I often start my presentations with a slide on the failure of e-government, demonstrated by low take-up. E-government was designed and built by engineer and IT people, who thought that “doing things online” was simply too exciting and convenient, and users will immediately rush to “change of address” online, no matter how they were designed. It turned out, users are not so interested to use online services unless they are well designed and intuitive and convenient.
So one of the reasons for failure was that the eGov people thought that all citizens shared their enthusiasm for technology.
I see a similar pattern in gov20. Now it’s us the policy wonks, the activitists, but also the communicators, who are assuming that an open, collaborative, policy-conscious behaviour is normal and widespread.
This is not the case. We have to design gov20 for non-collaborative, egoistic and non-policy conscious people. As I often say, we have to design for Bart Simpson, while we generally do for Lisa Simpson.
Otherwise, gov20 will remain niche. Powerful, because the impact of the wonks and collaborators is heavily augmented, and we’re able to influence government much more than before. But soon, the expectation of wikinomics will fade out, exactly in the same way as the 60s spirit and ideals disappeared.
In fact, just like in the 60s, we now think that the very nature of people is changing, that the future belongs to open, collaborative people, policy conscious etc. The “yes we can” people. But previous experience suggests this will not last.
On the other hand, in my professional life I see not only the “coolness” and “goodness” of collaboration, but the genuine advantages in terms of creativity and productivity.
So my key questions for the future of gov20 is: will the hacker/wonk/sharer mentality become widespread to the majority of the population?

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