August 5, 2008 By Bill Schrier
phone numbers for cell phones) with online surveys.
5. Wiki's - internal. Wiki's certainly have great promise internal to government. We break government up into departments, each with its own unique functions. Departments tend to be silo'ed groups - cross-department communication is hard. Wiki's or SharePoint could be used to standardize a lot of business processes, functions and terms across an entire government. Just simple processes such as "how to handle a public disclosure request" or "how to pay a vendor invoice" are susceptible to documentation and improvement by Wiki. Certainly such processes can be documented and put on static web-pages on a government intranet today. But the advantage of a Wiki is that many many more employees are involved in creating and editing the content, so the process happens faster and employees actually read it and use it because they are involved in it.
6. Wiki's - external processes. I see a couple fundamental uses for external Wiki's. One is processes for interacting with government. How do you recycle a computer? What do you do if a refrigerator is found in the median of a boulevard? How do you apply for and use food stamps? Again, much of this information can be posted online via public web pages maintained by government employees. But the advantage of using a Wiki is that the "whole story" in questions like this can be much broader than a single government agency. In the computer recycling example, there are many people with many ideas. Some are involved in recycling, others are environmentalists, and there are employees from multiple agencies who might contribute ideas to "recycling a computer". So an interactive wiki will give new dimensions to the ideas.
7. Wiki's - external - deciphering. A second class of uses is deciphering government. For example, most of us who work in government have at least some idea of how to build a budget and what our own budget contains. But for constituents and residents government budgets are just that much more gobbledygook. A budget wiki could not only foster voter understanding of the budget, but might provide meaningful input to it, rather than having a series of special interest groups coming to the table demanding funding of their unique programs. Individuals inside and outside government could contribute to editing such wiki's.
8. Mashups. Governments are fundamentally about geography - the city limits or county lines I mentioned earlier. Much of what government does is geographically based - providing water or solving crimes or parks. Mashups of data against maps or mashups of any sort of information against other information can give new insights. One specific example of this is mapping of 911 calls (fire, medical emergencies) in Seattle on My Neighborhood Map.
9. Next generation 911. While this isn't technically Web 2.0, NG911 has many interesting possibilities. Essentially, now, if you need 911 for police, fire or emergency medical services, you telephone 911. But with cell phone cameras, cheap video cameras, text messages and many other ways of connecting and interacting technologically, 911 has the potential to do much more. The day will come when someone will witness a crime, snap a photo of the criminal, transmit it to the 911 center, who will, in turn, transmit it to police officers in the field who will make an arrest while speeding to the scene of the crime.
10. Customer service and customer feedback via blogs and Wiki's. While this isn't technically a separate technology, I believe it merits special mention. As the ability of government to interact with constituents and customers improves with Web 2.0 tools, government agencies and employees will get a LOT more feedback. About things we are doing right, and things we are doing wrong and things which we've chosen to do but are not ... ah .. "universally loved". Do we really want to be that transparent?
You may use or reference this story with attribution and a link to