- CTO of Microsoft Institute for Advanced Technology in Governments
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What was your path to Gov 2.0?
Iâ€™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 â€˜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 constituentsâ€™ 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 Pentagonâ€™s â€œinternal think tank,â€ 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 â€“ in 1995 we launched a heavily hyperlinked website for San Franciscoâ€™s Mayor, winning awards for innovation, and were praised for being â€œ the only candidate to post answers to questions from community groups.â€ But there was certainly no realtime interactivity with citizens and between citizens, which weâ€™d consider a sine qua non of Web 2.0 use. After doing well in the Silicon Valley startup/venture capital world in the â€˜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 Iâ€™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 â€government.â€ Here in Washington DC, thereâ€™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 youâ€™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 weâ€™re seeing a lot of success there by partnering with the Obama Administration. Outside the Beltway Iâ€™d say that state and local levels have seen the least penetration so far, so thereâ€™s enormous opportunity there. Iâ€™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?
Canâ€™t tell you because weâ€™re building it in the lab right now, ha! Seriously, the killer app may be something big and powerful, from an enterprise perspective, though Iâ€™d put the odds on something less obvious, but more pervasive. Hereâ€™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 â€œthe peopleâ€ donâ€™t always exercise informed judgment, and popular opinion can be manipulated and swayed by malevolent interests. So Iâ€™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. Iâ€™m intrigued by new services along these lines like www.you2gov.com, www.govfresh.com, www.govtwit.com, and the like, but Iâ€™m also a big proponent of semantic computing â€“ called Web 3.0 by some â€“ and that should lead the worlds of crowdsourcing, prediction markets, and open government data movements to unfold in dramatic, previously unexpected ways. Weâ€™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, Iâ€™m much more interested in the bottom-up revolution, or â€œoutside-inâ€ dimension. Lin Wells and Mark Drapeau call this Inbound Sharing, or â€œallowing government to obtain input from citizens and other persons outside the government more easilyâ€ in their seminal paper on Social Software in government; however Iâ€™d put the emphasis not on â€œgovernment obtaining inputâ€ but on the new ability of the governed to drive information flow, governmental processes, and outcomes. You canâ€™t watch whatâ€™s gone on with social software use in Egyptâ€™s Facebook Revolution, our own 2008 campaign, or Iranâ€™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 weâ€™re heading into an incredibly exciting period. Thereâ€™ll be ugly hurdles and frustrations but I take the long view (you have to at my age). Iâ€™m incredibly optimistic about the future, because I intend to help invent it.