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4/3/2009
06:43 PM
Thomas Claburn
Thomas Claburn
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Government 2.0

The concept of openness is integral to the definition of Web 2.0 as a set of principles, but until recently, the largest source of information that one would want to be open -- the government -- wasn't particularly interested in openness.

The concept of openness is integral to the definition of Web 2.0 as a set of principles, but until recently, the largest source of information that one would want to be open -- the government -- wasn't particularly interested in openness.That has changed with the change of administrations, though it's not quite so simple. Projects like Virtual Alabama -- a crisis management map made with Google Earth that overlays state imagery and infrastructure data -- began in late 2005 in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

But even if openness isn't a quality that the Obama administration can own or brand, like "change.gov," it's nonetheless more meaningful for government agencies than ever before. In part that's because President Obama pledged explicitly that his administration "is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government."

And in part it's because selling openness to the government pays better than selling openness to consumers. (What Web company doesn't want to get paid these days?)

It's also partly due to the efforts of organizations like the Sunlight Foundation.

Anyway, at the Web 2.0 Expo on Friday, Andrew McLaughlin, director of global public policy for Google, presented an overview of Government 2.0 and held up Virtual Alabama as an example of what is possible. (That's Government 2.0 as government data presented to the public by Web 2.0 technology rather than Government 2.0, the conference.)

He also talked about efforts by the Washington, D.C. city government to make data available to its citizens.

It was inspiring, because information is the oxygen of democracy. Being able to follow the tweets and blog posts of everyone and his neighbor may be occasionally enlightening or diverting. But being able to map city construction projects, campaign contributions, and crimes is far more meaningful to civic life.

Government 2.0 can't happen soon enough.

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