So this post was getting too too long (I aim for 800 words/post). So I split it up. The rest will likely show Tuesday. Monday if I’m particularly alert. Stay tuned!
The story of Web 2.0 and Government Governance
Gather round kids, Doug’s going to tell you a story.
The story is about how the impetus for Web 2.0 in Government actually starts a (relatively) long time ago, so we’ll need to back up a bit, in a land far far away. You’ll see some of the issues then still that remain today, in rolling hills, not unlike the one that overlooks the Gatineau river. Can you see it?
Far away, there’s a long bountiful field. It’s the field of Public Administration, and in this fields there’s governance. Those pesky bushes that surround it are “issues”. There are all types of issues, kids, issues that:
- have been around for a long time (order, hierarchy, centralisation/decentralisation);
- some that will always stay and will never go away (accountability, responsibility),
- some that are new (transparency, globalisation); and
- some that are old (corruption, hegemony, censorship, “legal” / “just” government).
The themes from literature over the past 20 years that advocate for reform gravitate around a few common issues that I’ve grouped and show you below. Some have come under different names over time (i.e.: transparency/openness, informal networking/social networking, knowledge management/information management, knowledge sharing/collaboration, etc.), but these are the ones I could chart.
For some of us, seeking solutions to these:
- is what makes the study of Public Administration (and management) interesting, exciting;
- is a very profitable way fpr consultants to make money;
- pays the salaries of many writers and commentators on the hill;
- is an active discussion point at places like a pub on Fridays in Ottawa’s Italian district;
- is too daunting a task to think about deeply in 500 words or less with the morning coffee and daily newspaper.
The term “Governance” here is strict – it’s academic – the combination of the political structure – Parliamentary system of government (Westminster) and the and the Administrative paradigm (doctrine?) used to carry out the political direction – which for the past 20 years has been “New Public Management“. It’s broad and complex. Essentially it’s our post-bureaucratic system enabling managers by setting performance targets and frameworks to manage them. It works and it doesn’t (for more, see this comment of mine on the Eaves.ca blog).
Then came the Internet, and with it a social net (that became Web 2.0) and propelled the public and the private sector to new heights. And governments have been playing catch-up ever since, and the public have been critical about Government.
What were the criticisms?
- Government is:
- mired with silos, silos-within-silos;
- bureaucratic, slow and inefficient;
- not transparent, open;
- boring, incoherent, closed-off;
- etc., etc., etc.
Government delays in catching up created a gap, expectations are super-high (from both the citizenry and the private sector). Considering how government is still way more efficient now than compared to 5, 10, 15 years ago, it’s hard to refute the government has more tools to do what it does. Not to say there isn’t much left to be done, the government is using relatively modern tools, with a modern workforce, but using old procedures in an insufficient governance paradigm.
Wikinomics author and Web 2.0 pioneer Don Tapscott comments on the bureaucracy (1997):
“simple procedures are too complex for employees to navigate, so we hire more budget analysts, more personnel experts, and more procurement officers to make things work. By then, the process involves so much red tape that the smallest action takes far longer and costs far more than it should.”
(Tapscott, Don “The digital media and the reinvention of government”
Canadian Public Administration Vol. 40 Issue 2, 1997!)
I’m reluctant to extend Tapscott’s quote, however he continues: “Simple travel arrangements require endless forms and numerous signatures” – anyone in government dealing with travel is surely nodding their heads now. And shaking their heads that Tapscott underlines this from 1997.
So, enter Web 2.0…what happens? Tune in … well, a few days, when the rest of this post continues.
Public Administration lines you can impress your friends:
- “Certainly you agree our post-bureaucratic model is much too heavy on performance management…”
- “…but, as you know, governance is not so much about politics, as it is about the application of politics, which is quite different…”
- “You know, that Doug guy is bonkers, I dunno what he’s yapping about this time -government is fine. Watch! I’m filing my taxes over the Internet! In “my day” we had to…what? He actually said that “government is way more efficient now”? Yep, he’s bonkers.”