How do you measure the value of Gov 2.0?

Creating sustainable, meaningful civic contributions to government is something I’ve addressed before, and it’s something that continues to elude us in the form of civic applications and hackathons, despite the overwhelming attention given to each.

Related to this point, FutureGov founder and CEO Dominic Campbell’s recent tweet resonates with me:

So much of the hype surrounding Gov 2.0 achievements is relegated to applications (or ‘crapplications’ as one prominent U.S. city CIO once said to me) and hackathons that fail to truly address bigger accomplishments that could be made with less hype. There’s an understandable driver for some of this hoopla: organizational awareness, community building, media hits that drive funding, ego, self-satisfaction or even actual results. Some are valid, but my fear is that much of it is driven by self-interests or misguided intentions.

Are the number of apps built off open government data of value regardless of their utility or usage? Are hackathons without direction or specific goals that fail to build on sustainable, long-term objectives a waste of time?

Should our Gov 2.0 leaders and funders have a more solid plan of action to better harness our civic surplus? With all the money and hype being driven to certain areas of the movement, it’s more important than ever for them to show leadership and deliver real, measurable results, as Dom says.

How do you measure the value of Gov 2.0?

About Luke Fretwell

Luke Fretwell is the founder of GovFresh, co-founder/CEO of ProudCity and co-host of the podcast, The Government We Need. Connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn or email at

9 Responses

  1. Mike


    Thanks for having the audacity to question the value of many over-hyped aspects of the Gov 2.0 movement. For example, while Gov 2.0 hackathons have some value — they’re over-rated for solving real problems and creating sustained value.

    At Peak Democracy Inc we measure the value of our Gov 2.0 platform — Open Town Hall, via metrics like satisfied citizens (over 96%), and delighted gov leaders such as the city manager of Decatur GA, the mayor of Salt Lake City, and the communications manager for Germantown TN.


  2. Great question, Luke… I’m going to spend some time today groking this and hopefully writing it up. I was wondering though if you could clear up a bit this: “much of it is driven by self-interests or misguided intentions.” Any examples of what those interests or intentions are/could be?

  3. MegCook

    Hi, I wanted to point you to some documents that might be helpful in this thinking. At the Center for Technology in Government (CTG) at the University at Albany we have been thinking about this question for a while.  Things like what is the nature and and extent
    of value created through engagement and open government initiatives? Several pieces of our work look at the public value created by government services. Most recently we took our public value framework and applied it to open government. The PVAT is a planning tool that helps governments identify and understand the value realized (or not) by stakeholders for a specific initiative. It helps get assumptions out and on the table for discussion. So for instance, if an agency has an effort to open up data- what are the social, economic, political, quality of life, ideological, strategic and stewardship value to each stakeholder if that data was published?  And value is sometimes negative as well.     What the PVAT and the general public value approach does is take value and organize thoughts around it- what it is, how we value, how will others realize that, how will they see changes that result in a value, etc. I think it would be worth a look as you continue to think about value of Gov 2.0 efforts….

  4. Luke Fretwell

     Hi Abhi,

    Self interests range from individuals, organizations, vendors, government leveraging these type of events to promote themselves without any long-term, sustainable value add. Either self interests or the Gov 2.0 version of insanity?

    Intent of these type of events should be to build on something bigger, rather than yet another random app with no shelf life.

    Gov 2.0 leadership needs to establish a better IT plan that is really going to “disrupt” government, focused on a collaborative effort at eliminating technology pain points, incorporating what we all agree is important. Things like open source, open data and social elements.

    Hackathons are great for bringing a certain demographic together, but if really want to disrupt government, do a market analysis of what IT products they’re paying for, why (only option available?) and create a strategy/implementation plan that helps revolutionize those pain points. Then leverage the hackathons responsibly to build on that.

    Help government save millions (billions) of dollars and give them great software.

    That’s disruption.


  5. An interesting post. I think part of the issue here is that funders are almost naturally agenda-driven, so many of their activities tend to address the entrenched interests of the foundation, rather than the frustrations of governments or citizens. Stumbling upon some random app that fulfills a niche is no different than finding some Web site the government created that fulfills that same niche. Transferring the same old problem to a new platform isn’t going to get the job done.

    I don’t think we all agree that open source is the answer. I don’t think we all agree than an app economy is the answer, either. Or mobile. Or whatever. We don’t agree on much at all. What we agree on is this: government should find ways to be radically more effective in accomplishing its mission. It’s just not just about delivering citizen services, or putting an app in the hands of a citizen. An app doesn’t help me attend a meeting of the City’s parking & transportation board while I’m 750 miles away on vacation, and it doesn’t help the disabled veteran talk to the city about his/her particular transportation needs (and he/she certainly can’t get to the meeting if the City’s services aren’t addressing those needs).

    We’re not supposed to be talking about the value of open government. We’re supposed to be talking about the value of “open” in the context of the mission. We’ve lost the business transformation thread of this whole process. And that’s why wrong-headed investments occur. 

    The most important thing that happened at the Open Innovator’s Toolkit unveiling on Aneesh’s last day was when Todd Park sat there and said, “Too often, we’re focused on the app.” The story he related was this notion that a 68 year old recently discharged from the hospital probably isn’t interested in finding an app and flipping through some icons on his/her iPad to figure out their after care options for transportation, etc. You know who needs that information? The nurse. So let’s start delivering information to the right person at the right time – that’s the value of open gov. 


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