Industry

Gov 2.0, vendors, vibe and industry as patriot

sf.govfresh was an incredible event that brought together San Francisco’s finest government technology leaders, local area public servants and citizens sincerely passionate about building effective government. Adobe supported us in making that event happen and received an incredible amount of appreciation from the community.

We’re seeing this happen more. There are a number of new, niche, tech-focused, Gov 2.0 community events and gatherings happening at the local, state and federal level, all offering innovative approaches to bringing leaders and in-the-trenches foot soldiers together to better understand how we can solve our government problems.

Fostering and engaging this type of civic vibe is the future of vendor sales and marketing outreach.

Having said that, vendor emails like this are frustrating:

“To be honest, I feel that decision makers at ***** are waiting to get a better understanding of the long-term impact of Gov 2.0 before they insert ***** into the Gov 2.0 conversation at a deep level.

To this person’s credit, they added:

“I hope that ***** will continue to see the impact and relevance of Gov 2.0 and work to align our offerings with the changing landscape of the public sector.”

I hope so, too. My reply:

“Decision makers there know best, I’m sure. My bet is that the ‘Gov 2.0’ market will start to reward vendors that support community engagement and peer learning opportunities amongst public servants and civic technologists. Brand affinity around building social capital will be the smartest, most sustainable sales/marketing strategy. Harder to measure short-term benefits, but once you have that affinity, harder to lose it.”

Many vendors incorporate a spirit of patriotism into their government sales and marketing strategies, but if industry really wants to show its true colors, now is the time to get serious about building Gov 2.0 into its business model. Foster community, engage, learn, invest in a solid foundation for your country’s future.

Given the direction we’re heading, your government needs you now more than ever.

Crowdsourcing, ideas and innovation in government

Join Gov 2.0 Radio producer Adriel Hampton for a conversation with IdeaScale co-founder Rob Hoehn. In the fourth of our series on crowdsourcing, innovation and ideation in the government and enterprise, Rob talks about how business clients are learning from the government, being SaaS before the cloud was cool, and what his company learned about Section 508 while working to help implement the U.S. Open Government Directive.

[audio:http://www.blogtalkradio.com/gov20/2010/09/06/government-20-radio.mp3]

Granicus Open Platform delivers government content from the cloud direct to citizens

A while back I met with Granicus in their San Francisco offices and discussed the Granicus Open Platform, a cloud-based, software-as-a-service approach to delivering government content. Small towns, major cities, counties and a handful of state and federal agencies use the service (full list), which includes live stream public meetings, legislative management, training and citizen engagement and more.

Granicus CEO Tom Spengler sat down with GovFreshTV and discussed cloud-based software, open government and how his company fits into the picture:

Lockheed goes open source. Blankenhorn hates it.

I was really pleased to read the announcement that Lockheed Martin's social networking platform, EurekaStreams, was released as an open source project today. Lockheed is a very conservative company, and while they're happy to use open source internally and on projects for their customers, this is their first experiment with actually running a project themselves. I think it's a big deal, not just for Lockheed Martin, but for large corporations who are considering a more open, more innovative approach to software development. And yet, Dana Blankenhorn hates it:

I don’t see anything in Eureka Streams I can’t do in Drupal, or a number of other high-quality open source projects that have existed for years. Lockheed has reinvented the wheel — why?

So here's the nice thing about the open source community: competition. If I think I've come up with a better way to solve a problem, it can easily compete with the incumbents. Low barrier to entry, we say. Let the best ideas win. Unless, apparently, the best ideas come from a company I don't like.

Then things start going sideways:

The author of Eureka Streams, who goes by the name Sterlecki at Github, has left no previous tracks there. Linkedin lists the same picture as belonging to Steve Terlecki, a Lockheed software developer.

The stuff’s legit, so we’re left again with the question of motive. Is the military-industrial complex reaching out to open source, is this just proof of press reports showing our spy efforts have more bloat in them than a Macy’s Thanksgiving float, are we being co-opted, or am I just too suspicious?

Wait, what? Open source advocates have, for years, been trying to encourage more code to come out from behind corporate skirts. Where companies can build business models around governing and supporting open source projects, we want them to take the plunge. If more code is open, that makes everyone smarter. And that, my friends, is exactly what Lockheed Martin did today. Someone who probably never contributed code in their lives just gave the community a project they've been working on for months, or even years. I think that's amazing. In return, this brave developer gets painted as a nefarious secret agent out to steal our thoughts and bug our laptops. Or whatever.

So here's the great thing about open source: we can prove Blankenhorn wrong. They use the Apache license, and it's on Github. We can go through the code and find backdoors, secret plans, and mind-control rays. This reminds me very much of the reaction to the release of SELinux. Conspiracy theories everywhere, but code is auditable and now it's in the mainstream Linux kernel. Do we really want to throw out these contributions, when code doesn't lie? When it's so easy to ensure there's nothing nefarious inside?

You can feel however you like about Lockheed Martin or the US Department of Defense. You can choose to contribute to the project, or not. You can choose to use the software, or not. But is it in the community's interest to summarily dismiss contributions based on those preferences? Lockheed's thousands of developers are sending up a trial balloon. If they fail, we lose access to those developers forever.

I think this kind of fearmongering is exactly what prevents large corporations and government agencies from releasing their code. These knee-jerk reactions harm the open source community at large. We pride ourselves on our meritocracy. A 14-year-old in his mom's basement is the same as a 30-year-old Lockheed developer is the same as a UNIX graybeard. You are just as good as your contributions. We need to welcome Lockheed's contributions, not throw them back in their face. Whether the project is useful or not, they've enriched the open source community. Let them succeed or fail on their own merits. If they do fail, we hope that they'll do better next time. Maybe this is a Drupal-killer. Who knows? Let's give it a try.

PageFreezer: Flash frozen government websites

PageFreezer is a new Web-based service that aims to better archive government Websites. PageFreezer officially launches at next week’s Gov 2.0 Expo, but CEO Michael Riedijk shares a preview of what’s to come.

PageFreezer

What is PageFreezer?

Government websites are actually public records and need to be archived. PageFreezer is a Web service that archives websites, so they can comply to public records laws. However, in case of a legal claim, archiving is not enough. You need to provide proof of data integrity and authenticity. You need to prove that a page was archived on a specific date and that the archived page hasn’t been changed over time.

What problem does it solve?

Government websites, in accordance with the Public Records Law, are considered an official government publication. Information on these sites influences decisions of citizens and businesses. Governments can be held accountable for the information they publish on the Web. Tracking changes on Websites with PageFreezer offers governments trusted, non-refutable evidence in case of liability claims.

What’s the technology behind it?

It’s pretty complex and we’ve been working on it for more than 2 years. PageFreezer uses crawling technology, similar to that of Google, to take snapshots of your website. Archiving is an automated process. Only new pages and changes are archived, saving storage space.

Each page is time stamped with an ANSI X9.95-compliant Time Stamp Authority securely synchronized with the certified atomic clocks of a Stratum-1 Time Server. This trusted, non-refutable time that cannot be altered without detection provides legal proof when the page was actually archived.

CiviGuard founder Zubin Wadia discusses ‘Emergency Management 2.0’

CiviGuard founder Zubin Wadia discusses Crisis Management 2.0 and how his company is working to change communications during an emergency.

CiviGuard

What is ‘Emergency Communication 2.0?’

In a nutshell, it’s near real-time location-aware communication between a citizen and its government during an emergency. EC 2.0 systems are an order of magnitude faster than SMS/Voice based solutions due to them leveraging the power of Internet-scale delivery platforms optimized for smartphones and connected devices. They are also extremely resilient, capable of delivering valuable information to the citizen even when networks fail completely. Lastly, they are social network aware, enabling citizens to assemble relief teams and share resources during times of adversity. Trust, timeliness and transparency are the three tenets of EC 2.0.

What is the problem with civilian emergency communication today?

Most offerings today are focused on mass notification over as many information channels as possible. While this successfully raises awareness about a situation, it also raises confusion amongst citizens. Additionally, these solutions don’t take a citizen’s location into account or have a way of additional messages as a situation changes. Lastly, they are all SMS or Voice based leading to multiple dependencies across the communication loop and not enough redundancy. Just take the Times Square bomb threat that occurred recently, instead of cops in the perimeter yelling at people to move out of the danger zone, we could have sent targeted updates to their smartphones creating a friction-free evacuation. We got lucky that day. If that device would have gone off, there would have been absolute chaos and that same evacuation process wouldn’t have worked.

How did CiviGuard form?

We were born out of Singularity University – a program sponsored by NASA and Google to cultivate future technology leaders. About 1,200 students applied for 40 slots in 2009. For our team projects at the end of the program we were given one mission: positively impact the lives of a billion people in a decade. Our team chose to tackle the area of disaster response and zeroed in on the area of emergency notification, crisis reporting and real-time communication. That set the mission for CiviGuard: to build leading-edge technology platforms for the protection of human life in times of crisis.

Why is optimizing for smartphones a viable strategy?

The Nielsen Company predicts smartphones to outnumber feature phones by the third quarter of 2011. That’s not accounting for millions of connected devices leveraging WiFi such as the iPod Touch. By the end of 2011 – we expect the US to have 200 million connected devices and smartphones operational. Additionally – the most populous cities in the US already have smartphone adoption rates that are far higher than the national average – San Francisco and New York City for example are greater than 60% already. For those who haven’t migrated to smartphones, SMS and voice will remain sub-optimal ways of receiving emergency communications.

Wadia interview at Where 2.0 2010

Where 2.0 presentation

How changes at Ning affect GovLoop community

In light of recent changes at Ning, the social network service that powers GovLoop, I asked founder Steve Ressler to comment on what impact this will have on the GovLoop community.

Changes at Ning can only be a good thing for GovLoop. As they mentioned in their press release, they are focusing more on delivering premium services to premier, paying networks like GovLoop.

There are lots of additional and different requirements that are needed when you run a robust 30,000 person social network like GovLoop that is different than running a 50-person free, family reunion site. For example, one key problem we have been trying to solve is with over 5,000 blogs, 700 groups, and 30,000 people, how can GovLoop members find the right content, groups, and colleagues relevant to them. These are the types of problems that Ning can focus on.

On a side note, I think it is an interesting development that government should pay attention to in Gov 2.0. I’m a big believer in low-cost to free (and open-source), tools but there is some truth to the statement “nothing in life is free.” The start-ups we all love and appreciate all need business models to survive and provide services so we shouldn’t be against paying for products that provide valuable service – it may be good for all of us in the long run.

10 entrepreneurs changing the way government works

I recently began reading The Power of Social Innovation: How Civic Entrepreneurs Ignite Community Networks for Good and felt compelled to highlight more people building business models around better government. The role of business and the entrepreneurial spirit as it relates to government is at times under-played or discredited (sometimes, rightfully so), but it’s the backbone of a democratic society.

Consider this the first in a series. For starters, here are 10 entrepreneurs changing the way government works:

Goldy Kamali


What we do:

FedScoop is a New Media and Events company serving key decision makers in the government IT community. We bring C-level executives from the federal government and IT community together via VIP events, video interviews and articles and blogs to collaborate, exchange best practices and identify ways to work together to solve common goals.

Richard White


What we do:

UserVoice helps all types of organizations involved in government reach out to their constituents. Here are a few examples:

Political Campaigns – Inform your platform; uncover grassroots interest.

Civic Engagement – Leveraging the wisdom of the crowd to improve government.

Internal Brainstorming – Tap the collective knowledge inside your organization to improve government.

Michael Riedijk

  • CEO, DotGov
  • Founded: November 2009
  • @dotgovcom
  • Open gov motto: Put your government in your pocket

What we do:

DotGov, Inc., is developing a mobile platform that will dramatically change how citizens interact with their local government. DotGov combines the power of Mobile Devices with Social Media and Open Data. It provides citizens with tools to directly interact with their city and benefit from all information and services local governments offer in an unprecedented way.

Conor White-Sullivan & Aaron Soules

  • CEO/Co-founder (left)/CTO/Co-founder (right), Localocracy
  • Founded: September 2008
  • @Localocracy
  • Open gov motto: All politics is Local

What we do:

Localocracy partners with local government and media to help citizens learn about local issues and influence their community. We confirm that participants are registered voters in the community and provide a space where they can ask questions, vote on issues, and rank the best reasons for supporting their side.

Kevin Merritt


What we do:

Socrata is a socially enriched data-sharing platform optimized for data comprehension by non-technically trained audiences, without excluding technical audiences. Socrata empowers organizations to transform their data assets into hubs for social and civic engagement and interaction, on their own websites and also in mainstream media websites and social media sites.

Ben Berkowitz


What we do:

SeeClickFix is an international tool enabled in 83 languages that allows citizens to report non-emergency issues such as potholes, graffiti or a littered parks to those accountable for the public space including local governments and community groups. SeeClickFix is available via the web where you can post issues and have your neighbors comment or vote on their resolution. Anybody can receive alerts via easy to create free-formed geographical alerting areas that we call watch areas. Also, If you have a blackberry, android or iPhone you can download our app and report a problem in your community with your gps location and a photo. 40% of the issues on SeeClickFix have already been fixed. From Argentina to Philadelphia citizens are using SeeClickFix to improve their communities.

Kurt Daradics


What we do:

FreedomSpeaks is a technology company focused on delivering interactive civic engagement platforms. Our mission is to transform civic engagement.

Our Core Values are shaping our culture and defining the character of our company, guiding how we behave and make decisions:

Stewardship: Building a heritage for future generations, acting with an owner mentality, and meeting our commitments to all internal and external stakeholders.
Best People: Attracting and developing the best talent for our business, stretching our people and developing a “can do” attitude.
Integrity: Inspiring trust by taking responsibility, acting ethically, and encouraging honest and open debate.

We deliver an interlocking product suite that includes:

  • FreedomSpeaks.com (The first non-partisan political social network & largest database of politicians)
  • FreedomSpeaks Pro (Lobby in a box SaaS product)
  • CitySourced (Mobile civic engagement platform)

Alan W. Silberberg

  • Co-Founder, You2Gov
  • Founded: April 2008
  • @You2Gov
  • Open gov motto: Don’t Be Afraid

What we do:

Path-breaking Gov 2.0 company that innovates and creates Government 2.0 + 3.0 Technology using custom Joomla based Social Networking/ SCRM and Advocacy. Consulting to Federal, State, Local Governments; International Corporations on: best media use; technology weaving to create maximum impact websites, tools, videos and conversations at highest strategic level.

Zubin Wadia


What we do:

CiviGuard is the world’s most advanced civilian emergency communications platform. It promotes contextual messaging over information saturation. CiviGuard is location-aware, smartphone optimized and cloud-based – making near real-time civilian outreach during a crisis, a reality.

Get the 311 with SeeClickFix

SeeClickFix lets citizens report public works issues such as potholes, graffiti, and wayward trash directly from their iPhones, the SeeClickFix Website or other sites using its embeddable widget. Citizens can create watch lists to follow what’s being reported in a particular area, comment and vote up or down other issue reports and get ‘Civic Points’ for their participation. Governments can use the service as a 311 work order management system and media outlets can integrate the reporting widget and map into their Websites for enhanced reader interaction.

The service is free to use for reporting and monitoring issues. Upgrade versions include SeeClickFix Pro, available for $38 a month, SeeClickFix Plus, a mobile version that lets users customize the application with logo and theming, and SeeClickFix Connect that includes CRM integration.

Houston, Philadelphia, Tuscon, New Haven, City of Bainbridge Island and City of Manor are some of the municipalities using SeeClickFix. Participating news outlets include the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Miami Herald, Boston.com and Philadelphia Inquirer.

SeeClickFix demo:


Founder and CEO Ben Berkowitz’s Gov 2.0 Expo demo:

Citizens out in force with CitySourced

CitySourced is a free iPhone application that lets citizens immediately report civic woes directly to their local government. Users take a photo, select report type, add comments and send. The incident is then directed to the appropriate department. You can download CitySourced here.

San Jose, CA, is the first city to adopt the program. Interested cities can sign up here.

From CitySourced:

CitySourced provides a free, simple, and intuitive tool empowering citizens to identify civil issues (potholes, graffiti, trash, snow removal, etc.) and report them to city hall for quick resolution; an opportunity for government to use technology to save money and improve accountability to those they govern; and a positive, collaborative platform for real action.

Founder and chief architect Jason Kiesel demos at TechCrunch50: