Crisis Commons asked for volunteers to upload URLs of Kalamazoo River resources to

The State Department hosted a “techATState” event focused on “mobile money.”

The Department of Transportation on launched IdeaHub, “online community where employees can post ideas for their colleagues to comment and build upon.”

The Sunlight Foundation launched its new Congress Android app. The iPhone app is available at

Sunlight Labs also launched a new Web application,, which, as Sunlight Foundation’s executive director Ellen Miller put it, brings politics and influences together in just one click. As Luigi Montanez explains at the Sunlight Labs blog, “Poligraft takes in a block of text, parses it for entities like politicians and corporations, and returns a result set representing the political influence contained in that text.”

Andrew Krzmarzick wrote in to share news from Govloop, one of the biggest online networks for government community. Krzmarzick said that Govloop has launched a new GovLoop UK group and hosted a live chat with Google’s Dan Israel about “Google Apps for Government.” “With Google’s release of their FISMA-certified and stored-on-US-soil apps, we wanted to give government employees a chance to talk in real-time with Google,” said Krzmarzick.

Do you attend “tweetups?” Govies, meet “govups.” Govloop has carved out some namespace and will host the first two “GovUps,” which will occur in San Francisco (Aug 18) and Washington, DC (Aug 25). “We nabbed a neologism,” said Krzmarzick, -“producing an event for anyone in and around government to gather at a central spot to meet, learn and grow with the people that they know online, but haven’t met yet in person. The General Services Administration is co-hosting these events with us…and there are a lot more to come!” @MaryDavie will be at the first govup in Washington.

UPDATE: The Library of Congress praised this review in a tweet but wondered why the launch of their new blog, “In Custodia Legis,” wasn’t included. The answer is simple: I didn’t know about it! What will law librarians blog about? The inaugural post explains:</p.

n Custodia Legis is Latin for in the custody of the law. One role of the Law Library of Congress is to be a custodian of law and legislation. As part of this, our team of bloggers covers current legal trends, collecting for the largest law library in the world, a British perspective, a perspective from New Zealand, developments and enhancements in THOMAS, and cultural intelligence and the law.

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  • Dan Bevarly


    Thanks for the thoughtful review and wrap up. I enjoyed it.

  • Sandro Jiménez-Ocampo

    Based on your insights, I have extracted the following items which can be used as research categories of analysis for the proposed E-Gov experiences elsewhere:

    1. Reasons Why and reasons For the E-Government strategies
    2. Practices of cross-agency collaboration of e-Government portals with social advocacy 2.0
    3. Systems of regulation and social accountability of e-government
    4. Relationship between the amount of information available online, the quality of access and the openness of the data towards a distributed and collaborative applications
    5. Specific applications developed for social and participatory use of information and resources of e-government portals.
    6. Behaviors performed with the e-goverment portals: between selective data consumption and independent participatory processes.

    I will like to use this categories for case analysis in latinoamerican cases, where the information society and the Web 2.0 phenomena its just opening up comparing to USA, Would you be interested in share further conversations on that framing?