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Gov 2.0 Summit Brings Government and Business Together for a Brainstorm

By Ed O'Keefe

Did you get your Gov 2.0 Summit invite?

About 600 invited guests from the worlds of academia, business, nonprofit, media, technology and government will gather Wednesday and Thursday at the Grand Hyatt in Washington. Organizers say it is the first major meeting with government leaders eager to quickly adapt the online strategies used by President Obama during last year’s campaign to governing and policy.

Gov 2.0 Summit

“We want to make some heroes of the people inside government who are doing innovative things. We want to teach best practices, and we want to learn,” said tech pioneer Tim O’Reilly, the founder of computer book publishing company O’Reilly Media. He is widely credited with coining the term Web 2.0, the period of Internet growth and innovation that spawned online heavyweights Facebook, Google, Twitter and YouTube, or the government-centric social media site GovLoop.

Gov 2.0 draws its inspiration from Web 2.0 and has been “bubbling along at a certain level for many years,” O’Reilly said. The concept really took off last year after then-candidate Barack Obama effectively exploited online tools and strategy to raise hundreds of millions of dollars and to organize his millions of supporters. Thousands of rank-and-file government managers and employees already using Web 2.0 technologies quickly understood the need to adapt those technologies to the actual work of governing and have embraced the trend. (The Eye tracks dozens of active government employees, contractors and other tech experts who discuss the issue everyday online in several ways. He also met several of them at the recent OGI Conference.)

But Gov 2.0 isn't just about government using social media or adapting Web services to government Web sites, O'Reilly said. He explained it further by using a lengthy but important analogy:

Most deeply, [Gov 2.0 is] about rethinking how government can become a platform. The analogy I’ve been using is the iPhone. If you look at the way most smartphones have worked in the past, it looks like the way government procurement works. You have a central planning group that decides about applications and come up with partnerships.
But then along comes Apple and they say we’re going to turn the phone into a platform. We’re going to create a certain number of applications with core functionality and manage the process, but we’re going to let anybody build an application. Within a year, they had 50,000 applications and now have closer to 80,000 with 3,000 new ones each week.
Isn’t that a wonderful image for how government needs to rethink their activity?

Put another way, the government needs to do with the Internet what it did by building the interstate highway system or launching military satellites. The highways allowed private companies to develop the American suburbs and to build and sell more automobiles. Sharing the mapping information gathered by military satellites enabled private companies to develop automotive GPS devices or Google Maps. Similarly, providing access to government information and services online will lead to the development of all sorts of new services and products.

Yes, it's a lofty and slightly pie-in-the-sky concept, but many in the academic, business, nonprofit, technology and government communities agree this week's conversations are long overdue.

Invited speakers include frequent Twitterer Rep. John Culberson (R-Tex.), White House Director of New Media Macon Phillips, Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra, Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra and FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski.

Uninvited mere mortals can follow the summit on its Web site or #gov20 on Twitter.

(Full disclosure: The Washington Post and sister site WhoRunsGov are serving as two of the summit's several media sponsors. This had no impact on The Eye's decision to write about the conference, which he's known about for months.)

By Ed O'Keefe  | September 8, 2009; 1:45 PM ET
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