Friday, April 27, 2007

Government Tech Mirrors Internet Evolution

Open government's development by way of technology is a mirror image of the internet's life-path. Like most law offices or tax preparers, local governments are perpetually behind the technology curve. Normally, this is a bad thing. The diamond in the rough, however, is that the slack gives us a clear guide for predicting the future.

The Past has Passed
In the beginning, when Al Gore was being mistaken for an inventor, the internet was about connecting data and bringing it together through a single interface. Standards were developed, organizations were created and a whole new world of alphabet soup was born. This was the period of Data Unification.

Data unification in government started out as the Office of the City Clerk. It was made up of file cabinets and huge tomes of deteriorating paper. As the starting point, this isn't very unified data and certainly isn't easily accessible. Data unification for governments truly began when they started finding ways to go paperless - being in this Paperless period meant having digital data, all connected in one system. This was the birth of municipal wordflow systems. Amazingly, there are still only about five such systems out there today.

The Present in the Internet Past
The next period of the internet's evolution was Data Distribution. During this time, search technology was developed, dynamic data displays were generated and the internet actually became useable by the public for the first time.

The government tech correlation to the Data Distribution period is obvious: with unification comes rule-based smart-routing of data, workflow standardization, instant reporting and internet publication. The effect is awesome. Local government agendas and minutes are available in real-time, the press' constant flow of FOIA requests slows to a trickle, citizen awareness is raised to an all time high and for the first time in a long time, governments start feeling like they're there for the people. This period is your town's Open Government period.

This is where local government is still playing catch-up. All over the e-universe, articles are popping up demonstrating the demand for open government wordflow systems. Towns are scrambling to satisfy their constituencies at the open government level. Just wait until more small towns do what Milwaukee or Long Beach have done: the peer pressure for techno-improvement will really have the dais in a panic.

The Future in the Internet Present
Right now, the internet is in a new period. People call it Web 2.0. It's all about development through collaboration. Look at the immense video library that is or the social networks like LinkedIn and the more casual MySpace. These sites are in existence only because of the collaboration of their users. This is the Data Collaboration period.

As revolutionary as this period is for internet surferdom, so it will be for government technology. The message of data collaboration is efficiency; a primary goal for all municipalities. This is the period where governments will not only be truly connected to their constituencies in contributive scenarios never before dreamed, local governments will be using technology to work with each other to be more efficient. Collaborative procurement will be gigantic, solution sharing will be key, and tax dollars will go further than ever. This will be the period of Collaborative Governing.

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