The time to embrace Government 3.0 is now. Social networks are becoming more ubiquitous and relevant every day. It is necessary to incorporate this channel into your citizen experience planning, processes and open government toolkit.
I hadn’t been intending to implement Government 3.0 any time soon, but perhaps I have been missing something important. I am not convinced that we have completely finished Government 1.0, and I am pretty confident that we remain some way short of Government 2.0.
But the broader point is that this is an analogy beyond its breaking point. That’s partly because it was always a bit shaky – a metaphor (government x.0) sitting on top of a metaphor (web x.0) loosely related to an underlying concept (software upgrades). How far is the underlying concept a useful way of thinking about radical change in long established organisations? I don’t know – it’s not the kind of question which has a right answer – but I am pretty sure that at least as much is being obscured as illuminated.
There are two reasons for that. The first is that it often doesn’t work for software any more (and, delightfully, it works least for web 2.0+ software), the second is that it never really worked for government – or indeed for organisational change more generally.
Take Amazon as an example (chosen only because I wrote about their design change a couple of years ago in a way which illustrates the point). They recognisably stay the same and at the same time are constantly changing. Is there a definable point when they moved from web 1.0 to web 2.0? Will we be able to tell when they move to web 3.0? I doubt it. Even if we can, it will be because we are thinking about the technical capability of the site. But from the perspective of the user’s experience of Amazon, different patterns of usage exist simultaneously and blur into each other over time.
And what about government in all this. Did government become 2.0 when Downing Street opened up on twitter? When the first government site accepted user comments? When the first minister did a webchat on Netmums? Quite clearly, that’s the wrong kind of question. Most people’s experience of most of government is resolutely 0.0; some people’s experience of some of government allows them to celebrate the Prime Minister’s use of the phrase ‘semantic web’ in a speech.
Governments are not websites or software releases. They change in slow and sometimes mysterious ways. Getting stuck on a model of change which doesn’t really work doesn’t help us see and understand the change which is happening – or the change we want to promote and accelerate.
I am making slightly heavy weather of all of this, and probably setting myself up for accusations of being a po-faced bureaucrat. But if that’s what being reluctant to fall into the embrace of Government 3.0 makes me, so be it.