The Big Gov 2.0 Show will soon hit Washington, D.C., where geeks, govies, wonks and Beltway media will be abuzz, giddy with high hopes of ‘Barack Obama meets Steve Jobs’ expectations of change.
There’ll be a flurry of live tweets, hashtags, transparency, open source prophesies, gurus, keynotes and big-picture announcements. Everyone, in one way or another, even Microsoft, begrudgingly, will have their head in the clouds.
Beneath the surface of this live-stream, .gov confab will be the elephant in the room:
‘The Great Gov 2.0 Cultural Divide’
I grew up in the Washington, D.C., area, went to school, lived and worked inside the Beltway for years and sympathize with the cynicism I’ve been hearing from within, the feeling they’re seen as Luddites in need of a lesson in modernity. I felt the same way during the dot-com boom when Silicon Valley strutted into town with innovative tech solutions, sure to save democracy and transform a centuries-old system in Internet time, all with the click of a mouse.
When the bubble burst, Silicon Valley’s sun set West and Washington, D.C., carried on, business as usual.
Ten years later, Silicon Valley’s back, armed with a different funding model, less time-to-market hurdles, a decade worth of source code and best practices and a slight ‘geek shall inherit the Earth’ arrogance. While Washington is embracing the Web 2.0 technology and culture, it’s still ambiguous on adoption as a whole and, perhaps for the best, will never meet the expediency expectations of Silicon Valley’s start-up mentality.
Much has changed, but much has stayed the same.
As Gov 2.0 matures, and entrepreneurs seek ways to capitalize on these opportunities, both cultures would do well to better understand one another, because this time, Silicon Valley 2.0 is sticking around.
Washington, D.C., needs to understand Silicon Valley entrepreneurs are no different than GSA Schedule government contractors or corporate-funded trade associations, all seeking to profit on an industry that will never file for bankruptcy and can always print more money. Let go of the carpetbagger mentality, because the gregarious enthusiasm of most ‘outsiders’ truly is to build a better America. As we’ve recently learned, Washington can always use a good dose of change.
Silicon Valley needs to understand tech celebrity is no different than Hollywood on Capitol Hill. Everyone’s star-struck, but there’s always another celebrity or foreign dignitary coming around the corner. Washington’s power dynamics aren’t built around valuations, acquisitions or innovation. They’re built on adjudication, legislation and donations, all of which are part of a long, deliberative process. Let go of the ‘open data, open source’ movement will solve all of democracy’s problems mentality, because it won’t. Ingratiate yourself to the public servants, and not just to the newborn CIO/CTO rock stars.
Gov 2.0 in its infancy will test America’s coastal cultural differences. It’s understandable each are cynical of one another, but from sea to shining sea, everyone owns a piece of Washington, and every citizen has a right to voice how he or she believes it should run.
As with any misunderstanding, it’s a waste of time to focus on our differences or perceived intentions. Be constructive and focus on the common objective of building a more open, engaged and smarter government.
In true Web 2.0 fashion, the crowd will migrate to humility, sincerity and honest intentions. Stay true to those values and your specific contribution to the process.
Time will sort out the rest.