By Guest (not verified) 18 Aug, 2009

RecoveryAfter reading yesterday's news that the city of San Francisco is offering convenient access to more than 100 datasets including police, public works, and transportation data, it struck me how technology is the key player in Government 2.0 - that being open, transparent, and collaborative.

The new CIO for the U.S., Vivek Kundra, has stated goals that include:

  • Cutting costs and increasing efficiency, including using off-the-shelf software
  • Making data accessible and public online
  • Engaging the public in an open discussion on programs - especially through non-traditional means

Because of these goals and a fast-approaching federal government end-of-year (and a focus on stimulus funds accountability), many organizations have begun evaluating how software solutions can help drive innovation in their agency.

Here are five ways agencies can jumpstart their 2.0 initiatives similar to San Francisco's (based on Kudra's goals and a recent speech by David Stephenson at the Tableau Customer Conference).

1. Just Get Started

Put information and data out for public consumption. It doesn't have to be perfect or even complete.

The first step is to start exploring and visualizing your data so you know what you have. Remember there is no perfect chart or data set. As a bonus, people will even help fix the data if it's out there.

Example: Earlier this year at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, staff gasped at the idea of posting the agency's data online. The data was dirty, they protested. What would the public think? Leslie Goldsmith, supervisor of the agency's data analysis unit, replied that letting the public examine it might be a great way to clean it. "It can be scary," she said. "The best thing you can do is expose the data, Then you share the burden of checking the data out. You try to be transparent." (Source TDWI)

2. Be Open

Be open about what you're doing and develop a blog. Get your employees involved and don't outsource it as you need an authentic voice. It's a new way of thinking so expect feedback and be ready to take action as ideas come in. It's an open forum and you'll learn a ton.

Examples: Open Government Initiative or Homeland Security or

3. Engage Your Virtual Community

Embrace new communication channels and engage your virtual community - especially other bloggers. For example, instead of an in-person meeting how about a virtual town hall. It's important to engage the broader community that may not have time or avoid meetings where special interests can take over. And don't expect people to discover your efforts on their own. Develop a marketing plan that includes Facebook and Twitter and other ways of sharing with people that care. You need to tell them about what you're doing.

4. See What Others Are Doing

Look at what other organizations are doing. What is working for them? Learn from them and ask for help.

Example: The City of DC is an great example of starting small in a few different divisions to becoming one of the leading agencies putting as much data online as possible.

5. Don't worry about making it perfect - but do tell a story

Keep it simple and share the story within the data. A fancy graph is not necessarily the best solution. Too often we see sites being dazzled by glitz and 3-d pie charts that are not helpful. A well designed and straight forward graph is often better than something that took months to build.

The purpose of all this is to empower users with information and even inspire some to act. "If we can let people see what we're doing [translates] into benefits for them in their neighborhoods," says Phillip Heinrich, the Capstat program manager in the District of Columbia city administrator office, "they'll have a better sense of what we're doing to benefit them." (Source TDWI)


Here's an interesting interactive viz that the Washington Post just put up for tracking how the President is spending his time

Wouldn't have been possible without the White House making the data available to the public.

I still have mixed views about the effectiveness of tree maps, but the technique seems to work here.