Government - Written by Thomas Gegenhuber on Monday, June 21, 2010 11:44 - 6 Comments
Open Government: It’s all about timing.
Open Government is a growing field. The Obama Administration is taking the lead in the attempt to harness the wisdom of the crowd. But small cities like the City of Manor are shining with new innovations. All around the world, governments of all levels (local, provincial, federal) have started several promising initiatives–far too many to list here. In a few years, challenges and prizes, Open Data, government JAMs and other instruments of policy generation through crowdsourcing will be common.
When should we start?
The question for a government is: When should we start with an Open Government Initiative? We have learnt from the “Adoption Lifecycle” that it takes some time for citizens to adapt and appreciate these new instruments. In the beginning, citizens might wonder if Open Government instruments are really useful. I believe that the best time to launch an Open Government initiative is at the start of each legislative period. I created the following timetable for Open Government projects:
Phase 0: You can’t start an Open Government initiative at the beginning of your legislative period if you haven’t put some thought into it beforehand. For example, President Obama signed the Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government on his first day in Office. This is because his new administration had an Open Government strategy planned out before he was even in power.
Phase 1: Secure the approval of the legislative and support from key actors within the bureaucracy. Start the project as a “Beta” Version, which basically tells people: the government is trying out something new, so we can’t expect it to be perfect.
Phase 2: Many experiments in this stage will fail—that’s okay. Stay flexible. Launch several small projects. Include feedback loops in the prototyping process. Use cheap, throwaway technology and avoid rigid lock-in tied to technology integration and costly licensing agreements. Small successes in this phase will help you get more support for your Open Government project. In the case of Open Data, you might think of starting a contest to ignite the creativity of tech-savvy citizens. A showcase example for an application contest is Apps for Democracy. Also explore what other governments are doing.
Phase 3: Evaluate your prototypes and learn from your mistakes. Iterate early and often and adapt projects accordingly.
Phase 4: Popularize innovative solutions that have emerged by putting money and resources behind them. From the “Adoption Lifecycle” perspective this is the step between early adopters and early majority.
Phase 5: Leverage your achievements for your election campaign. Usually politicians don’t get elected for what they have done in the past, they get elected for what they promise to achieve in the future. However, if you have achieved nothing in your legislative period, it is difficult to convince your constituents that you are able to shape the future.
Bonus Phase: When you get reelected you can strengthen and deepen your Open Government initiatives.
For me, this would be the perfect game plan to implement Open Government. This does not mean you cannot start Open Government initiatives when you are in the middle of your term. It’s probably better to start one, then to do nothing at all; however in order to sustain Open Government, initiatives will have to last more than one four-year term.
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