Review of “Dynamic Technologies for Smarter Government”

A tag cloud (a typical Web 2.0 phenomenon in i...

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Post by Guest Blogger: Art Botterell

Power is a Conversation

To its credit, consulting firm KPMG doesn’t claims that its new whitepaper “Dynamic Technologies for Smarter Government” is a scientific study.  It’s a marketing document targeted on the firm’s government clients.  As such it can’t be expected to point a critical finger at its customers’ standards and practices. That said, this report does a good job articulating, albeit parenthetically, a couple of the deep challenges of government in a Web 2.0 world.

“While sharing data is a growing trend for today’s government entities, in order to significantly improve government operations, changes should be coupled with new approaches for collaboration about solutions.”

One might question whether there’s as much actual growth in data sharing in government as in talk about it.  But the net effect (pardon the pun) is to make greater collaboration desirable, if not inevitable:

“In the 20th century, public sector agencies operated under the specialized ‘expertise’ model of the industrial era.  Agencies were often self-contained groups managing business processes and mission activity in a silo…Co-design and delivery of policies, programs and services with citizens, businesses and civil society provides the potential to tap a broader reservoir of ideas and innovative solutions.”

No mention of the dilution of official control as stakeholders use social media to implement some of those solutions for themselves. “Co-design,” maybe, but no fundamental change in the role of official agencies. Gently, toward the end of a proffered framework for agencies “responding to forces of change” the authors invoke the term “organizational change management,” thus keeping the customer comfortably in the driver’s seat:

“Organizational change management is a key component of implementing any of these innovations.  These changes represent a shift in the attitudes of people and who they interact and share information in the internet-enabled world.  They imply a willingness to accept some risk in order to collaborate and interact.”

One might call that masterful understatement. Ultimately the writers cast all this as a generational trend:

“The future generation of government workers is much more comfortable with collaborative online problem-solving than previous generations.”

And that generalization, unencumbered by evidence or qualification, is an example of the difference between marketing and science.  It sounds like it might be true, but is it really?  Does it matter?  Or is it more important that the authors sound like they can offer an antidote to uncertainty?

We’re just starting to see genuine data-based research on how social media actually work, for example a number of papers from the recent ISCRAM conference in Seattle.  And of course it’s early days yet, so we can’t assume that things will work the same way in the coming year as they were in the past.

In the meantime, a lot of what seems like authoritative documentation in this field right now is marketing, not science.  Which is fine as long as we don’t lose track of the difference.

One response to “Review of “Dynamic Technologies for Smarter Government”

  1. As noted, in a field emerging as quickly as social media applications to the realm of emergency management, there is not yet much research or many formal reports. Wide open field for researchers and academic!

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