Open Government: “For the People, BY the People”


As DC prepared for what is being called a late-winter “Snowquester” storm, a couple hundred business leaders from the Government and IT industry walked to the Marriott at Metro Center in sunny, soon-to-be 50° weather. We all gathered there to attend the Alfresco Content.Gov Conference. The conference showcased how the open platform for mission-critical content management and collaboration from Alfresco could be utilized by the Public Sector to achieve transparency, efficiency, and open collaboration.

Overall, I am sad to say, the conference was a snoozefest; however, the keynote from Beth Noveck, the first US Deputy Chief of Technology, was truly inspired. Talking at the comfortable top speed of a New Yorker, and with the enthusiasm of a teenage girl getting her first smartphone (allegory told by Bill Goodson), Noveck spoke verbosely about the future ideal of an open government. She began by assuring the crowd that “open government” does not mean a lessening in national security or opening borders, but rather the use of technology to provide innovative, crowd-sourced, solutions to national issues.

Government was set up “for the people, by the people.” Noveck illustrated this evolution of an Open Government thusly:

“During John Quincy Adams’ presidency, the White House had an open door policy. Quite literally, countrymen could drop in as they passed by, to voice their support, their derision, or their ideas. One day, Adams was meeting with Henry Clay and a dentist walked into the meeting room. Adams’ immediately dismissed Clay, his Secretary of State, took the dentist’s ideas, and then asked for a tooth to be pulled!”

Now, of course, we wouldn’t want just anyone traipsing into the White House; however, with technology we can recreate this atmosphere in a safer environment, and on a larger scale. With the power of open platforms, social media, and network native applications, the Government can gather advice, ideas, and concerns from the very citizens the Government is set up to serve. Imagine a country that is run by a Government that continually uses crowd sourcing from it’s citizens in order to prioritize legislation, answer concerns, and get opinions and ideas on solutions! Open Source Government could turn bureaucracy into a solution oriented system that is absolutely, “for the people, BY the people.”

There are of course barriers that still need to be worked out; such as “how can an open Government platform cancel out unnecessary noise in order to achieve a smarter Government?”

Examples of open sourced Government already in use include the Finnish Open Ministry crowdsourcing a new Copyright legislation,’s mastery of micro-activism, or how NYC is utilizing the techie crowd to help reinvent the City Pay Phone.

As this generation continues to push the incorporation of social communities into every aspect of our lives, it will be exciting to see how the social community begins to shape and improve our lives. How do you see the social community shaping our Government?