Month: June 2009

Gov 2.0 Hero: Adriel Hampton

Gov 2.0 Hero: Adriel Hampton

What was your path to Gov 2.0?

It really was seeing how the Barack Obama campaign was using low-cost communications to allow folks from all over the nation to get involved with the campaign right from their home computers. That woke up the journalist and activist in me, and I started looking around what was going on in the tech activism space. I was also doing a lot of networking on LinkedIn, and started tinkering around a bit with the Government 2.0 group there. Then, in the summer, Steve Ressler posted on LinkedIn asking folks to check out GovLoop. I joined when Steve’s site was just shy of 1,000 people, and found it extremely valuable in terms of networking around tech-enabled government reform. I also learned a lot about Web 2.0 working with activist Jon Pincus to oppose the first big bank bailout, and I learned that there were all these great applications out there that can be used to make government more democratic, on the cheap.

What area of government offers the biggest opportunity for improvement via Web 2.0 tools?

I think we really have a chance to make it so much easier for people to participate in their government, in terms of getting outside the activist political base and into things like allowing public comments through Web 2.0 apps, whether that’s video or Internet radio or a comment ranking system. In our increasingly busy world, I think Gov 2.0 really has promise in preserving and enhancing civic participation.

What’s the killer app that will make Gov 2.0 the norm instead of the exception?

Can I call time a killer app? We’ve got plenty of shiny new toys, it’s just going to take the behemoth of government a bit of time to get used to using them. Pandora’s box is already open.

What part of Gov 2.0 most excites you?

I’m really excited by the collaboration between different folks in government and the promise of increased citizen participation. I think that as more and more digital natives enter the government workforce, we’re going to see incredible reforms that make government must more user-friendly and citizen-focused.

Adriel Hampton is a journalist, Gov 2.0 and new media strategist, public servant, and licensed private investigator. He is running for U.S. Congress in the 2009 special election for California’s 10th District. His Internet radio show, Gov 2.0 Radio, is live every Sunday at 2 p.m. PST.

Gov 2.0 Hero: Jeffrey Levy

Gov 2.0 Hero: Jeffrey Levy

What was your path to Gov 2.0?

I started doing Web 1.0 at EPA in 1994, and I’ve been working with great people ever since, both at EPA and not. As the new tools came along, it was a natural progression. Much of Web 2.0 meshes very well with our broad mission, after all. More specifically, I first did Web 2.0 when my team was tapped to help then-Deputy Administrator publish his blog a couple of years ago.

What area of government offers the biggest opportunity for improvement via Web 2.0 tools?

Policy making. I see no other area that will reap as many benefits as hearing from a much wider group of people.

What’s the killer app that will make Gov 2.0 the norm instead of the exception?

Mygov.gov: my personal account that shows me a dashboard on login with renewal alerts for my driver’s license, passport and other repeating government needs; my local weather; major announcements from whatever government agencies interest me; a button to enter online chat and get help with whatever government issue I need (regardless of state, local or federal); and other boxes that allow me to customize whatever other info I might want.

What part of Gov 2.0 most excites you?

Watching people get energized and participating, as they realize the government really is listening.

Gov 2.0 Hero: Lewis Shepherd

Gov 2.0 Hero: Lewis Shepherd

What was your path to Gov 2.0?

I’m an odd duck in this realm, a bit older than most of the Gov 2.0 forefront folks. I participated in Gov 1.0, and in Gov 0.9 before that, and in Pre-Wired Gov before that. As a kid in the ‘60s I was a political junkie, and I made candy money at the age of 6 by swarming parking lots for my local congressman in North Carolina and putting his bumperstickers on cars. A nickel a car for me, and no permission sought; people would at some point discover they had been driving around advertising their Member of Congress. Imagine if politicians today were remotely adding a banner ad to constituents’ personal websites and blogs! During grad school at Stanford two of my professors (Condi Rice of the last Administration, Dennis Ross of the new one) arranged a Pentagon gig for me as a Soviet foreign policy analyst in the Pentagon’s “internal think tank,” the Office of Net Assessment; it was 1985 and I already had my own PC, so I expected a shiny supercomputer on my desk at the Pentagon. Instead, I got an IBM Selectric II typewriter. I evangelized use of new technologies then, and again with my early jobs in city government. I worked for the Mayors of San Jose and San Francisco, during the Gov 1.0 era – in 1995 we launched a heavily hyperlinked website for San Francisco’s Mayor, winning awards for innovation, and were praised for being “ the only candidate to post answers to questions from community groups.” But there was certainly no realtime interactivity with citizens and between citizens, which we’d consider a sine qua non of Web 2.0 use. After doing well in the Silicon Valley startup/venture capital world in the ‘90s, the attacks of 9/11 drew me back to Washington where I took advantage of what I had learned for another stint in government, at the Defense Intelligence Agency from 2003-2007, where I had the opportunity (and budget & awesome team) to introduce new technologies and social software practices. I made a point of seeking out like-minded folks in other intelligence agencies, DoD organizations, and civilian government departments, so that by the time I left government to join the Microsoft Institute for Advanced Technology in Governments, I was enmeshed in a global web of brilliant innovators at federal, state, and local levels who are defining the frontiers of open, interactive government. I feel like I’ve had an incredibly fortunate career already.

What area of government offers the biggest opportunity for improvement via Web 2.0 tools?

It depends how you slice ”government.” Here in Washington DC, there’s still a slow awakening of IT professionals within federal agencies to just how cheap and powerful the new enterprise capabilities are, and how easily implemented if you’re tactically smart. Microsoft Research has even been working on the social aspects of nudging traditional bureaucratic thinking towards a more agile Enterprise 2.0 approach to Government, and we’re seeing a lot of success there by partnering with the Obama Administration. Outside the Beltway I’d say that state and local levels have seen the least penetration so far, so there’s enormous opportunity there. I’d also argue that internationally, underdeveloped nations have enormous needs: U.S. policy for instance can now refine the traditional promotion of democracy abroad with support for the actual means of democratic expression, by sponsoring adoption of new software tools and basic web infrastructure expansion.

What’s the killer app that will make Gov 2.0 the norm instead of the exception?

Can’t tell you because we’re building it in the lab right now, ha! Seriously, the killer app may be something big and powerful, from an enterprise perspective, though I’d put the odds on something less obvious, but more pervasive. Here’s what I mean. I think often about the roots of the original Progressive movement at the dawn of the 20th Century, and their advocacy of direct-vote referendums, championed by Hiram Johnson and the like. Those give the people a direct say over particular issues, but the downside is that “the people” don’t always exercise informed judgment, and popular opinion can be manipulated and swayed by malevolent interests. So I’m looking to Gov 2.0 capabilities that maintain the representative aspect (the elected official, exercising his or her judgment) while incorporating real-time, structured, unfiltered but managed visualizations of popular opinion and advice. I’m intrigued by new services along these lines like www.you2gov.com, www.govfresh.com, www.govtwit.com, and the like, but I’m also a big proponent of semantic computing – called Web 3.0 by some – and that should lead the worlds of crowdsourcing, prediction markets, and open government data movements to unfold in dramatic, previously unexpected ways. We’re working on cool stuff like that.

What part of Gov 2.0 most excites you?

Oddly, not the part I worked on most in the intelligence world, which was mostly helping government folks better share information and collaboratively develop knowledge among themselves. As important as that is, I’m much more interested in the bottom-up revolution, or “outside-in” dimension. Lin Wells and Mark Drapeau call this Inbound Sharing, or “allowing government to obtain input from citizens and other persons outside the government more easily” in their seminal paper on Social Software in government; however I’d put the emphasis not on “government obtaining input” but on the new ability of the governed to drive information flow, governmental processes, and outcomes. You can’t watch what’s gone on with social software use in Egypt’s Facebook Revolution, our own 2008 campaign, or Iran’s election protests, without feeling that Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson would have been prolific twitterers with awesome blogs. I think about that a lot when I blog myself, and I think we’re heading into an incredibly exciting period. There’ll be ugly hurdles and frustrations but I take the long view (you have to at my age). I’m incredibly optimistic about the future, because I intend to help invent it.

Gov 2.0 Hero: Andrea Baker

Gov 2.0 Hero: Andrea Baker

What was your path to Gov 2.0?

I think I was always destined to be a part of Government 2.0. I joined the U.S. Army straight out of high school and wanted to become a linguist, which I did. In addition to learning Arabic, I became a Signals Intelligence Analyst. I would stay at work long after my shift was over to find a way to better pass along the information to the next person on shift and back stateside. I created one of the first robust Military Analytical websites on Intelink. It was probably transparency before such a thing was called that. I am happy to say the site still exists, but has expanded and improved with the times. After leaving the Army to become a contractor supporting the U.S. Federal Government I have spent my career taking transforming my contracts into transparent and open environments.

I spent some time working over at NOAA Fisheries earlier in this decade moving their processes from paper forms to online, as well as working with Constituent Services preparing a weekly newsletter sent to the general public and press. I felt I learned a lot about community outreach during this time. In my spare time, I also ran a music marketing and promotions company. I started blogging in 1999 (I would call it music journaling back then). I would capture events about the music scene on my personal website along with fan photos. This was a natural transition into social networking sites, which were nascent at the time. I saw the potential for bands connecting with their fans to drive what the bands could deliver.

When Wikipedia came out, I loved the capture of knowledge by anyone anywhere in the world. So when the opportunity came to be a community manager of the Intelink tools such as Intellipedia, I jumped at the chance. In 2006, I became the first paid full time Wiki Gardener for the Intelligence Community, as just one of my many roles. Since then I’ve planned collaboration conferences and trained many in the uses of social software as an Enterprise solution. So for me, Government 2.0 is more about Internal Communication [Enterprise 2.0], before you get external. I recently left the Intellipedia team and now I am a Project Manager an Innovation team on a another customer site. I think I have been lucky to be able to work with such outstanding teams that are open to changing the behavior of Government. I do all this and still run the practice area of Enterprise 2.0 projects at Navstar. So while I love being on-site as a contractor, I am equally lucky to be leading Navstar as an Enterprise 2.0 for Government solutions provider overseeing other Gov 2.0 projects.

What area of government offers the biggest opportunity for improvement via Web 2.0 tools?

All areas that are open to change. Change is a resonating message from the Obama administration and with that kind of top cover I am seeing more Agencies and Organizations open to the idea of adopting Web 2.0 technologies into their business practices. Most organizations and agencies have heard about Web 2.0 and some are leading in their best practices like the Intelligence Community, NASA, DoD, USGS and TSA. This is great on a national level, but I would like to start seeing more examples of State and Local Government participating in the discussions. At the Government 2.0 Club kickoff event, Government 2.0 Camp, I did notice there was some local Government participation. I would like to be assured that these efforts are happening state and city levels. I personally believe Maryland and Virginia are good examples of states democratizing data via their websites. I don’t know about the rest of the states in the Nation, but I would like to see what something like Apps for Democracy could do if each state got as involved as the district. We can always do better.

What’s the killer app that will make Gov 2.0 the norm instead of the exception?

I don’t believe there is a killer app that is going to make Government 2.0 something as in representation. There is already a Government 2.0 movement out there in every aspect of Government. If you don’t see it in your organization, look back in the mirror, because its probably you. Vivek Kundra recently mentioned he wants Dashboards for Government. I am actually strongly behind this idea. While GovLoop has now allowed for conversations and awareness amongst the Government workers and Contractors it still fails to hammer out the big picture. Kundra’s vision of culling all this information available to the public could be very awesome. Its a step in the direction I would want if I was CIO of the United States. I believe however this website is delivered, will be the closest thing to a killer app, as it brings us the transparency amongst ourselves, not just our citizens.

What part of Gov 2.0 most excites you?

I think its obvious that I am excited about breaking down the walls of Internal Collaboration. While the public doesn’t need to know how the sausage is made, we now have a venue in order to make appropriate information public to our taxpaying citizens. I feel better as a citizen and taxpayer knowing that when Government adopts these tools, they are doing so on a plethora of beneficial levels. By considering Open Source technologies we are spending less on building custom made applications and by making the applications open to the Enterprise, we are able to know what our counterparts are doing in other organizations. The infamous “Red Tape” of yesteryear is no longer impeding us as it has in the past. With Vivek Kundra and Aneesh Chopra now as our National CIO and CTO, I am more confident we will see more conversations and subsequent actions of Government actively engaged with one another.

Gov 2.0 Hero: Christopher Dorobek

Gov 2.0 Hero: Christopher Dorobek

What was your path to Gov 2.0?

I have been covering government technology for a long time — more than 17 years now. I started out as a reporter at Government Computer News, then worked for an early dot-com covering government called PlanetGov.com, and then at Federal Computer Week, where I eventually was the editor in chief. At FCW, we hosted the first conference on government’s use of Web 2.0 — it was 2007 and there were only a handful of agencies that were even thinking about these tools. And I have been fascinated by these Web 2.0 tools for several reasons. One is because they seem uniquely applicable to the government. (More on that below.) Another is that these tools are really evolving organically. They are largely evolving from the consumer market, so they don’t come across as an enormous enterprise application. They are also, by and large, easy — and sometimes even fun — to use.

What area of government offers the biggest opportunity for improvement via Web 2.0 tools?

I think government is uniquely situated to take advantage of these tools. Again — my definition of Web 2.0 are tools that enable information sharing and that information is, in fact, power, but that the real power of information comes when it is shared. Agencies have a lot of information — and it is information that can be empowered by being shared. The Environmental Protection Agency is a wonderful example because EPA officials have to try to build consensus among desperate groups — other federal agencies, state and local organizations, public interest groups, business interest groups. These tools enable organizations to be more inclusive and tap a much broader cross section of people to build “the wisdom of crowds.” And you’ve seen these concepts evolve — from blogs, the intelligence communities remarkable Intellipedia, mash-ups like Virtual Alabama, blogs such as those at EPA, TSA, Navy CIO Rob Carey and NASA Goddard CIO Linda Cureton. I am enjoying watching the Obama administration’s transparency and openness initiative and will be fascinated to see what results from that. All of this being said, these tools will not solve every problem. And they are tools — not magic. But what a remarkable time to be in government — or, in my case, to be an observer.

What’s the killer app that will make Gov 2.0 the norm instead of the exception?

There is no killer app. These are tools — evolving tools — and some will work in some circumstances. Many people criticize government as being behind the private sector. With these government 2.0 tools, agencies are doing exactly what they need to do — wade into the pool. Test the waters. Find out what works — and what does. And there is all sorts of experimentation going on — innovation. The private sector is doing exactly the same thing. (There are notable exceptions — but by and large, most of the private sector isn’t doing this any better. In many cases, the government is ahead.) There are several teams who have been at the forefront and have been blazing the trails for everybody. One is the remarkable Intellipedia — a suite of tools for the intelligence communities. They are years ahead of most everybody else and they are showing everybody how they can make these tools work. Another is Virtual Alabama, developed by the Alabama Department of Homeland Security. Again, it is an innovative way of mashing up data on a map that is still remarkable years later. And then there are more simple examples: TSA’s Idea Factory, where front line employees can submit ideas that can be voted on. EPA’s Puget Sound initiative, EPA’s blogs, Carey and Cureton blogs, the TSA blog. all of them move the ball forward.

What part of Gov 2.0 most excites you?

There are all sorts of opportunities out there. What excites me? I have been covering government for a long time, and for most of that time, one of the predominant issues has been effective sharing of information. These tools seem to help make that a possibility. But I’m also very excited by the challenges – particularly if people come together to collaborate on solving them. And there are a lot of challenges out there. Privacy, security, the role of the CIO, centralized vs decentralized … but there are so many people excited by the possibilities … there are so many government workers who are feeling empowered.

What an amazing time.