A couple of nights ago, I went to listen to Anil Dash, founder of Experts Labs in Washington, DC. The title of the talk intrigued me. How Dot.Gov is the new Dot.com.
Given my interest in Open Government and Transparency, I assumed Anil would talk about new business models and how the private sector is well positioned to create social and economic value from datasets that public bodies release. But I was entirely wrong. Although I believe strongly that clean and comparable datasets are an essential raw material for the visualization and creative community to create powerful citizen-facing apps, Anil's point was entirely different and more powerful.
The two-way or interactive web that surfaced around 2004 in the private sector was about a fundamentally new way of interacting with users. It provided businesses an opportunity to dialogue with customers and listen to users' comments, needs, and feedback in much more efficient ways.
Has that day come for Governance? Through data.gov and recovery.gov in the U.S., public agencies are able to not only broadcast information to citizens but also listen to what they have to say. What are their priorities, pain points, and the issues they care most about? How would they go about solving pressing policy problems and how do they think politicians and policy makers are doing?
Is this a new day for social accountability, data sharing, and collaborative governance? I'm not sure where this will go, but I can't help but think that public and international institutions should take notice. Open Data is not just about sharing what you know but listening to what people have to say about it, seeking their feedback, and ultimately making better decisions.
Imagine a day when our most difficult and seemingly intractable social problems are solved not by the smartest person in the room but by a group of concerned and engaged citizens who engage with a policy maker to make the best decision possible.
Welcome to Dot.Gov 2.0.