“Doug, why would you say there’s been a lack of progress on Web 2.0 by the Government of Canada?”
I’ve been getting this question quite a bit, and my answer has been steady the past few months, meaning I think I’m coming closer to the answer.
I have been able, to myself, nail down to 2 reasons why Web 2.0 has been difficult to implement in the Government. 1 of them I’ve spoken about before. The other reason isn’t easy to give away, but easy to describe.
First of all, with all the rally and support behind Web 2.0 in Government (dozens of committees, dozens more of supporters, hours of lip-service), it’s quite surprising to many that there hasn’t been more progress made on the Web 2.0 front. Sure, it’s great what’s being done right now, and for now what’s being done is super, and should continue, but…there’s still much more that can be done. And it’s not going fast.
What’s the problem? 2 things. I’ll start first with what I’ve written about before, and then with what I haven’t. It’ll be a brief post.
Reason #1: lack of leadership / lack of support
I wrote about this with my post pleading for the top public servant to get a blog so I can stop internet-stalking him for his exclusive directions from above. Without the support from above, who wants to use Web 2.0 tools? Public Servants will continue to be viewed as goofing around on company time, wasting resources (even if it’s much easier now to conceal the waste of time through other means than even before). Without going too far into the discussion around how Web 2.0 can improve current Public Servants’ work through more efficient networking, smarter researching and more relevant citizen engagement, actually avoiding Web 2.0 means doing your work the 1980′s way. Might as well replace your computer and Internet with a typewriter and start typing away on triplicate and yammer on the phone for your sociability connecting.
It still stands there is still only one (1) Government of Canada blog – the blog from the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. And the Privy Council Office of Canada still remains non-Web 2.0 enabled in every capacity possible.
Support from the top can drive efficient use of Web 2.0 tools, effective development of the tools by the organisation, and more valuable and accurate information for top-level management, as we have seen continuously from NRCan. Rumor has it NRCan Deputy Minister Cassie Doyle checks her organisation’s wiki when she needs an up-to-date briefing note. She’s earned it, she demonstrated support and leadership for Web 2.0 at NRCan with her hands-on leadership and support of the wiki and development of other tools. Surprisingly, we haven’t seen the same for other tools across government. Why not? I’m all ears.
Reason #2: lack of expertise
Let’s say we wanted Web 2.0 tools in Government tomorrow, who would build it? The same people who haven’t been building Web 2.0 tools for the past 5-10 years? The right people to build Web 2.0 tools have long since left Government or avoided it completely. With the oncoming recession, the ebb and flow of IT professional may come back into the fold again, but even if they did, they may not even be in a position to propose or implement any Web 2.0 tools, let alone have access to any of the tools or channels to talk to the right people. The IT people on the inside have drank the kool-aid, been hit over the head long enough to know their narrow scope, and say the right key words to avoid the risks, pitfalls and problems with changing the status quo that Web 2.0 tools won’t come from them.
Will it come from consultants? That’s presuming there are still managers in place to hire the right consultants with the sufficient effective mandate to put in place an accessible and sustainable tool that works, which isn’t usually in the purview of any consultant (accessible work? sustainable? No). They’re consultants to be paid whether their projects works or not, and the managers who hire them will keep their permanent job whether the project works or not.
This is without talking about the contracts on tools and software that predate Web 2.0, and will outdate Web 2.0. They’re being reviewed with a Web 2.0 lens, of course, but much that is Web 2.0 is Free, Open Source, collaborative – all the good stuff, and much of the tools and software that exists in government is most definitely not Free, not Open-Source, not easily collaborative…but for now, they’ll say they are until you overlook that, in fact it isn’t, and soon you’ll forget your awesome idea for a Linux box, or MediaWiki/Drupal/WordPress software, and move on to another project, and the IT guy gets to keep his job, and keep doing things the way he’s been doing it before this zany Web 2.o wave.
Conclusion & Bottom-line
- The public service needs senior management support of Web 2.0. And not just when you think it will succeed, we need your support so that it will succeed.
- We need good people in IT. We need to keep good people in IT. I know of at least 20 of reasons for why they’re leaving, and I understand them. We need them more than any of us really know. I think we need to identify the good ones, listen to what they need, and provide for them.
I know there are some examples of GC Web 2.0 some would point out as counter-argument to this. Great, let’s see more. Hopefully they’re the tip of the iceberg. I would also give the tautological argument that not only are they a few representative of the potential, but also those tools themselves are compromised by lack of support and lack of good expertise in them. I won’t speak directly to these tools, but if you’re familiar with them, I’m sure you’d find these as compromising factors involved, and sure barriers to improving them should you be involved.