Governments can use technology in a simple yet powerful way: just to show that they care. The technology implementation happening under the umbrella of "Government 2.0" needs to be accompanied by the equally important "2.0" attitude of caring.
Government 2.0 evokes visions of efficiency, effectiveness, technology and transparency. In its implementation, it has been updated computer systems, tweets, Facebook pages, blogs, user-generated features and new user-friendly websites. Yet, underlying the technology changes, Government 2.0 is really just about one thing: Government, whether an agency or individual legislator, seeming like it gives a ****.
Last week at SXSW, wine entrepreneur and social media evangelist Gary Vaynerchuk (@garyvee) gave a talk that may as well have been entitled, "The Power of Caring." Throughout the talk, though addressing social media and the private sector world, Vaynerchuk kept driving home one point: "People are massively underestimating caring."
People are, and this is something certainly overlooked and underestimated in the government space. Concerns over launching "the website" that seems the most citizen-friendly cannot give way to simple interactions and reciprocity. Angst with all things government seems to be ever present. @garyvee's advice is spot on: "Your product will have a problem if you don't give a f**k." Your government, whether you are a city council, a planning commission or a State Senate, will start to have serious problems if you do not seem responsive and you do not care.
The attitude to accompany the technology is simple. It is just a matter of letting people know you are there, listening and caring about what they have to say, whether it be about their communities, statewide policies or national issues. Civic iPhone applications like SeeClickFix and CitySourced work because their users feel like the city government actually cares when that pothole finally gets filled. They are not magic; they just give citizens the validation that they matter and their actions count. The application itself is not what transforms the citizen experience, rather, it is the physical act of the government itself that comes as a result from the data collected by the application.
Caring comes first and is effectuated by technology, not the other way around. Caring has its rewards: @replies from a city council member to a city resident count. A real email response from a state legislator gives a citizen a sense of connectivity with the process and accomplishment. People just want to know that someone in government cares.
Sometimes, it is not about some radical technological overhaul of the entire system. It is not the power of technology, but the power of caring. People are simply tired of having information and agendas broadcast at them. They want to talk, even if just by tweet.
Candidates, you want a winning November election strategy? Act like you give a ****.