August 3, 2005 By Tod Newcombe
Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield, 2004
If government hopes to gain the kind of transformative success the private sector now enjoys, it has to change its way of thinking, argues William Eggers in his new book, Government 2.0. In this book, Eggers, who is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and global director at Deloitte Research Public Sector, points out some of the wrong ways government has attempted to use technology (dumping millions of computers into schools that have served as distractions, not learning tools, for example), and more concretely the right way government must think to bring about change by using technology effectively.
Eggers understands how important case studies are to public-sector leaders and uses them liberally to demonstrate how government officials have brought about deep change -- sometimes after hard fought battles against bureaucracy and rules -- to programs through the right mix of leadership, management and technology. Interestingly, the one sector of government that has gone the farthest to transform itself is the military -- not the first agency that comes to mind as having the ability to change and be nimble with technology.
Eggers is also a realist and knows that government -- unlike the private sector -- must serve all citizens, not just its most loyal customers. That means dealing with the thorny issues of privacy and security, as well as the digital divide, which still keeps a sizeable portion of the population from using online government services. Ultimately, as Eggers makes clear, a book of this type is less about technology and more about government reform. It's about the need for inspired leadership, about creating networks of government, not more bureaucracies, and it's about changing legislation and legislators who control government's purse strings.
Eggers should be applauded for making such a complex subject highly readable. It's a well aimed salvo across the bow of inertia.
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