The Government 2.0 scene is in a buzz, CIO conferences and „gov camps“ are proliferating, and more and more governmental entities can be found on Twitter and other „cool“ social networks. That is nice and reflects a general willingness to embrace technical progress to some degree, but it falls short of the actual possibilities and promises that ICT has to offer.
One of the much heralded novelties of the „web 2.0“ age were wikis. Still today, the Wikipedia project and its offshoots are cited as the most successful forms of crowd-sourcing and user-generated content (even though the project’s governance structures are everything but democratic or bottom-up and only a tiny percentage of its users actually produce content). Still, sometimes I have the impression the only thing „2.0“ that is actually catching on in the public sector are applications that are fairly easy to implement, and not connected to too much effort. Setting up a Twitter account takes about a minute of time, content can be fed to it automatically from RSS feeds, checking it once or twice a day probably is sufficient for most agencies. Other things can be out-sourced (and often rightly so), such as the development of mobile applications, or the management of e-participation platforms. What is missing, is knowledge management, and all its promise for sustainable inter- and intra-agency empowerment and progress.
„Governments need more wikis“ is not entirely what I am going for here, but it is puzzling that amid all the Government 2.0 buzz, the debate about how knowledge cane be most effectively bundled and harnessed, has largely quieted down. All the knowledge in an organization is usually hidden in a „garden salad“ of proprietary documents on hard drives, hard copy folders in dusty shelves, the brains of under-used personnel or the horribly inaccessible web sites. Both internal and external wiki-based knowledge platforms would be game changers. Not only could public sector entities gradually and unrestrictedly build up easy-to-access hubs for knowledge (bringing with it a lowering of cost, freeing up of physical and digital space, empowerment of employees, etc.), with semantic technologies and the low cost of storage, much knowledge could also easily be provided to the public (creating trust through transparency) that might not be suitable for complicated integration into regular „home pages“.
The argument in favor of better knowledge management is hard to make, as its benefits are hard to measure, and especially (and that’s my point), and especially because in the end it is hard work. Such knowledge hubs need to be created. That is a slow process, and its effects might not show in months or years. Politicians don’t think long-term (that’s only one of their shortcomings), but public administrators should know better. Setting up such platforms requires little work or financial resources, so it is hard to understand why one would not be interested in taking a step toward more organizational sustainability. Hand books, tutorials, memos, transcripts, financial data, human resources data, planning documents, why lock all that away into inaccessible files and folders, when it could be at the fingertips of your employees?
I will be back with a blog entry on…. governmental blogging.