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Web 2.0 and the use in Public Sector-Fad Or Fiction?

Recently while attending the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) 2007 Annual Conference, the talk of Web 2.0 was circulating around the ballrooms creating a good amount of buzz. It's hard these days to read a Government IT publication without some mention of the increased use of Web 2.0, or sometimes referred to as Social Media. NASCIO's first session at the 2007 Annual Conference, "eGovernment 2.0: Serving Generation Next", featured speakers from State Government as well as the private sector exploring the use of Web 2.0 in State Governments to provide more information to the constituents in a timely manner. David Fletcher, Chief Technology Officer, from the State of Utah, has been ingrained in Web 2.0 for the last few years. Utah has been using XML and AJAX, Podcasts and Mashups, Blogs and Wiki's to evolve Utah's web portal from a very static HTML user interface to a highly interactive application centric portal.

Now, many of you might be asking yourself, what exactly is Web 2.0 and what does it entail. Wikipedia defines Web 2.0 as a "second generation of web-based communities and hosted services -- such as social-networking sites, wikis and folksonomies -- which aim to facilitate collaboration and sharing between users. Although the term suggests a new version of the World Wide Web, it does not refer to an update to any technical specifications, but to changes in the ways software developers and end-users use the web."

According to Tim O'Reilly, often credited as the Father of Web 2.0, states "Web 2.0 is the business revolution in the computer industry caused by the move to the internet as platform, and an attempt to understand the rules for success on that new platform."

Some great examples of Public Sector using Web 2.0 as platform:

  • Rhode Island's "media central" contains pages for blogs, podcasts, calendars, RSS feeds
  • Second Life: CDC, NASA, NOAA, DHS all have a presence in the 3DVirtual Environment know as Second Life. State Libraries have been popping up with Virtual Libraries, such as Nebraska, South Carolina and Kansas. Public Sectors are using this Social Media to get marketing campaigns out to Constituents, help in efforts of recruiting, as well as conducting research and development
  • GovITwiki- A Wiki that aims to answer questions surrounding the Federal Information Technology market

GovWin's take:

  • Web 2.0 is a reflection of the Millennial Generation, born between 1980 and 2000. They think differently; after all they've not known a world without cell phones, laptops, or wireless connectivity. They have different expectations and values, and they are just starting to enter the workforce. They assume a world that will be Web 2.0. For them, the question is: will government adapt to it by design or by default?
  • It is characterized by low entry barriers for communities, communication, and engagement based on shared content and shared tools, generally not framed or controlled by an owner.
  • It isn't a project or just a set of tools. It is a capability, another way to get work done. It is a philosophical shift that demands that government be willing to give up and/or share control over information. As a results, it can be a double-edged sword that allows self-organizing systems outside government control.

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