Much has been said about how Barack Obama won the last election by using social networks and getting really close to geeks. But not so much has been written on what he’s doing to change the way the government works, to open it up. In order to find this out, I will be in the US during the next two months.
So why are Obama and his team trying to make changes to the US Government? For two main reasons:
– To strengthen democracy
– To promote efficiency and effectiveness in the government
And these are the three main principales that will inspire these changes:
1. Transparency. It’s probably the most important and it does not mean that the Government has to do this or this, but that it has to change its whole “system”. Right now it’s based in two main actions, but they are going to evolve a lot:
– Explaining everything the Government does. This is why Obama is already using blogs, twitter, flickr and youtube, among some tools to show how the White House works in real time. Craig Newmark, one of Obama’s main supporters, has explained very well why social media helps so much in creating transparency
– Sharing all the information that the Government maintains, so that citizens can use it.
2. Public participation. This is what we have traditionally thought open government means. That is, letting citizens take part in public decisions and making government something more close and personal. But it is just a part of the game. Once again, it is not just about creating one tool for people to express themselves, though the US Government has done so, but about changing the whole system so that decisions take into account more people. This will clearly give out better quality decisions, as crowdsourcing is showing at the corporate level. Jeff Jarvis has even suggested creating a Facebook of democracy, so that everybody can establish his personal positions on different subjects.
3. Collaboration. This is so important in the EU and inside many countries. Governments and their agencies should have collaboration tools, so that they really talk to each other and to third parties. Once again, it does not mean creating a Government Sharepoint, but spreading new values.
I recommend reading the Memorandum about “Transparency and Open Government”, published on January 2009.