Sunday, March 21, 2010

Gov 3.0 - Engagement in the year 2030

Reflecting on events in Gov 2.0 over the past year or so and the many blogs, web sites and reports across the globe it seems to me that there are some common threads. For example:

  • People wanting to become involved in the day-to-day affairs of government.
  • Governments increasingly realising that they need to engage with citizens to solve problems and deliver more efficiently.
  • A drive to get the complex processes of the public service on a human scale.
  • Public servants collaborating with one another despite the silo mentality of the departments or agencies they work for.
  • Demands for increasing transparency and accountability.
  • People gravitating towards causes and challenging governments that are far from engaging.
Sitting slap bang in the midst of all this are the very technologies that, in many respects, are Gov 2.0.

So what we are witnessing is a fundamental change in how people see government and the very notion of public service. Unlike in the past, that change of view is being increasingly shared across the globe. And as it is shared the voice of the crowd grows and the pressure for change mounts.

Many governments clearly realise this. Some struggle with it and others resist. Some violently. However, through all of this what stands out is:

  • The increasing ubiquity and engagement capacity of technology.
  • An increasing convergence in the expectations people have of their governments and public servants.
  • The increasing connectedness of people, systems and things.
  • Increasing recognition by governments of the desirability of harnessing the intellectual capital of citizens.
  • Re-emergence of the view that governments are a platform for social good.
  • A need to use resources more efficiently to ensure that services fit and reach people efficiently and reduce environmental impacts.
Now let’s fast track to 2030.

Most governments have realised the need to engage more closely with their citizens. The European Union and Russian Federation have all but merged in name. Such is their economic and social interdependence. Citizens of both enjoy ready access to Gov 3.0 technologies and regularly shape economic and social policy. Differences between political parties amount to little more than nuances over when things get done and in what order.

The People’s Republic of China is the dominant nation state in economic terms and the Communist Party has been progressively modifying its administrative apparatus to allow more direct citizen participation.

Australia, along with the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia made more rapid steps to engage and harness the intellectual capital of their citizens. This was partly due to philosophical and political similarities, but also due to economic necessity. The age of rampant consumerism and unfettered capitalism had become socially and environmentally unsustainable and so a new path was needed. Gov 3.0 was seen as the solution to many of the challenges that lay ahead.

The countries making up South America saw a need for greater citizen engagement. In part due to the demands of their citizens, but also to engage more fully with the United States due to their geographic proximity and possibility of establishing a strong economic block.

The situation in other countries resembled that in the United States, United Kingdom and Australia in the first decade of the 21st century. This was partly due to history, but mainly due to economic, environmental and social problems. The United Nations was taking a strong role in empowering these countries. Some regional conflicts remained, but these were largely driven by long standing religious and cultural conflicts. The vast majority of countries acknowledged the need to move forward and engage their citizens as never before. None could afford the costs of internal social conflict and wasting the talents of their people.

Public servants played a key role in the engagement of citizens. The public service is increasingly the ‘shop front’ of citizen centric governments. This shift has all but broken down the organisational silos within jurisdictions and, due to the global nature of the technologies that first underpinned Gov 2.0 and then Gov 3.0, has sparked global collaboration between public servants from most countries.

Governments share various degrees of unease over this development, but most grudgingly accept that it is socially and economically necessary as we all have a stake in ensuring excellence in public service. The effectiveness of government as a platform for social good is increasing viewed as being dependent on:

  • Collaboration between public servants.
  • Direct citizen engagement.
  • Harnessing the ideas of all people (intellectual capital).
The above, and the technologies that support it are what make Gov 3.0.

So what are the barriers we face in 2010? And what will it take to give us Gov 3.0 - Engagement in the year 2030?

Steve Davies lives in Canberra and can be found online at OZloop. When not engaged in his day job as Communications Consultant, Australian Taxation Office, he is exchanging ideas and knowledge to help build an engaged Australian public sector.