Help wanted: Stories for Government 2.0
Ed Parsons of Google Europe gave the Taskforce an excellent presentation last Friday and it began with a telling example. In the nineteenth century the epidemiologist John Snow mapped the places in London where there had been incidents of Cholera. An opponent of the ‘miasma’ theory which held that cholera spread by people breathing foul air, his map demonstrated pretty powerfully that the cholera outbreak in Soho was related to a single water outlet on was able to argue convincingly that the source of the outbreak as the public water pump on Broad Street (which Wikipedia helpfully informs us is now Broadwick Street).
The anecdote appealed to me because it made the point that the information agenda is ageless – information has been improving our lives for a very long time. The example also shows how much information improves our lives, not just the bottom line. And it shows how setting information out in some new way can ‘unlock’ its worth to us. Snow’s 19th century equivalent of a ‘mashup’ gave us eyes to ’see’ the evidence in a powerful new way. It’s stories like this that will be crucial for getting our message across.
I can think of plenty of examples like this, but I wanted to ask you guys if you can give us your favourite examples. We’re after examples where ‘mash-ups’ or other Web 2.0 phenomena have made a big difference to some aspect of economic and social life.
There’s also what we’ve called ‘online engagement’. I’ve already used the example of the National Library’s use of online volunteers to correct digitised newspapers. I think such examples could be taken much further, with pathways to involve the best of such volunteers who were well disposed to the idea to greater levels of involvement, including in a deliberative as well as a ‘service provision’ capacity. But at least in the case of the NLA so far, that’s hypothetical. Who has taken this further and how?
Another example that’s often mentioned is the way the NZ Police used a pubic public wiki to help refine their new Police Act. It’s a good story, and good on them for doing it, but in fact when talking to the people there, its motive was a ‘marketing’ one, of getting the story of the consultation out there – and it succeeded brilliantly – all the way to the New York Times. But the public deliberation on the wiki did not lead to a substantial number of refinements to the Act.
So where are some better examples of the potential for online engagement to improve the outcomes of government service delivery and policy making?
Anyway, I’d really appreciate as many compelling examples of Government 2.0 making a difference as you can provide.
(I wonder if there are any stories which can be told in some kind of repeated form – “before Government 2.0 this agency did that with this effect, but now it does this with much better effects”.)