Some days, it seem like there are as many definitions for Gov 2.0 as there are people. Tim O'Reilly says Gov 2.0 is all about the platform. In many ways, Gov 2.0 could be usefully described as putting government in your hands. And in three weeks, people will come from all around the world to learn more about what's happening in the crucible of people, technology and government at the Gov 2.0 Summit in Washington.
I'm looking forward to the event and have been enjoying writing about many of its constituencies in the Gov 2.0 section of O'Reilly Radar, ReadWriteWeb, Mashable or here at the The Huffington Post.
As I've previously observed in writing about language, government 2.0, jargon and technology, I believe the term should be defined primarily by its utility to helping citizens or agencies solve problems, either for individuals or the commons. Defining it in gauzy paeans or evangelizing world-shaking paradigm shifts from the embrace of social media by politicians isn't helpful on that level. That's particularly when they're broadcasting, not having conversations that result in more agile government.
Earlier this morning, I was reminded again of the history of the movement in the United States when, through serendipity, I ended up watching the first few minutes of Tim O'Reilly's webcast, "What is Gov 2.0?" I participated in the webcast when it premiered this spring but was struck again by a particular vignette:
The first person who really put Gov 2.0 on my radar was Carl Malamud. Carl is really the father of this movement in so many ways. Back in 1993, that's pretty darn early in the history of the World Wide Web, he put the SEC online.
He got a small planning grant from the National Science Foundation, which he used to actually license the data, which at that point the SEC was licensing to big companies.
He got some servers from Eric Schmidt, who was the chief technology at Sun. And he basically put all this data he'd gotten from the SEC online, and he operated that for something like two years, and then he donated it to the federal government.
Carl's idea was that it really mattered for the public to have access to SEC data.
He still does.
Just look at PublicResource.org, which is dedicated to making information more accessible. Consider his years of working towards Law.gov, which would provide access to the raw materials of our democracy.
For even more back story, read more about his work as "Washington's I.T. Guy" in the American Prospect.
Here's what the SEC wrote about the effort in 1996.
The Commission would like to extend its appreciation to Carl Malamud and Brad Burdick of Internet Multicasting Service. We would also like to express our thanks to Ajit Kambil and Mark Ginsburg of New York University, Stern School (http://edgar.stern.nyu.edu). Operating under a grant from the National Science Foundation for the past two years, IMS/NYU have been providing the EDGAR database to the public via the Internet as a pilot program. It has been an unquestioned success and has provided a significant public service. After the grant came to an end on October 1, 1995, the SEC decided to continue making the vast EDGAR database available to the public from an SEC facility. In addition to the EDGAR data, the Commission has also made available numerous investor guides, Commission reports, and other securities-related information. Much more will evolve from this initial service in the coming months.
I found it notable to be reminded that Malamud was supported by the future CEO of Google in getting the SEC online. That's the sort of public-private partnership that has substance beyond a buzzword, like his FedFlix effort to digitize films and videos produced by the government,
If you're interested in Gov 2.0 and open government, the entire webcast with Tim is about 51 minutes long but well worth the time.
If you have some time, I highly recommend it for perspective on the history of Gov 2.0 and insight into what could be possible in the future.