Joho the Blog » e-government

January 29, 2010

Sunlight’s answer to the Supreme Court’s Naivety

The Sunlight Foundation has posted seven steps the government should take to help make campaign finance more transparent now that the Supreme Court has handed political discourse in the paid media to the highest bidders.

18 Comments »

December 8, 2009

Australian Government 2.0 Taskforce issues draft

The Australian Government 2.0 Taskforce has published a draft of its report, asking for comments before it’s submitted.

The report takes “engagement” as the desideratum of e-gov, and was produced in an engaged, public way. It recommends transparency, the use of open standards and Creative Commons licenses, loosening copyright restrictions on “orphan works,” tax benefits for donations to “info-philanthropies,” encouraging agencies and government employees to engage online, and more.

Personally, I think the draft — from its principled overview to its broad areas of application — is a blueprint for democracies everywhere. (Disclosure: I was on the International Reference Panel, which mainly means I got to comment on some earlier drafts.)

Be the first to comment »

September 18, 2009

Interview about e-gov ‘n’ stuff

Ulrike Reinhard has posted a video interview she did with me yesterday in preparation for the Reboot_D – Digital Democracy conference in Germany. We talk about e-gov, transparency, and whether the Web is a “third place.”


And, while I’m on the topic of videos, here’s a somewhat more lively one:

Be the first to comment »

July 22, 2009

My PDF talk on facts ‘n’ transparency

Link. (The video embeds my slides, but (1) they get more and more out of order in this YouTube; they were in the right order when I actually presented them. 2. My font got lost somewhere in the translations, and so there’s a fair bit of mis-sizing, text overflows, etc.) (I posted about one of the ideas in the talk (transparency as the new objectivity) here.)

[Tags: ]

1 Comment »

July 2, 2009

The government is the new Google

a href=”http://www.buzzmachine.com/”>Jeff Jarvis led a discussion at PDF among 1,000 people about what government could learn from Google, and, more generally, what a bunch of techies would do to make government better. Jeff’s got this rare cross of skills as a writer, teacher, entertainer and provoker. If you haven’t seen him at work, you should grab the next opportunity. And, yes, Jeff is a friend, so I’m biased. But I’m also right.

So, here’s a way the government is becoming like Google. Remember how a few years ago, Google was grabbing the best and the brightest techies of every stripe? Every time you turned around, someone else you admired had moved there. Now the same thing is happening with the federal government. It’s the glamorous place many of the best and the brightest — including some from Google — want to work. The government is becoming a center of innovation. It may not be as wild as the garages of Silicon Valley and the Charles River, but it’s dreaming big and its heart is pure. These positions are being filled with the diametric opposites of lobbyists. It’s pretty amazing.

Note to self: Re-read The Best and the Brightest to see if there are lessons for the new federal techies.

Tags:

4 Comments »

July 1, 2009

PDF: The takeway

PDF was an unusually rich conference. Great folks there and an especially good year to be talking about the effect of the Net on politics and governance.

My take-away (although having a single take-away from a conference I just said is rich is rather contradictory, don’t you think?): The Web has won in a bigger way than I’d thought. The people President Obama is appointing to make use of the Web for increased citizen participation and greater democracy (well, at least as access to the Web and the skills required are distributed more evenly) are our best, brightest, and webbiest. And they are doing remarkable things.


Douglas Rushkoff interviewed me for his radio show yesterday or was it the day before? Anyway, here it is. We talked about PDF and about my presentation there, which was about transparency and the changing role of facts.

[Tags: ]

2 Comments »

June 30, 2009

[pdf09] Mark Pesce on global politics in the hyperconnected universe.

Mark Pesce is talking about the new global power. [I didn't liveblog Michael Wesch's talk because it was too hard to. It's was close to his popular YouTube lecture about YouTube. He got and deserved a standing ovation.]

NOTE: Live-blogging. Getting things wrong. Missing points. Omitting key information. Introducing artificial choppiness. Over-emphasizing small matters. Paraphrasing badly. Not running a spellpchecker. Mangling other people’s ideas and words. You are warned, people.

The distribution of power has changed but it comes with a loss of control, which means our culture might start hydroplaning. We need to watch the collisions, but remember that people are going to get hurt. We need a political science for the 21st century.

Last month, Wikipedia banned Scientology from editing WP. The Scientologists compared WP to Nazis. Scientology is highly hierarchical. WP is a social agreement to share what we know for the good of all. What happens when they crash? Scientology uses law suits. How does Scientology deal with a social agreement. If Scientology wanted to declare war, it would attack the social agreement, wearing away at the bonds of trust. ckobama,

Mark points to the phenomenon of “communication overload.” E.g., the NY my.barackobama site was overwhelmed by supporters, so O supporters moved elsewhere, using older media. We haven’t yet seen a hybrid beast that can operate hierarchically but interact with the ad hocracy. Project Houdini (tracking who voted) crashed on Election Day, overwhelmed by info. These both were “friendly fire” incidents. We need to learn how to crush the gulf.

“The next decade will be completely hellish” for parties and campaigners.

Hyperempowered communities face a mismatch with the hierarchical mechanisms of the state, even with the best of intentions. But the catastrophes are the first sign of success. So, the state has to radically reform its means of communication, moving out of hierarchies, becoming more chaotic. But this is asking the leopard to change its spots.

We need to watch hyperintelligences emerge and see how governments react. The rules of the game are changing. “The best first step is observation.” The O administration provides the “perfect lab.” This will give us the first snapshot of a political science for the 21st century. Powerful, hyperconnected communities wil sometims struggle against or work with hierarchical institutions. But in each case the hierarchical will have to adapt itself to a new order.

[Tags: ]

1 Comment »

[pdf09] Alec Ross: 21st Century Statecraft

NOTE: Live-blogging. Getting things wrong. Missing points. Omitting key information. Introducing artificial choppiness. Over-emphasizing small matters. Paraphrasing badly. Not running a spellpchecker. Mangling other people’s ideas and words. You are warned, people.

Alec Ross is the Innovation Advisor to Hillary Clinton. He’s bringing Net tools, esp. social media, to the State Dept. He begins by saying that alog of what we’re talking about today is power. E.g., the Roman Catholic Church held power because thye power over the texts. Gutenberg’s press shifted power to nation states. “That has held until now when it’s beginning to fray because of the power of our networks.” [BTW, I missed Randi Zuckerberg's interview. Sorry.]

Diplomacy has largely been a matter of white guys in white shirts and red ties talking with other white guys in white shirts and red ties, he says. Now we need citizen engagement in foreign policy. Alec segments this into gov’t to people, people to people, and people to gov’t.

Gov’t to people: E.g., Obama’s video on the Iranian new year posted straight to the Net, for Iranians. E.g., Obama’s speech pushed onto mobile phones.

People to gov’t: “We’re now looking at the potential of people to push gov’ts.” Here the US gov ‘t may not be the primary actor. E.g., the Moldova “twitter rev.” E.g., the No Mas Farc movement (a Facebook action) that has no charismatic leader but that mobilized 10M to march. “If Paul Revere were a modern day citizen, he wouldn’t have ridden down Main St. He would have just tweeted. And we wouldn’t have known his name. Everyone in our society has the power to be a new Paul Revere.” How can we engage the American public move our foreign policy forward?

People to people statecraft. “We’re just beginning to experiment with this in the State Dept.” E.g., they were about to write a check for $110M for relief in NW Pakistan. A jr staff person suggested making an SMS shortcode that would send $5 to the UN PakistabnRelif agency. She had the idea on Thurs morning, Thurs afternoon Clinton heard about it [which probably means that Alec told her about it], and a few days later it was announced from the White House.

He says that Hillary Clinton has been pushing on this hard, and recognizes that it’s a messy space in which there’s need for room for failure.

Micah: How does this related to hard power?
AR: Over the past 8 yrs, defense has been far too much the way we engage around he world. We need to reaffirm the centrality of the other two pillars: development and diplomacy.

Q: What is the role of the US gov’t is supporting digital activists around the world?
AR: This admin recognizes there are digital activists. We can’t just thrust them into war zones. Sect’y Clinton is supporting grassroots civil society orgs around the world so that they can integrate digital tools into their work.
RF: Officials around the world are on Facebook, not always because they like openness, but because it lets people become fans.

Q: How do you weed out hate speech?
RF: Our terms of service pretty clearly define what hate speech is — it incites violence — and those groups come down pretty quickly as we hear of them. Controversial groups who are not inciting hate and bviolence are left up.

Q: To the extent that there are flashmobs, are there any that you need to be tapped down?
AR: We aren’t always going to agree with the actions that are taken. Sometimes our enemies are going to do things we don’t like. That’s what happens on a participatory, open network. [Tags: ]

Be the first to comment »

[pdf09] Todd Herman – A conservative in Oz

NOTE: Live-blogging. Getting things wrong. Missing points. Omitting key information. Introducing artificial choppiness. Over-emphasizing small matters. Paraphrasing badly. Not running a spellpchecker. Mangling other people’s ideas and words. POSTED WITHOUT BEING REREAD You are warned, people.

Todd Herman is a conservative who wants his team to be using the new tools better. Conservatives need to understand the rules of engagement better. The ecosystem favors Obama. How is that working and how can Conservatives work it? “Chairman Steele said ‘Take the lid off.” What would you do if you were me?” E.g., he’s excited by Vivek Kundra’s announcement and wants to bring the data to his site where Republicans can comb it for info. But how open should a political be? How open can it be? “Can a political party really be open?” “Can we be as open as Twitter? I would love it if we could.”

He points to a 1997 Republican site: A virtual town. Very 1997-cool. USAToday rated it as more fun than the Disney site. The Republicans “have been here before. There’s nothing genetically stopping us from using them.” He shouts out to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saul_Alinsky.

Q: How do you envision this change in tech with the underlying philosophical approaches changing the Rep party?
A: I love that our elected leaders can have pretty direct communication with the voters. I think it’s changing that way. But we need to change the rules of engagement, e.g., away from gotcha.

Q: [jay rosen] Cognitive dissonance while listening to you: You seem to address us as if you didn’t know that the Bush admin had an opacity agenda. E.g., Ashcroft’s 2001 memo saying err on the side of not honoring FOIA requests. So, I’d think the Reps should be asking why it was in favor of opacity.
A: It’s a long conversation. Todd points to some instances of the Obama admin’s lack of transparency. “I’d gladly buy you dinner to have a long conversation about it…”
Jay: Good enough! Where are we going?

You picked on DemocraticUnderground, but missed FreeRepublic. But you asked us socratically what we would do if we were you. What would you do if you were us and saw the way the REpublicans manipulated voter roles?
A: I don’t accept the premise, but my question goes both way.

[Great to have a conservative speaking. IMO, it'd would have been better if he hadn't used it as a way to address his political grievances, and instead solely focused on the issues of tech, politics, governance where we genuinely share interests. But, that's just me.]

[Tags: ]

Be the first to comment »

[pdf09] Vivek Kundra and Macon Phillips … now with extra Craig!

NOTE: Live-blogging. Getting things wrong. Missing points. Omitting key information. Introducing artificial choppiness. Over-emphasizing small matters. Paraphrasing badly. Not running a spellpchecker. Mangling other people’s ideas and words. POSTED WITHOUT BEING REREAD. You are warned, people.

Craig Newmark: “It’s bigger than us and it feels pretty good.” Craig says he likes calling if grassroots democracy. Policy wonks, nerds, and pragmatists working together. Craig says we should be talking about “nonks” (= nerds + wonks). He salutes the first “nerd administration.”

Craig introduces Vivek Kundra (chief information officer) and Macon Phillips (White House new media director). Vivek makes an announcement. “The federal gov’t spends $70B on info tech” but the initiatives freqwuently fail. E.g., the Census’ ridiculous handheld that has failed, so now we’re back to using paper. [ACK!] Vivek announces the IT Dashboard it.usaspending.gov. It builds on data.gov. It shows provides real-time visibility into your tax dollars. You can share the data, embed it, drill down into it, show you the phto fo the CIO responsible, contact her or him directly, provide feedback, look at the perfomance metrics viewed against theactual performance, who the contractors are. You can get the data itself in mashable form, and you can provide any set of data you pull together as an RSS feed.

He shows tools for comparing and spotting trends; it’s a little like WolframAlpha for gov’t data. “We’re launching a platform that will allow us to tap into some of the best ideas and best thinking.” “We look forward to iterating on this. We’ve launched it in beta.”

[This is the type of big, visible success the CIO needs. Fantastic. He gets, and deserves, a standing ovation.]

Macon Phillips begins by thanking the audience for its work. He asks for more feedback on the White House’s Web 2.0 projects.

Q: [esther dyson] How are you going to aggregate the feedback?
VK: It goes to the relevant CIOs and to me. Macon and I are looking at how we can use media to amplify it and getting it directly to the people making decisions.

Q: IS there a danger in hiring tech people to make tech policy?
VK: The fed gov’t is made up of 4M people and 10,000 systems. It’s great to have access to some of the brightest minds in tech policy. Those who are coming to serve in the interest of their country is extremely people. The percentage of people from the tech industry is a small percentage.
MO: We’re bringing in people who can help us with processes, help us make gov’t more transparent.

Q: 18K computer educators are meeting now, discussing how to teach students to do data mashups, etc. Are you trying to figure out a way to allow educators and students to work with your data?
VK: Yes, students can now solve actual problems. But it’s not just teachers and students. Think about the explosion of research when the genome was made public. Also, when GIS data was made public. We’re building platformsWe’re looking at X-prizes to stimulate innovation.

Q: Tying in Stimulus and bailout funds?
VK: Yes. GAO data is already showing up. It took us 1.5 months to get to 100,000 feeds. We decided to launch with just a few so we could get feedback on what we’re doing.

Q: Is the new office of cybersecurity going to be exempt from transparency?
VK: No. They need internal data sharing, and I’m working with them on transparency.

VK: You want into in open formats, in as raw a form as possible. In its raw format, peole have the ability to slice and dice, and to innovate.

Q: What are the limits of transparency?
VK: We don’t want to harm national security. And we want gov’t officials to feel secure in their internal discussions.

Q: [andrew rasiej] Redefining “public” accesibility of documents as “searchable and accessible online”?
VK: As a principle, that makes a lot of sense. I want to caution on the reality, though. There are over 10,000 systems. The data lives in COBOL-based systems we have to get people out of retirement to help us. Petabytes of data. So, there’s an economic question in making those investments in going back through. So, looking forward we want to make sure the spirit of that definition of “public” is honored… [Tags: ]

Be the first to comment »

Next Page »