Time for real simple government?

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As I have written in the past, perhaps the greatest appeal of Web 2.0 when it comes to the development sector is its potential to relieve the various actors - from donors to project staff in the field - of cumbersome processes that distract from the goal of achieving impact on the ground. "Real simple" is perhaps the best slogan for Development 2.0.

I therefore loved two examples from the UK government I came across recently (hat tip: Dan McQuillan)  that have the same "real simple" flavour to it: (virtually) no cost, easy to deploy solutions that can make information easier to access for interested citizens:

  • The Cabinet Office created a dashboard "to help track online discussion about the UK government's use of open source and open standards" using (free) news aggregator Netvibes.
  • The Department for Innovation, Universities & Skills runs a social media sandbox that lists over 100 examples of social media innovation in the public sector. The list is generated using the social bookmaking website Delicious.

Granted, both are niche applications that will appeal to a very small audience, but they are illustrative of the fact that an enterpreneurial, Web 2.0 savvy public servant can now make information gathering "real simple" for interested audiences with very little effort. Not a bad proposition for a sector that seems to be keen to change its image through social media (see this interesting example from the US. Hat tip: Sameer Vasta).

An insight into why "real simple government" can make a dramatic difference is provided by an interesting report from the UK's Improvement and Development Agency for local government that looks at citizens' information needs when making complex decisions (such as, for example, choosing a school or navigating the medical care process). Designed as a tool for policy makers to provide answers to their audiences' needs, the report recommendations dealing with information provision read like a Cluetrain Manifesto for Government 2.0 (too bad I missed the discussion at the Government 2.0 camp last weekend). Real simple government can be a way to help reduce the anxiety associated with complex decisions.

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