Making sense of Gov 2.0, Open Government and We Government at Ogilvy

What is Gov 2.0?

How does making government smarter relate to open government, e-government or “We government?”

As Sifry put it in the Huffington Post this week ,

At Personal Democracy Forum, we prefer the term “We-government,” the co-creating of new forms of collaboration and service that use technology, public data and the social web to address vital issues and solve public problems, that enables us to do more with less. It’s neither Right nor Left, not small government or big government, but effective do-it-ourselves-government.

What are the early success stories and challenges for an open government in betaThis morning in Washington, I dodged rain drops on my way to a Gov 2.0 panel moderated by Ogilvy Digital’s Rohit Bhargava to talk about that very topic, joining Personal Democracy Forum co-founder Micah Sifry; Mark Murray, deputy political director for NBC News; Ari Melber, correspondent and blogger for the Nation magazine and Politico; and Gwynne Kostin, Director at the Center for New Media and Citizen Engagement at the GSA.

The panel was livestreamed at and integrated with the Ogilvy’s 360 Digital Influence Facebook page for an online audience. Fast forward to about 30 minutes into the archive for the beginning of the event.

“We’re just beginning to see the government using the Web in a more porous, participatory way,” said Sifry, who saw no reason that government workers couldn’t get technology in the same way other citizens else can. “Really, government workers have mastered the telephone,” he said. “The can probably use Web 2.0 tools.”

Gov 2.0 Case Studies

While Sifry was critical of the White House’s embrace of Gov 2.0 and open government, he observed that at the agency level he’s seeing “a flowering of initiative.” That’s backed up by what I’ve seen on the ground and have reported on in numerous studies. For instance:

“There is a civic surplus waiting to be tapped of people who want the country to succeed,” said Sifry. And, in fact, I reported on Harnessing the Civic Surplus for Open Government,” when Noveck spoke in Manor, Texas about all of these initiatives.

I’m shortchanging the comments of Melber, Kostin and Murray due to time, unfortunately, but the #Ogilvy360di tweetstream and archived livestream offer additional perspective. Both of the reporters provided ample insight into the hyper-charged world of national correspondents in Washington, where news and issues move almost as quickly as the polls. More of Kostin’s thoughts may also be fond at her blog, OnDotGov.

Selected reflections from the online audience:

@msspinach: “The hot question: what exactly is #gov20? Gwynne Kostin: ‘We’re still throwing spaghetti on the wall and seeing what sticks.'”

@voleynik:#Gov20 = government using the web to create better services for citizens. Creating smarter more effective government.”

@SaBean21: “Our bill of rights is being used in a digital form. Open platform is a tiny & fragile thing we have right now.

@dlblack: “@digiphile: the gov20 / #opengov conversation can’t just be about Washington, it has to be about data people can use”

@msspinach: “#gov20 means whoever is in power gives up some cntrl. If u want group prticipation, ppl need to feel they’re being listened to.”

@merici:”Ok, social media exists. We get it. Moving fwd, what are ex of gov using web to be smarter, more efficient?”

@dlblack: “not all #gov20 projects need to be about mass participation, they need to be about exchanging knowledge w/right audience”

State of Minnesota Moves to Microsoft’s Cloud for Collaboration

This morning, the state of Minnesota announced that it would use Microsoft’s private cloud computing technology as a platform for its collaboration software. Microsoft’s blog post reasonably Minnesota’s move to the cloud as an “historic first.” Given that the state’s press release, embedded below, describes it the same way, that’s not unfair. Details have yet to emerge on the security or privacy requirements that the Redmond-based software giants signed to gain the customer but, as the release notes, “the move makes Minnesota the first U.S. state to move to a large collaboration and communication suite in a private cloud environment.”

While federal, state and local government entities have used Amazon, Google Apps or, today’s news at least adds Microsoft’s offerings into the conversation. The implementation will likely deploy the Windows Azure platform to deliver Microsoft’s Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS).

“As states battle growing deficits, they are continually being asked to do more with less,” said Gopal Khanna, Minnesota’s State Chief Information Officer in a prepared statement. “Rethinking the way we manage our digital infrastructure centrally, to save locally across all units of government, is a crucial part of the solution. The private sector has utilized technological advancements like cloud computing to realize operational efficiencies for some time now. Government must follow suit.”

Not all reactions are quite as optimistic, however, particularly with respect to reduced costs. “I forsee short term gain,” tweeted researcher Simon Wardley, “large future exit costs, increased consumption, no long term reduction in IT expenditure.”

Why no long term reductions in state IT expenditures by going to Microsoft’s private cloud?

“See Jevons’ paradox,” Wardley replied. “Causes are co-evolution, long tail of demand, componentisation and increased innovation. In other words, you’ll just end up doing more. Countries & States are in competition with each other … not just firms. It’s not MSFT specific, it’s general to all clouds. The ‘cloud will save you money’argument forgets consumption effects. You might as well argue that Moore’s law should have reduced IT expenditure. [Cloud will] reduce your costs if your workload stays the same but alas it won’t, it’ll increase for the reasons previously listed.”

State of Minnesota Signs Historic Cloud Computing Agreement With M 092710090511 MN BPOS Announcement Releas…

Brad Feld on the gap between Washington, VCs, entrepreneurs and Silicon Valley

How important is the disconnect between the Silicon Valley and Washington, D.C.? As the United States transitions from an industrial economy into the Information Age, the importance of Washington securing legislation and regulations that promote security and innovation has perhaps never been greater. Small businesses are the source of many jobs, and yet the barriers that entrepreneurs face in getting startups off the ground are legion. Stimulating open government entrepreneurship is a key issue for the Gov 2.0 movement and yet the examples of successful startups are dwarfed by the pages of the regulations that govern them.

I spoke with Brad Feld about all of these issues at the Gov 2.0 Summit earlier this month. Feld has been an early stage investor and entrepreneur for over 20 years. Prior to co-founding Foundry Group, he co-founded Mobius Venture Capital and, prior to that, founded Intensity Ventures, a company that helped launch and operate software companies and later became a venture affiliate of the predecessor to Mobius Venture Capital. Our interview is embedded below:

Those concerns where voiced yesterday by LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman this week, who told Hillicon Valley that entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley could benefit from a stronger lobbying presence in Washington D.C.:

“I realized one of the paradoxes of the entrepreneurship ecosystem that is so important to society is: We don’t have an entrepreneurship lobby,” he said, “because entrepreneurs are off doing it.”

Policymakers tend to ignore start-up concerns, according to Hoffman.

“The natural process of ‘oh, I’m responding to these lobbies, I’m responding to old political interests’ tends to always drown out the entrepreneurs,” he said.

It’s easy to ignore the concerns of newer companies, according to Hoffman, a partner at Greylock Partners, a venture capital firm in California.

“Some folks are trying to [help] but people are like, ‘OK, I can deal with that later; I don’t really care,'” he said.

Stimulus funding is a key example of startups getting government short shrift, according to Hoffman.

“The way this is described is ‘shovel-ready jobs,'” he said, arguing that kind of funding would not benefit new companies who are “key to our future.”

“It’s much easier when you’re embedded in the political infrastructure to respond to immediate things” such as the stimulus package, he said.

StartUP Visa

Another issue of critical importance to entrepreneurs is top technical talent. That’s why Feld and others have been advocating for a “startup visa.” In the video from Gov 2.0 Summit below, he talks about the startup visa legislation and why it matters to VCs and the innovation economy.

According to the website supporting the legislation in the Senate, S. 3029, the StartUP Visa Act alien entrepreneurs who have received significant capital from investors to establish a business in the United States. Specifically:

  • Have a required amount of financial backing from a qualified investor or venture capitalist
  • Have a commercial business that will generate a predetermined level of employment, revenue or capital investment
  • The goal of the StartUP Visa legislation is to create an alternate visa system to the H1B program, in which temporary visas are granted to immigrants working in specialized fields including the high-tech industry. Currently, there are 65,000 HIB visas awarded to immigrants and an additional 20,000 H1B visas awarded to individuals who hold an advanced degree. Additionally, this legislation would create a new set of visas that require immigrants to invest at least $1 million dollars in the US and employ at least 10 people.

    One hundred and sixty venture capitalists and angel investors support the bill. According to the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA), 25 percent of America’s venture-backed and publicly-traded businesses, including: Google, Yahoo!, eBay, Intel, Pfizer, DuPont and Procter & Gamble are examples of American success stories founded or co-founded by foreign born residents. Further, in 2005, these companies netted more than $52 billion in sales and employed 450,000 workers. In 2006, 24% of all filled patents had foreign residents listed as the inventor or co-inventor.

    To date, the StartUP Visa Act has not advanced beyond committee.

    Senate considers update to Electronic Communications Privacy Act

    Today in Washington, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on updating the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), the landmark 1986 legislation that governs the protections citizens have when they communicate using the Internet or cellphones.

    The statements of the witnesses before the Senate from the Commerce Department, Justice Department and witnesses are embedded in ths post. Below, find an exclusive interview with digital privacy and security researcher Chris Soghoian, who until recently was the resident geek at the Federal Trade Commission, and some context on “Digital Due Process,” the coalition of industry and privacy advocates advocating for an ECPA update.

    “From the perspective of industry and definitely the public interest groups, people shouldn’t have to consider government access as one of the issues when they embrace cloud computing,” said Soghoian. “It should be about cost, about efficiency, about green energy, about reliability, about backups, but government access shouldn’t be an issue.”

    While the tech blogosphere may be focused on Twitter, Facebook and inside baseball among the venture capitalists of Silicon Valley’s today, the matter before Congress should be earning more attention from citizens, media and technologists alike. Over at Forbes, Kashmir Hill made the case that industry will benefit from a clearer Electronic Communications Privacy Law. Take it one step further: updates to the ECPA have the potential to improve the privacy protections for every connected citizen, cloud computing provider or government employee. As she pointed out there:

    One of the most egregious ECPA issues is how it treats the protection of email. “Why should email in someone’s inbox be treated different from something in someone’s sent folder?” asked Smith [Microsoft’s general counsel]. “Why is something unread in my junk folder subjected to greater privacy than something read in my inbox? Why does an email I sent in April have fewer privacy protections than one I sent in September?”

    Smith discussed security and privacy concerns with respect to cloud computing after the hearing: Get Microsoft Silverlight


    It’s important to be clear: Congress is unlikely to move on updating ECPA before the mid-term elections or in the lame duck session. That said, the hearing in the Senate today and the hearing on ECPA reform and the revolution in cloud computing in the House of Representatives tomorrow will inform any legislative action in the next Congress.

    Chairman Patrick Leahy was clear in his opening statement today: American innovation has outpaced digital privacy laws.

    When Congress enacted ECPA in 1986, we wanted to ensure that all Americans would enjoy the same privacy protections in their online communications as they did in the offline world, while ensuring that law enforcement had access to information needed to combat crime. The result was a careful, bipartisan law designed in part to protect electronic communications from real-time monitoring or interception by the Government, as emails were being delivered and from searches when these communications were stored electronically. At the time, ECPA was a cutting-edge piece of legislation. But, the many advances in communication technologies since have outpaced the privacy protections that Congress put in place.

    Today, ECPA is a law that is often hampered by conflicting privacy standards that create uncertainty and confusion for law enforcement, the business community and American consumers.

    For example, the content of a single e-mail could be subject to as many as four different levels of privacy protections under ECPA, depending on where it is stored, and when it is sent. There are also no clear standards under that law for how and under what circumstances the Government can access cell phone, or other mobile location information when investigating crime or national security matters. In addition, the growing popularity of social networking sites, such as Facebook and MySpace, present new privacy challenges that were not envisioned when ECPA was passed.

    Simply put, the times have changed, and so ECPA must be updated to keep up with the times. Today’s hearing is an opportunity for this Committee to begin to examine this important issue.

    “There does seem to be wide agreement that current ECPA standards are a muddled mess,” said Julian Sanchez, a research fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute, and contributing editor for Reason Magazine. “The fear about “uncertainty” expressed by Baker is ridiculous when you consider the scholarly consensus and the evident confusion in the courts trying to apply it. In reality, DOJ finds the ambiguity convenient, since they can jurisidiction-shop for magistrates whose interpretations they find congenial.”

    Jim Dempsey of the Center for Democracy and Technology made the following statement on ECPA, promoting security and protecting privacy:

    Justice Brandeis famously called privacy “the most comprehensive of rights, and the right most valued by a free people.” The Fourth Amendment embodies this right, requiring a judicial warrant for most searches or seizures, and Congress has enacted numerous laws affording privacy protections going beyond those mandated by the Constitution.

    In setting rules for electronic surveillance, the courts and Congress have sought to balance two critical interests: the individual’s right to privacy and the government’s need to obtain evidence to prevent and investigate crimes, respond to emergency circumstances and protect the public. More recently, as technological developments have opened vast new opportunities for communication and commerce, Congress has added a third goal: providing a sound trust framework for communications technology and affording companies the clarity and certainty they need to invest in the development of innovative new services.

    Today, it is clear that the balance among these three interests – the individual’s right to privacy, the government’s need for tools to conduct investigations, and the interest of service providers in clarity and customer trust – has been lost as powerful new technologies create and store more and more information about our daily lives. The protections provided by judicial precedent and statute have failed to keep pace, and important information is falling outside the traditional warrant standard.

    The personal and economic benefits of technological development should not come at the price of privacy. In the absence of judicial protections, it is time for Congress to respond, as it has in the past, to afford adequate privacy protections, while preserving law enforcement tools and providing clarity to service providers.

    Dempsey’s full testimony is embedded below:
    Jim Dempsey Testimony on ECPA Update

    The American Civil Liberties Union also had specific recommendations for Congress on ECPA reform. “The Electronic Communications Privacy Act was written in 1986 before the Web was even invented and is in desperate need of an upgrade,” said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “While Americans have embraced technology as an essential part of everyday life, they have not surrendered their fundamental right to privacy. Congress must ensure that our privacy laws reflect the technology Americans use every day.”

    The testimony of the ACLU on ECPA reform is embedded below:

    ACLU statement on update to ECPA

    The written testimony of Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith is embedded below:

    Microsoft counsel Brad Smith’s Testimony before Senate

    The written testimony of he Honorable James A. Baker, Esq., Associate Deputy Attorney General, United States Department of Justice, is embedded below:

    Baker Testimony on ECPA Updates

    The written testimony of the Honorable Cameron F. Kerry, Esq., General Counsel of the United States Department of Commerce is embedded below:

    Cameron Kerry Testimony before the Senate

    The written testimony of attorney Jamil Jaffer Testimony is below:

    Jamil Jaffer Testimony before the Senate Judiciary Comittee

    Digital Due Process

    Earlier this year, I reported on the launch of, a coalition pushing for an ECPA update for online privacy in cloud computing age. A powerful collection of organizations has been pushing for an update to ECPA. Members of the coalition include Google, Microsoft, AT&T, AOL, Intel, the ACLU and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The guidance from the coalition would enshrine principles for “digital due process,” online privacy and data protection in the age of cloud computing within an updated ECPA.

    The coalition set up a website, DigitalDueProcess.orgcontaining its proposals for updating ECPA in the face of new cloud computing security and online privacy challenges. Google Public Policy released a video, embedded below, describing the concept of “digital due process,”

    Exploring the potential of First Responder Communities of Practice

    In this talk from the Gov 2.0 Expo, Jose Vazquez from the Department of Homeland Security talks about “First Responder Communities of Practice.” The community was discussed today at the Gov 2.0 conference in Manor, Texas.

    CiviGuard CMO Shawna Pandya talks about Gov 2.0 and emergency management

    How can government to citizen communications be improved during emergencies? Earlier this year at the Gov 2.0 Expo, I talked to the founders of Civiguard, a technology company that’s working on leveraging mobile tech, GIS and social media to create a platform to address the challenge.

    Embedded below is an interview with Shawna Pandya, CMO of CiviGuard, Inc.. Pandya’s background includes experience in both technological innovation and public service, with work on the neuroArm robotic arm for neurosurgery, a stint as the VP of Research for an inner-city free clinic for high-risk youth and published papers on telemedicine for the developing world.

    Canadian Apps for Climate Change Winners Announced

    Earlier this spring, the United States released community health information to provision healthcare apps and drive better policy.

    [Photo by Senior Airman Joshua Strang, U.S. Air Force, via Wikipedia]

    Now, scientists and policy makers will explore the potential for climate data services to inform citizens and government, enabling both to make better decisions for communities and businesses alike.

    Can open government lead to greater awareness or action around the existential issue climate change? Posting open data online in of itself is not enough, although there’s no question that publishing scientific data where it can be publicly accessed, validated or stored is a huge step forward with respect to transparency.

    Socializing open health data was necessary to build a better government platform at the National Institute of Medicine, where open data and innovation led to an innovative means to identity pills.

    Is collaborative innovation in open government possible in Canada? On the one hand, Canadian open data consultant David Eaves bluntly pointed out some of the challenges extant because of culture: Collaborate? ‘Governments don’t do that’.

    Collaborative innovation, however, may be another matter, as many governments, large and small, are experimenting with websites crowdsourcing citizen ideas.

    Enter the Apps for Climate Action Contest, which challenged Canadian software developers to raise awareness and inspire action by using open data in Web and mobile applications. The open data itself came from the government of British Columbia, which created a catalogue of climate and greenhouse gas emission data at

    So who won?

    Best Web AppVELO

    The app allows organizations to compare against peers internally and externally, enabling businesses to monitor and compare benchmarks for carbon emissions continually rather than annually.

    Best Mobile AppMathTappers: Carbon Choices

    The MathTappers: Carbon Choices App is designed to help students examine the effects of their personal choices on climate change. As students track their choices their impact is assessed in terms of annualized kg of CO2 equivalents generated.”

    Best of B.C.Waterly

    This app is designed to help people to use less water on their lawns.

    People’s ChoiceVanTrash

    “VanTrash scrapes pickup schedules from City of Vancouver websites and combines it with GIS data from In turn, VanTrash exposes this scraped data in a clean RESTful API for other citizens to build and innovate on.” The idea here is that the app will help residents to remember to take their recycling, organic waste and other garbage out.

    Will any of these apps make a difference in a global context? The jury is out on that count. Notably, several of the winners empower citizens with more lightweight access to information about local services or awareness of commodities usage. Canada may be one of the world leader’s in sheer volume of clean water but that doesn’t mean minimization of transport or use doesn’t make sense. I could certainly use a trash and recycling reminder here in Washington; maybe Octo Labs will work with a good developer if the data is available.

    A gallery of all the climate change apps is online.

    Climate Services and Open Data in the US

    In the United States, using data as a climate change agent is part of the big idea behind, where public climate data from NOAA and NASA could spur better decisions and a more informed society.

    Amidst varied hopes for open data and open government, enabling better data-driven decisions in both the private and public sector rank high. One of the existential challenges for humanity will be addressing climate change, particularly in countries where scientific resources are scant or even non-existent.

    In February, the Obama administration proposed a climate service that would provide projections on climate change in much the same way that the National Ocean and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) provides weather information. Earlier this summer, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) published new research, “Earth Observation for Climate Change,” and hosted a forum on leveraging climate data services to manage climate change. The video from the forum is embedded below:

    For more perspective on the role of and climate services, read the full post on Radar.

    Exploring Gov 2.0, open data and open government in Canada

    What’s going on with Gov 2.0 in Canada? I had the opportunity to interview David Eaves on Gov 2.0, open government and open data in Canada last week – and I took it. He shared even more perspective on the state of open government in Canada with my colleague Mac Slocum at Radar back in March. And if you’re not following his posts on government collaboration ( or the lack thereof), well, start. His talk about Gov 2.0 in Canada at the recent Gov 2.0 Summit is embedded below:

    Eaves posted a wealth of links on Gov 2.0 in Canada at his blog after the talk.

    For those interested in further perspective from north of the 49th parallel, flip through the presentation by Jury Konga, principal of the eGovFutures Group embedded below:

    What does Gov 2.0 have to do with cloud computing?

    Last week, Gartner analyst Andrea DiMaio rendered his opinion of what Gov 2.0 has to do with cloud computing. In his post, he writes that “ironically, the terms “cloud” and “open” do not even fit very well with each other,” with respect to auditability and compliance issues.

    I’m not convinced. Specifically, consider open source cloud computing at NASA Nebula and the OpenStack collaboration with Rackspace and other industry players, or Eucalyptus.For more, read my former colleague Carl Brooks at SearchCloudComputing for extensive reporting in those areas. Or watch NASA CTO for IT Chris Kemp below:

    Aside from the work that is doing to address cloud computing, after reading DiMaio’s post, I was a bit curious about how familiar he is with certain aspects of what the U.S. federal government is doing in this area. After all, Nebula is one of the pillars of NASA’s open government plan.

    Beyond that relationship, the assertion that responsibility for cloud computing deployment investment resides in the Office for Citizen Engagement might come as a surprise to the CIO of GSA. McClure certainly is more than conversant with the technology and its implications — but I have a feeling Casey Coleman holds the purse strings and accountability for implementation. Watch the GSA’s RFP for email in the cloud for the outcome there.

    To Adriel Hampton’s point on DiMaio’s post about cloud and Gov 2.0 having “nothing to do with one another,” I’d posit that that’s overly reductive. He’s right that cloud in of itself doesn’t equal Gov 2.0. It’s a tool that enables it.

    Moving to Amazon’s cloud, for instance, is estimated to save the federal government some $750,000 over time and gives people the means to be “citizen inspector generals.” (Whether they use them is another matter.) Like other tools borne of the Web 2.0 revolution, cloud has the potential enable more agile, lean government that enables better outcomes for citizens, particularly with respect to cost savings, assuming those compliance concerns can be met.

    The latter point is why Google Apps receiving FISMA certification was significant, and why Microsoft has been steadily working towards it for its Azure platform. As many observers know, has long since signed many federal customers, including the U.S. Census.

    DiMaio’s cynicism regarding last week’s Summit is interesting, although it’s not something I can spend a great deal of time in addressing. Would you tell the Gov 2.0 community to stop coming together at camps, forums, hearings, seminars, expos, summits, conferences or local government convocations because an analyst told you to? That’s not a position I’m coming around to any time soon, not least as I look forward to heading to Manor, Texas next week.

    In the end, cloud computing will be one more tool that enables government to deliver e-services to citizens in a way that was simply not possible before. If you measure Gov 2.0 by how technology is used to arrive at better outcomes, the cloud is part of the conversation.

    [*Note Gartner’s reply in the comments regarding the resolution of the magic quadrant suit. -Ed.]

    “Participation partition” the newest facet of the digital divide, warns Gruen

    Disparities in access to the Internet have been persistent since the scratchy sounds of a modem were first heard in offices, basements and schools. In recent years, the digital divide has grown to encompass smartphones usage, differentiation of broadband Internet and open data’s role in empowering the empowered.

    Dr. Nicholas Gruen, CEO of Lateral Economics and the former chair of the Government 2.0 Taskforce in Australia, warned the audience at the Smart Government 2010 conference in Melbourne of a new dimension to the digital divide: a “participation partition” that favors citizens who are more active engaging in online discourse.

    “The world is leaning towards favouring those who participate,” said Gruen. “They have more fun and more influence. If you participate more in your local school and local democracy, you’re going to have more say and more power. I see these things as very healthy, but there isn’t an equality of outcomes for everyone.”

    As Rob O’Brien reported in Government News, Australia’s Gov 2.0 Taskforce pushed government entities to participate more online themselves, including encouraging public sector officials and workers to use with social media tools.

    “We’ve now got 20 government blogs, that’s a great start. What we don’t have is people participating on blogs,” Mr Gruen said. “I’m not suggesting they should be making controversial comments, but just be a member of a group of people talking about policy issues.”

    Redefining Public/Private Partnerships

    Dr. Gruen was a featured speaker at the Gov 2.0 Summit in Washington, where he explored public goods in the context of open government and digital citizenship. His talk is embedded below:

    For more on what’s been happening in technology and government in Australia, see my report on Gov 2.0 Down Under: Australia and Open Government.