CROSS POSTING FROM Open Declaration Blog

I see many metaphors on government 2.0 around. It’s a good sign we’re doing an effort of self-awareness and shared understanding – very much in line with the Open Declaration. We need to structure our thinking and to communicate it better to government. We need to go from cool project to policy proposals, as we write on the eups20 workshop report.
Here are 4 different visions I came across:

  • no government scenario: Andrea Di Maio argues that government should give up building interfaces, and concentrating on releasing public data and web services. Private sector will take care of interfaces and identity management. On the same line, Robinson argues that government “rather than struggling, as it currently does, to design sites that meet end-user needs, it should focus on creating a simple, reliable and publicly accessible infrastructure that «exposes» the underlying data”. Similarly, Sunlight Foundation argues that government should not visualize but only expose the data.
  • government websites as public goods: Tom Steinberg argues that citizens should be able to use public websites to connect to each other
  • Tao government: with my colleague Cristiano Codagnone we proposed the metaphor of the chinese symbol “Tao”. We recognize that private – community initiative is not a substitute of government: government has a subsidiary role to play to ensure that all citizens benefit from public services. On top of that, these are not alternative, it’s not a zero sum game. Just like the Yin and the Yang are necessary to each other, and permanently changing, government and civil society should both invest in providing services and continuously collaborating to innovate and provide better services and to address the complex societal challenges of our times. The idea has been taken up by the European Commission in its Orientation paper
  • Government as a platform: the metaphor of Tim O’Reilly suggests that government should imitate what Facebook, Google Android, and the iPhone AppStore are doing: to become a platform for value-added initiatives by developers. This is a powerful metaphor: it is appealing to government as it refers to similar initiative in the private sector where a mutual gain is realized (for the platform and the developer). Secondly, it reminds me strongly to a classical theoretical notion that sees private/nonprofit initiative as the “extension ladder” of the public welfare state, which was first proposed in 1912 by the Webbs

In summary: just as social software is not about replacing human intelligence with software, but augmenting it, government 2.0 is not a matter of substituting government with bottom-up initiatives, but augmenting its innovativeness and its impact by letting third parties build on top of government data and services.

And this is the point I emphasize in my latest version of the Open Declaration, entitled “what we expect from public services 2.0“.