Presented by Jennifer Caldwell
The open government movement was well-represented, with local government officials from around the country and around the world. I was very heartened to see a lot of passionate bureaucrats (an oxymoron, right?) who wanted to make the government more accessible to the people it governs.
What did they mean by open government? Ideas were far-ranging, but many centered on the notion of using technology to bring the people back into government. Making more data generally available is one part of this: having government information be easily searchable seemed to be what people wanted most. Ways to do this include:
- building better government websites – right now government is exceptionally poor at disseminating information online
- making it so government databases can talk to one another better, including unifying local/regional/state/federal in a more cohesive way
- allowing government databases to interact more with private databases (lots of concerns about privacy here, and justifiably so)
- increasing the technological culture of government
Another concern many government officials had was that they don’t have any model for working openly and enthusiastically with the public. There was a lot of wishing they knew how to connect with people, to listen to people, and to respond to people. Something that seemed obvious to me was that they do have a model: the library: the library exists just to provide information and service. I think the library is an ideal model for (other) government agencies to use to improve their customer service. Interestingly, when I brought this up, while everyone enthusiastically supported the library, it was clear they thought of the library as a place to drop off flyers and maybe hold town halls, and NOT as a model for public service. What this tells me is that while the library has a lot to teach, it also has a lot to learn about marketing itself, even to potential (and natural) allies and partners.