Longevity for Open Data and Gov 2.0

People that work for Gartner are starting to use “hype cycle” and “Gov 2.0” in the same sentence (or rather, sentences that are really really close together). There is also a thoughtful piece on GovLoop examining which aspects of Gov 2.0 are on the right track and the wrong track.

I’ve raised similar questions about Gov 2.0 efforts in the past, and the need to tie them to quantifiable performance measures.

With all of the excitement around the country and around the world focused on opening public data and Gov 2.0, proponents need to take steps to tie these efforts back to the core mission of the governments and agencies that they serve. If open data and Gov 2.0 are a fad, then their 15 minutes are probably almost up — the longevity of these efforts and initiatives will be a function solely of their ability to enhance the performance of governments.

Efforts that support open government data and greater use of alternative communication channels (like social media) for communicating with constituents are fast approaching an important tipping point. The initial attraction of these efforts is that they are seen as forward thinking and cutting edge — they are inherently attractive because of their “newness.” But when social media penetration has reached the point that even the local dogcatcher is on Twitter, its natural for people in government (particularly those that don’t live and breath this stuff) to start asking: “What’s the point?”

Skepticism is probably most imminent for open government data projects because they typically require some investment of staff time and other resources. These efforts need to be carefully crafted to ensure a tangible relationship to the underlying mission of the governments or agencies undertaking them. How does opening government data help realize the goals of an agency? How does opening government data make the job of government cheaper or more effective?

These kinds of questions can be difficult (even offensive) to address when there is a strong belief in open government data as a principle. Nevertheless, if open government data projects and Gov 2.0 are to be around longer than 15 minutes, these are the types of questions that need to be answered.

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