FCC launches open Internet developer challenge for apps for network QoS testing

While the technology and political establishment is reeling off reactions to the Federal Communication’s net neutrality vote to approve the first federal rules on Internet traffic will mean for net neutrality, one thing at least is clear: the FCC has launched an Open Internet Apps Challenge on Challenge.gov.

The contest is reasonably straightforward, at least as a proposal; challenge developers to create applications that test networks that inform consumers about broadband Internet connections. Specifically:

The Open Internet Challenge is designed to encourage the development of creative, innovative and functional Internet software tools for fixed or mobile broadband that provide users with real-time data about their Internet connection and, when aggregated, can show Internet-wide patterns and trends.

Apps that can detect, aggregate and analyze such information might be of use to both the agency and consumers alike, in terms of making policy or consumption decisions:

The Open Internet Challenge seeks to encourage the development of creative, innovative and functional applications that provide users with information about the extent to which their fixed or mobile broadband Internet services are consistent with open Internet principles. These software tools could, for example, detect whether a broadband provider is interfering with DNS responses, application packet headers, or content.
These applications should also collect anonoymized data that is useful for network research and analysis that enables the discovery of patterns and trends in Internet openness.
One popular platform for Internet software tools is Measurement Lab (M-Lab), which “is an open, distributed server platform for researchers to deploy Internet measurement tools.” Those interested in running their software tools on the M-Lab platform should contact the M-Lab steering committee, which coordinates research on the M-Lab platform.

The commission is also soliciting research as part of the challenge:

In addition to measurement tools, this challenge also seeks research papers that analyze relevant Internet openness measurement techniques, approaches, and data. The Challenge is designed to encourage and reward the creation of novel, innovative and useful research. The research must be new or recent and directly involve open Internet principles. For example such research may illuminate how widely fixed and mobile networks observe the FCC’s open Internet principles or how advanced network services can be provided in a way that adheres to the spirit of the open Internet. Such research papers need to have been peer-reviewed by a recognized scientific conference or journal and must have been published since January 2007. (Dissertations, white papers and technical reports are not acceptable, but may be referenced for further details within the paper.) Research on Internet openness can improve policy making and advance Internet transparency, which helps to sustain a healthy Internet.

Will it take off? Another challenge, so to speak, might be the incentives. The winners will earn a free (up $500/person in travel expenses) trip to FCC headquarters in Washington, DC, where they’ll go to an FCC Chairman’s reception, present their work to the Commission, receive plaque and “have their apps and research featured on the FCC’s website and social media outlets.”

It’s also not clear how the development community will feel about the FCC after today’s hearing on somewhat controversial net neutrality rules, for which a public document still hasn’t been published online. Geeks and government have converged at the FCC before. If this challenge is going to take off, they’ll need to do a lot of outreach to encourage the development community to participate, which in turn will likely also mean exactly what the new open Internet principles will mean in practice. Stay tuned.

What the new FCC open Internet rules could mean for net neutrality

The Federal Communications Commission adopted new rules for regulating Internet access at a hearing today in Washington. After FCC commissioners Michael Copps and Mignon Clyburn said yesterday they will not stand in the way of Chairman Julius Genachowski’s modified order, it paved the way for a 3-2 vote to approve new rules of the road for the Internet. The tech policy reporters at Politico made the following assessment of the rules in their excellent Morning Tech newsletter this morning and got it about right.

1) Transparency for both wireline and wireless services, requiring disclosure to consumers, content and device providers,
2) Wireline providers are prohibited from blocking any lawful content, apps, services or devices; wireless providers, from blocking websites and competing telephony services, 3) Wireline providers are prohibited from unreasonably discriminating against any traffic (but no such rule for wireless). Paid prioritization is not explicitly banned, though any such regime would likely raise red flags for the commission under the “no unreasonable discrimination” test. That will be determined on a case-by-case basis.

Below are key excerpts from the report and order the FCC voted on yesterday. (The full order still hasn’t been released to the public; more on that later in this post.)

Rule 1: Transparency

A person engaged in the provision of broadband Internet access service shall publicly disclose accurate information regarding the network management practices, performance, and commercial terms of its broadband Internet access services sufficient for consumers to make informed choices regarding use of such services and for content, application, service, and device providers to develop, market, and maintain Internet offerings.

Rule 2: No Blocking

A person engaged in the provision of fixed broadband Internet access service, insofar as such person is so engaged, shall not block lawful content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices, subject to reasonable network management.

A person engaged in the provision of mobile broadband Internet access service, insofar as such person is so engaged, shall not block consumers from accessing lawful websites, subject to reasonable network management; nor shall such person block applications that compete with the provider’s voice or video telephony services, subject to reasonable network

Rule 3: No Unreasonable Discrimination

A person engaged in the provision of fixed broadband Internet access service, insofar as such person is so engaged, shall not unreasonably discriminate in transmitting lawful network traffic over a consumer’s broadband Internet access service.  Reasonable network management shall not constitute unreasonable discrimination.

Wired’s Sam Gustin may have the best one sentence summary of what the FCC compromise will mean:

The three new rules, which will go into effect early next year, force ISPs to be transparent about how they handle network congestion, prohibit them from blocking traffic such as Skype on wired networks, and outlaw “unreasonable” discrimination on those networks, meaning they can’t put a competing online video service in the slow lane to benefit their own video services.

As Politico reported, these are widely regarded as the first enforceable net neutrality rules. The compromise they have produced widespread reaction on both sides of the issue. As Brian Stelter reported for the New York Times, the new FCC net neutrality rules are going down well with anyone interested in the issue.

The debate over the rules, intended to preserve open access to the Internet, seems to have resulted in a classic Washington solution — the kind that pleases no one on either side of the issue. Verizon and other service providers would prefer no government involvement. Public interest advocates think the rules stop far short of ensuring free speech. Some Republicans believe the rules are another instance of government overreach.

Nancy Scola posted a typically thoughtful analysis of what the FCC did to net neutrality today. The whole thing is worth reading but there are two key grafs:

…for sure, some of the provisions in this proposal do seem designed to be responsive to industry worries that don’t seem to have actually been justified in the record. But looking at this whole debate, it starts to look much bigger than Genachowski, and much like we’ve reached the point to where any sort of meaningful incursion onto the corporate right to influence and even dominate the Internet would seem like a downright radical act of political bravery. That’s a reality of the U.S. communications landscape, circa 2010. That we’re debating just how powerful a say telecom company’s should have over how the Internet works is a sign of how the Internet has, as a medium, shifted since its earlier days.

Writing for Wired in 2005, Kevin Kelly recalled how one of the early debates in the Internet’s evolution was whether or not to allow any sort of commerce at all on the activity layer of the Internet. (That is, e-commerce websites and the like.) “It’s hard to believe now,” writes Kelly, “but until 1991, commercial enterprise on the Internet was strictly prohibited.” The idea that the Internet should be so pure probably seems laughable to many of us now. Watching the net neutrality process unfold at the FCC and on Capitol Hill over the last many months has made clear that the reality is that, very quickly, corporate interests have acquired such a level of influence over the evolution of the Internet where the debate can sometimes seem to be far more concerned with their interests than the public interest.

The Center for Democracy & Technology released the following statement in response to the Federal Communications Commission vote to approve a set of “rules of the road” for preserving the open nature of the Internet.

“The Commission took a vital first step today by voting to adopt rules designed to sustain the open nature of the Internet,” said CDT President Leslie Harris. “The Internet is and should remain a place where innovators and upstarts can experiment and thrive, without needing to seek permission or approval from established network operators,” she said. “Today, after a long debate, the FCC affirms that it can and will play a crucial role in protecting that open environment.”

“This is a big day, but the true test of these rules will depend on how they are implemented and interpreted over time,” said CDT Senior Policy Counsel David Sohn. “It appears the rules will leave a number of important open questions, including how the FCC will approach openness for wireless. Ultimately, the kind of Internet users get should not depend on whether they happen to access it via a wireline or wireless connection.”

“To be sure, there is more to be done,” Harris said. “But this is how we make progress on policy, one step at a time, each step building on the one before it. This isn’t the end of the Internet neutrality debate, it’s just the end of the beginning.”

The Washington Post’s Cecilia Kang, who reported live all day on the FCC’s new neutrality rules, went on the PBS News Hour to talk about the new rules tonight:

The FCC’s press release follows. Look for the tech journalism community to be teasing more details from this over the coming days, including mentions of Android and how the FCC will handle the app stores

FCC Press Release 12-12-2010 Open Internet http://d1.scribdassets.com/ScribdViewer.swf

The meeting was livestreamed at FCC.gov/live. An archive of the liveblog on this post embedded below; the FCC itself liveblogged the meeting at Blog.OpenInternet.gov.

A note on transparency

Before the hearing, another writer approached me for my thoughts on how transparency played into today’s hearing. Amy Gahran considered why the FCC ‘net neutrality’ rule was still secret at CNN.com today. While she included most of my statement, here’s the full version:

Chairman Genachowski made a commitment to a more open, transparent and data-driven F.C.C. under President Obama’s Open Government Directive. In many respects, in its first year of open government, the agency made commendable progress, with strides towards taking public comment through e-rulemaking at OpenInternet.gov, Broadband.gov and Reboot.FCC.gov. The sites were deployed by an able new media team that has used online communications in unprecedented ways. The chairman and his managing director, Steven Van Roeckel, both deserve credit for their plans to reboot FCC.gov as a platform for government including the use of APIs and open source technologies like Drupal.

That said, when it comes to the question of whether the public has a right to see the net neutrality proposal before the commissioners vote upon it, however, the agency has fallen short of its transparency pledge. I have not found a legal precedent that explicitly gives the agency authority to keep the text of a proposed rule secret until it is voted upon by the Commission. While it is true that conversely the F.C.C. does not appear to be under no legal obligation to do so, given that the members of the commission presumably had to negotiate on the details of the final rules for vote, the decision not to share a version publicly may have made such discussion more flexible. That said, the choice not to post the proposed rules online before the vote is an example less government transparency in the creation of important regulation, not more.

UPDATE: Ryan Singel obtained and posted the following snippets of what looks like the new open Internet rules, below:
Net Neutrality Order Snippets http://d1.scribdassets.com/ScribdViewer.swf

UPDATE: The New York Times Brian Stelter obtained a copy of FCC Chairman Genachowski’s remarks. They are embedded below. His initial coverage of the FCC net neutrality rules remains some of the best online.
Net neutrality statement by Julius Genachowski, the FCC chair, on Dec. 21, 2010 http://d1.scribdassets.com/ScribdViewer.swf

UPDATE: Here are all five prepared statements from the FCC commissioners, as posted on FCC.gov as PDFs.

Copps Statement

Clyburn Statement

Genachowski Statement

McDowell Statement

Baker Statement

UPDATE: The FCC released the full version of the new open Internet rules online on the Friday before Christmas.

Advice for federal agencies on social media records management [REPORT]

One of the risks and rewards for the use of Web 2.0 that came up in the July hearing on “government 2.0” technology in the House of Representatives had nothing to do with privacy, secrecy, security or embarrassment. Instead, it was a decidedly more prosaic concern, and one that is no surprise to anyone familiar with governmental institutions: record keeping. And no, this is not another story about how the Library of Congress is archiving the world’s tweets.

IBM’s Business of Government Center has released a new report on social media (PDF) records management, focusing on some best practices for harried federal employees faced with rapidly expanding troves of tweets, Facebook status updates, blog posts or wikis. For those keeping track, 22 of 24 agencies now, at the minimum, have a Facebook presence.

If you’re interested in the evolution of social media in government, a lot of what’s in here won’t be new to you. If not, the report provides a useful framework for why using social media presents headaches for federal records keeping and quite a few best practices and suggestions for mitigating them. As the preamble to the report allows, “this report does not solve the many challenges it identifies. However, it serves as a useful guide for federal managers attempting to use social media to engage citizens while meeting the statutory requirement to preserve historical records for future generations.”

If you’re still wondering what social media is at this point in 2010, Dr. Patricia Franks, the author of the report and a professor at San Jose State University in California, considers exactly that, with judicious references to experts. She offers a number of definitions and then provides her own summary: “‘social media’ encompasses a number of emerging technologies that facilitate interaction between individuals and groups both inside and outside an organization. The best return on an agency’s investment of resources in social media is realized when the goal of the social media initiative is clearly identified and clearly related to the agency’s core mission.”

And that last point is particularly interesting, and frames where much of the federal government stands at the end of 2010 well. The observation was preceded by an apt observation sourced by “insiders”: that the Obama administration’s Open Government Directive created a “Wild West” atmosphere around social media. In that content “eager individuals, embracing the freedom to innovate, moved quickly to use social media both within their departments and agencies and with the outside world. Early government enthusiasts of social media endeavored to establish a presence without first identifying a goal. Only recently have those responsible for social media initiatives begun to ask what needs to be accomplished before selecting the appropriate tool for the task.”

Some new media directors and communication staff have been aligning tools with mission for some time. Others have simply set up the accounts and then pushed updates to them. From what this correspondent hears around Washington, that “Wild West” is getting civilized, with this report representing the latest push to absorb social media into the business of government, replete with established policies, procedures and, yes, reporting standards.

“It’s not OK just to check a box and set up a Facebook page anymore,” said Cammie Croft, director of new media a the Department of Energy, last week at a forum on citizen engagement. “You have to have an idea for what you want to accomplish.” That reflects what Booz Allen social media strategist Steve Radick wrote last month, when he observed that the “new media director position is a means to an end.”

Speaking at the same event, Jack Holt, senior strategist for emerging media at the Department of Defense, reflected on how federal social media use has evolved from “no way, no how” to “accepted procedure” to “standard operating procedure.”

“These are not new tools we need to learn how to use,” he said. “It’s a new environment in which we need to live.”

As the year comes to an end, in other words, the federal government is learning how to live in the same new media world its citizens are grappling with comprehending, where “We the People” has newfound resonance. Yet again, we’re all in it together.

For more on the report, Brian Kalish has a full writeup of social media and agency records management over at NextGov.

A President and his BlackBerry

President Barack Obama checks his BlackBerry en route to the Oval Office, Dec. 13, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama checks his BlackBerry en route to the Oval Office, Dec. 13, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

White House photographer Pete Souza captured this striking nighttime silhouette of President Obama and his “ObamaBerry this week. Despite the connection this image implies, don’t expect to get a reply from questions directed to BHO44@whitehouse.gov answered any time soon. President Obama is less reachable than, say, Steve Jobs, as several people who have written to sjobs@apple.com have found. As Engadget reported earlier this year, after President Obama said that presidential BlackBerry ownership is no fun, he probably not exchanging email with more than a dozen other people on Earth.

If you’ll recall, Obama fought hard early on for the privilege of maintaining his prized BlackBerry, and while he eventually won out, we learned today that a grand total of ten individuals are authorized to ping it. Yeah, ten. Needless to say, he described that depressing fact as “no fun,” and even the folks that are cleared to make contact with it won’t send over anything juicy. Why? They know that messages sent to it “will probably be subject to the presidential records act,” so those lucky enough to have the digits are also smart enough to divert their ramblings to Texts From Last Night.

While President Obama tweeted once on the Red Cross acount, it’s also a safe bet that he’s not having any fun tweeting as @BarackObama either, nor that it will be replacing the Red Phone to Russia. That said, the vision of a more digitally connected president fits the moment in history, with nearly 30 % of Americans toting smartphones at the end of 2010, with 50% penetration estimated for 2011.

Despite the potential IT security risks for the president and other government workers that smartphones present, as Chris Soghioan pointed out last year at CNET,  that hasn’t stopped them from making their way into the hands of tens of thousands of Washingtonians in the District of Columbia. Last night, I watched and smiled as new hires at the local startup agency poked and prodded at their new BlackBerrys, getting comfortable with the functions of one what has become an important communication tools for their trade.

President Barack Obama answers questions about the economy from local families as, from left, Senior Advisor David Axelrod, Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton, Director of Speechwriting Jon Favreau, and Trip Director Marvin Nicholson wait in a hallway of the Southhampton Recreation Association in Richmond, Va., Sept. 29, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama answers questions about the economy from local families as, from left, Senior Advisor David Axelrod, Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton, Director of Speechwriting Jon Favreau, and Trip Director Marvin Nicholson wait in a hallway of the Southhampton Recreation Association in Richmond, Va., Sept. 29, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

As I observed at O’Reilly Answers earlier this year, when it comes smartphone market share, the BlackBerry still rules Washington.

Instead of 2:1 ratio of BlackBerry to iPhone users, it’s more like 106 to 1. As a recent story in the Washington Post that explored whether iPhones will edge out BlackBerrys in Washington reported, there are currently 86 iPhone users at work amongst the aides, staff and officials in the House of Representatives, versus some 9,140 BlackBerry users. There are tens of thousands more spread among the other federal agencies.

That’s changing, albeit more slowly in official Washington than it is in the rest of the country. “This quarter saw Apple and Android drive record smartphone sales. Apple’s share of the smartphone market surpassed Research In Motion (RIM) in North America to put it second behind Android while Android volumes also grew rapidly making it the No. 2 operating system worldwide,” said  Carolina Milanesi, research vice president at Gartner.

Over the course of the past year, this correspondent has seen many more iPhones in evidence here in Washington, along with a surge of Android devices in the falll. As Politico reported earlier this month, a tech overhaul may allow both iPads, iPhones and BlackBerrys on to the floor of the Senate. This summer, Rep. Charles Djou made history when he tweeted that “The House Parliamentarian told me that I’m the first Member of Congress to ever use an iPad” during a floor speech.” There are reports that the iPad is popular with White House staff and in the Cabinet is using iPads. In the judicial branch of government, the competition is between iPad and the Kindle in the Supreme Court, with Justice Kagan leaning Kindle and Justice Scalia leaning iPad for reading their briefs.

One point of clarity exists with respect to Washington and smartphones: it’s generally not an “either/or” proposition in this city. Most of official Washington travels with both a work BlackBerry and another device for personal use, for any number of pragmatic records and security reasons.

It’s likely that a paperless Congress is still a few years away, but who knows: maybe the increase of smartphones will be a boon to get more Washingtonians shifting their thinking from “there’s a form for that” to “there’s an app for that” in 2011.

[Hat tip to Nancy Scola for the image and caption. This may have been one the most apt finds ever for at blog named “techPresident.”]

National Archives launches redesigned Archives.gov under open government plan

Today the National Archives launched its redesign of Archives.gov redesign.

“It’s essential for the National Archives to have a user-friendly online presence,” said Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero in a prepared statement. Ferriero is the first Archivist to blog, tweet (@dferriero), and launch a Facebook page. “We hope to reach new audiences while still engaging our long-time users, researchers and visitors. This redesign – part of the National Archives flagship Open Government Initiative – reflects the ongoing effort to engage the public and make records of the National Archives easier to find and use.”

If you’re not following the work of the National Archivist, today is a good day to reflect on his progress and the importance of his work. Reflect on what he told the New York Times:

How many digitized records should be available online? “If I had my way,” he replied, “everything.”

The Obama administration has also given the National Archives responsibility for reviewing the declassification of 400 million pages of secret documents by the end of 2013.

Mr. Ferriero’s goal, he said, is “to ensure that we have the user at the center of our thinking — historians, genealogists, open government folks. What can we do to make their lives easier?”

Each of these flagship initiatives, many of which are listed at the WhiteHouse.gov open government innovations gallery, are supposed to deliver upon the signature elements of each agency’s mission. In terms of the National Archives, the redesign was “intended to encourage online user participation in the redesign of our website.” Does it deliver?

Here’s the old design of Archives.gov:

The research that preceded the redesign looked at what people do when they come to Archives.gov and what they do there.

Here are the results of the National Archives’ data analysis of Archives.gov “customers”:

How frequently do you visit this site?
69% First time
14% Every 6 months or less
9% About once a month
5% About once a week

In what role are you using the web site today?
30% Veteran or Veteran’s family
23% Genealogist or family historian
14% Educator or student
14% Researcher

What were you primarily looking for today?
28% Historical Documents
25% Veterans’ Service Records
19% Genealogy or family history information
9% Other

How would you most like to interact with this site?
41% Bookmark or tag pages
35% None
15% Receiving newsletters/email updates
8% Watching Vodcasts or video

The new Archives.gov was based in part on that feedback and user need:

On first glance, and after some time clicking around, the answer is a qualified “yes.” This version of the Archives.gov redesign came about through a vote on the homepage design using Ideascale and in-person events, receiving in total some 3,257 votes. The redesign includes streamlined access to historical documents and military service records, an important improvement, given the eye-opening statistic that 81 percent of Archives.gov visitors are looking for this information.

The new design is cleaner, features clearer organization of content and loaded more quickly on my mobile device. The search field, one of the critical features of any modern website, is larger and raised to greater prominence in the redesign. I don’t see a mobile version of the site yet, and there is as of yet “no app for that,” unlike, say, the Library of Congress. That may change.

With respect to another stated aim of the project, the redesign does prominently display the Archives.gov social media accounts, although in muted colors that, while fitting look and feel, don’t catch the eye. No social content is featured on the homepage or the dedicated section, though it’s not hard to find those accounts on the master list of social media. There are some real gems to be fond in there, particularly in the NARA Flickr feed.

Archives Wiki: Our Archives Wiki
Blog – NARAtions, the U.S. National Archives: Blog - NARAtions, the U.S. National Archives
Facebook – US National Archives: Facebook - US National Archives
Flickr – US National Archives Photostream: Flickr - US National Archives Photostream
RSS Feed – News from the U.S. National Archives: RSS Feed - News from the U.S. National Archives
Twitter – @ArchivesNews: Twitter - @archivesnews
YouTube – US National Archives Channel: YouTube - US National Archives Channel

There are a host of other accounts in there for regional archives, presidential libraries or specific topics. For more on the back story behind the design, read over the minutes from last month’s researcher meeting:

The website was last updated several years ago. This time, we are revising it to focus on tasks that people are trying to accomplish when they come to our website.

We collected information from researchers on what you wanted in a variety of ways over several months including asking staff, researchers, veterans, patrons in line at exhibits, etc. This is part of Open Government from December 2009. The Flagship initiative is to redesign by matching the needs of all users (researchers, educators, students, and those just browsing to see the founding documents).

We have the new website categorized into sections. There are five main sections: veterans, researchers, educators and students, locations, and our online store.

Other pages will focus on genealogy, Congress, records preservation, Federal records managers, publications, offices in NARA, and information about us in general. It also includes an agency index, FAQs, and social media (e.g., blogs like NARAtions and AOTUS).

The research section has basic information on how to do research at each of the facilities and links to specific topics like the Civil War.

The new website rolls out next month in December. This is the first phase of the redesign. The focus is on the home page, researchers, veterans, education, and will then move onto other areas.

The 1940s census will be available online in 2012 spring.

“Hire a Researcher” will still be available. All content will migrate over. You do not need to resubmit information. All current information will come over. If you need to resubmit information, we will let you know. We do an annual contact check to revise the list.

This is a significant improvement and one that the Archives staff should be commended upon. If you have feedback, they’ve made it clear that they’re listening: comment on the NARAtions Blog or write to webprogram@nara.gov.

Social media, local government and elections: reflections on COGEL and @DCBOEE

This week, I was proud to be one of two speakers for a session on social media and government at the Council on Governmental Ethics Laws (COGEL) conference in Washington, D.C. I delivered an adapted version of the talk on social media and government I gave the Social Security Administration’s Open Government Awareness Day earlier this year, focusing on the elements that would be of greatest interest to a group of lawyers, regulators and academics. The presentation is embedded below:

The speaker that followed me, however, was able to share a fascinating view of what social media looks like from inside of government, specifically in the District of Columbia. Alysoun McLaughlin, the public affairs manager for the District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics. Here’s her bio, from the COGEL session description:

She joined the District last year, just in time to implement a long list of reforms for the 2010 election including new voting equipment, early voting and same-day registration. Prior to becoming an election official, she was a project manager for Election Initiatives at the Pew Center on the States. She previously spent a decade as a Washington lobbyist, focusing on election issues for the National Conference of State Legislatures and the National Association of Counties. She is here today to share her experience with social media during the 2010 election.

And share she did. Over the course of half an hour, she talked about Facebook, Twitter, local media, citizen engagement and much more. I captured most of her presentation on my iPhone (sorry about the unsteady hand) and have embedded her presentation, “To Tweet or not to Tweet: Engaging the Public through Social Media,” below.

If you want an excellent, practical perspective of the local government side of social media, these are worth watching. A couple of key takeaways from her presentation:

  • How can governments get insights from Twitter without using it? “Just type in the name of your agency and see what they’re saying.”
  • On D.C. elections: “We know there are going to be lines. Come to the website to see what they are.”
  • Don’t trust this to an intern. You “need someone skilled in crisis communications.”
  • “The days that I’m heavy on Twitter are the days my phone rings less.”
  • Viral tweets can raise awareness: “…and we just confirmed that a voter used a write-in stamp. on a touch screen.”

Part 1: Introductions

Part 2: Reflections on Twitter and Facebook

Part 3: Twitter and the 2010 DC Election

Part 4: Who follows @DCBOEE

Part 5: Listening and using social media in government

Washington, D.C. publishes its first digital divide strategy

The digital divide in D.C. is an issue that has been receiving increased sunlight under the District’s chief technology officer, Bryan Sivak. As the Kojo Nnamdi Show episode on the D.C. digital divide reported, “a 2009 study by the OCTO found that the digital divide runs very deep in the city – 90% of residents in Northwest D.C. have high-speed internet access in their homes, but in Southeast, that figure falls to just 36% – 40%.”

Earlier this year, Washington became the recipient of stimulus funding for a digital divide initiative. This summer, the city turned on free wifi in many neighborhoods, which can be viewed at DC.wifi.gov. Today, Sivak announced D.C.’s first digital divide strategy:
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Proud to announce the release of DC’s first ever strategic plan for addressing the digital divide: http://octo.dc.gov/octostrategyless than a minute ago via Chromed Bird

It’s embedded below in the post. Interestingly, the digital divide strategy announcement at the Office of the Chief Technology Officer of D.C. indicated that it would be a “living document,” much like the Web itself:

OCTO is pleased to release a public draft of the District of Columbia’s first ever strategic plan to address the digital divide. This is intended to be a living document, updated quarterly or bi-annually as conditions warrant, and will reflect the current high-level vision of the District Government as it relates to tackling this important issue. Feedback is welcome so please feel free to share your thoughts and help us bridge this gap.

Digital Divide Strategy http://d1.scribdassets.com/ScribdViewer.swf?document_id=44785273&access_key=key-1zhdaz8pu43c1e8pmwzj&page=1&viewMode=list

For a feel for the thinking of the DC CTO on this count, watch Sivak’s closing statement from the District of Columbia’s first-ever “Community Broadband Summit” (DC-CBS) is embedded below. The summit was a public forum designed to address the city’s digital divide.

Bryan Sivak – Closing Remarks from DCNET Multimedia on Vimeo.

It’s not clear whether Sivak will stay on under incoming Mayor-Elect Vincent Gray’s administration. If not, here’s hoping his replacement works with the D.C. tech community to connect more citizens to the Internet. Online access has become a vital link for information, services, access to jobs, education and communication with family, friends, teachers and coworkers in the 21st century. The District should be commended for continuing to working to bridge it.

What do you think of the strategy? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

White House hosts online webchat on anniversary of Open Government Directive

Tomorrow, December 8, is the one year anniversary of the White House Open Government Directive, which which required federal agencies to take steps to achieve key milestones in transparency, participation, and collaboration. At 2:00 PM EST, the first United States chief technology officer, Aneesh Chopra, will join OMB chief information officer Vivek Kundra and Cass Sunstein, administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, in a live web chat at WhiteHouse.gov/live. Video of the webcast is embedded below:

The @OpenGov account and White House solicited questions through an online form tool at WhiteHouse.gov and through the White House Facebook page. The chat itself will be hosted using the White House Live Facebook app and streamed live online through WhiteHouse.gov/live or, presumably, the White House iPhone app. Watch for whether any three of the White House officials answer questions on Wikileaks and open government. (UPDATE: They didn’t.) President Obama’s press conference on a tax deal with the GOP superseded the original chat on Tuesday, which the @WhiteHouseOSTP account confirmed.

I’ll be liveblogging the chat here using CoverItLive, embedded below:

White House Open Government Live Chat

The Sunlight Foundation released the following statement on the one year anniversary of the open government directive:

“In its first year, the Open Government Directive made government transparency a priority and encouraged federal agencies to put important information online. While more government information is now available online, the Directive’s limitations have also become clearer. Simply put, the president’s commitment to transparency is not yet living up to its full potential. The Open Government Directive is a great starting point, but the hard work that is needed to create a truly open government is still ahead of us.

“Agencies such as the Department of Labor, Health and Human Services and NASA have led the way in releasing data, and the working groups created among key staff have brought about real cultural change within agencies. But all of these initiatives need a steady hand and a clear commitment from the White House to mature into permanent, reliable, effective policies that result in meaningful data online.

“More concentrated work is needed to move beyond the easy wins. The administration has to give stronger direction and urge the agencies to move forward if the promise of an open government is to be realized.”

Sunlight’s recommendations for a more open government are available online at http://sunlightfoundation.com/policy/documents/agenda/.

John Wonderlich of the Sunlight Foundation is also liveblogging.

For more context on White House open government innovation, review the following pieces:

The open government community will likely be discussing the chat on Twitter.  Embedded below is a curated list of open government accounts: