DorobekINSIDER: The Gov 2.0 status report — where are we now?

Wednesday - 5/12/2010, 2:00am EDT

What is gov 2.0, what does it mean, and is it still a relevant term?

Those were the questions that were being bandied about at a dinner last week of gov 2.0 luminaries in preparation for the Gov 2.0 Expo.

The second Gov 2.0 Expo is coming to Washington, DC in just a few weeks — May 25-27 at the Washington Convention Center, to be exact. Produced by tech publishing giant Tim O’Reilly, the guy who all but invented the term “web 2.0.”

One of the remarkable evolutions over the years has been the changing government IT market. And it is very easy to overlook how much progress has been made. When I started covering this stuff for Government Computer News nearly two decades ago (my colleague at Federal News Radio, Tom Temin, hired me for the job at GCN — small world), people would often ask, ‘The government uses computers?’

My oh my, how the world has changed. The remarkable thing these days is that people don’t ask that question any more. To the contrary, they often say, ‘Why isn’t the government using technology more — or more effectively.’

And while the Obama administration is widely seen as being tech innovators — and the Obama team has really taken the use of technology to new levels — but this has been a long evolution dating all the way back to the Clinton administration. Back in 1998, the thought was creating a WebGov. WebGov then evolved to FirstGov before becoming USA.gov.

Before we go too much further, it’s important to define terms. Broadly, I describe Web 2.0 (and, by extension, gov 2.0) and the suite of collaborative tools. They can be everything from Facebook and GovLoop to wikis to blogs. Gov 2.0 would be the government’s use of these tools.

WebGov/FirstGov/USA.gov and all the other government Web sites were an early foray into the Web 1.0 world.

I’m fascinated by these tools because I think they can be — for lack of a better term — real paradigm changes. We often talk about paradigm shifts, but… these tools do seem to have the ability to bring about remarkable change. Some call them “disruptive” technologies — because they do significantly alter the way people have always done business.

And there has been a whole lot going on in the gov 2.0 world in recent years:

* Intellipedia: The suite of Web 2.0 tools for the intelligence community that has been on the cutting edge for some five years now — and it is one of the case studies in MIT Prof. Andrew McAfee’s great book, Enterprise 2.0: New Collaborative Tools for Your Organization’s Toughest Challenges.
* Blogs across government… some CJD favs include Navy CIO Rob Carey and NASA CIO Linda Cureton
* Idea sharing tools such as TSA’s Idea Factory, where front line feds can offer up ideas, and they are voted on by TSA employees

The National Academy of Public Administration’s Collaboration Project has scores of case studies.

And in recent years, there are scores of luminaries who have become fascinated with government technology — perhaps led by O’Reilly, but there are others… Craig Newmark, the “Craig” of Craig’s ListAnil Dash, who all but created blogging and has now created Expert Labs… and I even was introduced just last night to Palantir Technologies, which was created 2004 by a handful of PayPal alumni and Stanford computer scientists — and with venture funding from the CIA’s InQ-Tel — and seeks to “radically change how groups analyze information.” There have even been some criticisms of the Obama-Google connections.

Many of the Silicon Valley innovators are use to… well, being innovative. And it has been remarkable to watch as they have come change government.

O’Reilly is — and has been — one of the real thought leaders. Back in 2009, he wrote a post, What Does Government 2.0 Mean To You?

The buzz at last week’s dinner was where does gov 2.0 stand today.