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Government 2.0 from Fad to Fashion, Figure to Ground


December 8, 2009

Government 2.0 is not a fad, according to a recent article in Federal Government Weekly. “Although the true value of Government 2.0 has yet to be measured or even fully imagined, there will be no turning back the clock to a previous era.” Yet, many observers believe that the essence of government will not change: the culture of expertise will not change to a culture of participation. One reaction from my presentation at the Financial Management Institute of Canada: public servants won’t change. Yet, participants at the ICGFM conference agreed that Government 2.0 will help transform government.

Government 2.0 has become fashionable!

According to the FCW article, “a core group of government workers have been walking the walk of Government 2.0 for several years but now they are receiving important support and official sanction.”  This observation has been confirmed in conversations, presentations and articles. Government 2.0 has entered the “technology adoption cycle”.  Experimentation is exposing good Government 2.0 practices. What is the next stage?

From Figure to Ground

Marshall McLuhan identified the problem decades ago: humans often fail to see what is important about new technology. We often identify things that are not important as important. “Figure” is what is important – the characteristics that represent change. “Ground” is everything else. He pointed out that everything moves from figure to ground, whether it is print, radio or word processing.

Government 2.0 is clearly “figure” because it represents change.  10 years from now, Government 2.0 will be common place. Public servants won’t be talking about the security or cultural issues about Government 2.0. There will be no discussion of the ROI of Government 2.0 – just like there is little discussion of the ROI of mobile telephones. Government 2.0 will be. Government 2.0 will “go to ground.”  Participation and collaboration will be pervasive. Public servants will wonder how jobs could be done any other way – similar to today when we wonder how we survived without fax machines and the Internet.

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Doug Hadden

Doug Hadden

Executive Vice President, Innovation at FreeBalance
Doug is responsible for identifying new global markets, new technologies and trends, and new and enhanced internal processes. Doug leads a cross-functional international team that is responsible for developing product prototypes and innovative go-to-market strategies.

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