Social Government

We’re a Year Old

I just wanted to write a quick note to let everyone know that we’re celebrating our first birthday.

While I have no special celebrations, toasts, cakes or melodramatic speeches planned, I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who has supported this site.

Special thanks goes out to our current contributors, Chris Golden and Nick Troiano as well as our former contributor Alexander Muir.

And a thank you to our readers, especially the ones who actively tweet our links and comment on posts here.

Here’s to another great year. Please help me make this blog even better for 2010.

—Ethan

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White House Strives for New Forms of Engagement with State of the Union

When the President addresses Congress tonight on the State of the Union, the American people have one more way they can tune in to listen live. Last week, the White House announced the launch of an application with streaming video for Apple’s iPhone and iPod touch. The application also features updates from the White House blog, the latest photos from the Administration’s Flickr album and archived video of the ongoing series “Inside the White House.” White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs even made a short video saying that his daily press briefings will be streamed live and watchable on the free application, which is available for download in the iTunes Music Store.

Most presidential events and White House briefings are now streamed at whitehouse.gov/live — allowing the public to watch Administration events live and in their entirety. The addition of the streaming video application could drastically expand the potential reach of the Administration’s message and connectivity to the average citizen, making it a powerful political tool.

The State of the Union Address tonight will also be watchable on the White House Facebook application, where users will be able to post comments in real time and engage with others on Facebook.

On its surface, advocates of open and transparent government should applaud these moves — which show how a tech-savvy administration is using innovative technology to open the doors of the White House. However, users should understand where the content is coming from. Both the White House Web site and its applications are streaming content that is being produced by the White House, which ultimately is in control over which events are broadcast and by what methods they are accessible. There is no oversight or C-SPAN-like public access filter. That said, one would suspect that any attempts to manipulate media messages would not go unnoticed, given the increasing size and engagement of the audience.

Also this week, the White House and YouTube announced a partnership, Citizen Tube, where the public is invited to submit questions for the President via video and, next week, the President will respond, via YouTube, to answer them. Users will be able to vote on favorite questions using Google Moderator, according to the site. YouTube will also be live-streaming the State of the Union Address tonight.

Finally, WhiteHouse.gov released a series of short video statements from ever member of the Obama cabinet giving an update on the work of their department- the longest video is 90 seconds. The “Cabinet Reporting to You” videos are a first of its kind.

With these new ways of watching and interacting with the White House and the President, the administration is setting a high standard for engagement in its first State of the Union Address.

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Microsoft Executive Sees ‘Cloudy’ Future for Government Computing

The future of the Internet is in the cloud, and it has implications for every sector of our society, especially government and business.

On Wednesday, Jan. 20, the Brookings Institution hosted a discussion on cloud computing including a keynote address from Brad Smith, senior vice president and general counsel of Microsoft Corp. Smith unveiled a policy proposal from Microsoft, which urged Congress to consider new legislation to regulate the cloud. Read the rest of this entry »

Open Government Workshop Brings Promising Ideas

Transparency. Public Participation. Collaboration.

They sound great in principle. As models, they are ideals that are worthy and noble to subscribe to. But goals are different than action steps. What we “want” is different from what we “have.” Now consider that the path to getting “there” is not laid out (or funded) and the scene will be set to explain the second Open Government Directive Workshop series that took place Monday at the U.S. Department of Transportation.

About 175 people from across government, including agencies as diverse as the Interior and State Departments, met in a day designed to mimic the mindset behind the President’s Open Government Directive: an open, transparent and collaborative daylong working session, where best practices were exchanged, relationships formed and new ideas proposed. Read the rest of this entry »

Social Government Tweets OpenGov Working Series

Tomorrow (Jan. 11), the Open Government Directive Working Series, an inter-agency collaborative event at the Department of Transportation, will take place in Washington. The purpose of the series is to lead to a successful implementation of the Open Government Directive, and to develop momentum behind it. At the end of the working series, existing and effective practices will be combined into an OpenGov Playbook.

Ten presentations will be made by federal agencies engaged in open government best practices and there will be over three hours of small group discussions and dialogue.

Social Government is proud to be the official Twitter partner of tomorrow’s workshop. Throughout the day, tune in to our Twitter feed, @socialgovt, for insight and analysis from the conference. I will be attending and will be following the conference for us on the blog.

Be sure to check out this post: “Why Open Government Is Important.”

Census Bureau Counts on Social Media in 2010

The U.S. Census Bureau kicked off a nationwide campaign this week to raise awareness about our Constitutionally-mandated, decennial headcount. Much is at stake over the next few months through the census process: from determining proportional representation in Congress to guiding federal funding (some $3 trillion over a 10-year period). And the success of the census, as it always has, will ultimately hinge on public participation. That’s why the Bureau is investing $300 million in a new nationwide tour and ad campaign.

The Los Angeles Times reports:

“The road tour, billed as the largest civic outreach campaign in the bureau’s history, features 13 vans that will bring census information and interactive displays across 150,000 miles for 1,547 days with 800 publicity stops at parades, festivals and such major sporting events as the Super Bowl and NCAA Final Four basketball tournament.”

This is a great opportunity for the Census Bureau to leverage new Web 2.0 technologies in its outreach (particularly to help avoid under counts, as one organization pro-actively points out). The Times explains that Bureau is “bringing Twitter, Facebook and other 21st-century technology to the centuries-old exercise.” Each vehicle of the tour, according to a press release, will have its own Twitter handle and users can “track the tour online as it happens and through daily social media postings.” That sounds great.

Read the rest of this entry »

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New Year, New Predictions

Without a doubt, lots of (read: unprecedented) progress was made in the government 2.0 world in 2009. We saw the first federal CIO and CTOs appointed, the launch of Apps.gov and even the White House embracing the open source Drupal content management system for their Web site.

At this pace, 2010 will be an even better year. This year is a major election year, with the entire House of Representatives and a third of the Senate up for election. In addition, 37 states and two territories will hold gubernatorial elections. This blog hopes to pay close attention to the government 2.0 promises made by candidates. Of course, our coverage will remain nonpartisan and unbiased.

So with an exciting year ahead of us, here are some predictions, in no particular order. Read the rest of this entry »

Recovering the Recovery Funds

It’s the end of September…do you know where your Recovery funds are? If not, you can easily track them using the newly re-launched Recovery.gov. The site, which aims to track funds allocated under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, now boasts interactive maps, detailed graphs and charts and an easy-to-use layout.

recoverygov

A notable feature is an interactive map allowing you to identify specific locations where contracts, grants and loans are allocated. Just enter your ZIP code under the U.S. graphic on the home page and a map of your region will show the names of Recovery Act fund recipients in your area. You can even read descriptions of specific projects the funds are intended to support (for example, click here to see a map of projects in the Northwest D.C. area).

Another feature on the home page allows you to search for projects by agency, state, monetary amount and the type of award.

Charts on the site also rank allocations per agency or state/territories.

Earl E. Devaney, chairman of the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, said the Web site intends to empower individuals to monitor projects in their area and report any suspected abuse or waste of funds. A red tab on the top right corner of the home page allows visitors to submit complaints electronically. A fraud hotline, fax number and mailing address are also listed.

“You’ll be our first line of defense against those who would abuse this money,” Devaney said in a video posted on the Web site.

The re-launch is in anticipation of the first quarterly deadline for spending reports from all grants, loans and contracts. Recovery.gov will post all data from federal contracts by Oct.15. Spending data from states and other recipients will be posted by Oct. 30. The quarterly process will be repeated until the entire $787 billion in Recovery funds have been spent, Devaney said in the video.

A timeline of actions taken under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 are listed here.

More information on the Act and Recovery.gov can be read here.

Please welcome Social Government’s newest contributor, Patricio Chile. Chile is a freelance writer and Web consultant currently based in Washington. Previously, he held positions at the USC Network Culture Project and at Third Sector Magazine in the United Kingdom. Chile is a 2009 graduate of American University, double majoring in Communication and Political Science.

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