Gov Services 2.0: How Improving Data Sets Meet New Customer Needs
Government Services 2.0 uses technology to better solve collective problems at a city, national and international level. There are four stages to the process of transitioning to an interactive electronic system.
Citizens bear the mountainous burden of learning about the services being offered through public, private, and nonprofit systems. Take childcare, as an example— in countries that do not offer universal childcare, parents have to research their options extensively. They must find out:
What’s being offered in my area?
What services will satisfy my child’s unique needs?
Are there any eligibility requirements that would bar me from this program?
One-on-one government case management for each parent in their jurisdiction would be onerous and not budget-friendly. So government administrators look to electronic tools to provide families the tools that they are asking for in an efficient way. That is where a government 2.0 system can be helpful.
In some places, childcare centers overlay their location data onto government maps to create a platform that automatically shares where families can find after-school care. This is an instance of government 2.0; the user is interacting in real-time with online information. The government houses a platform that intakes user information to build a data repository together.
Government 2.0 uses technology—especially the collaborative technologies at the heart of Web 2.0—to better solve collective problems at a city, national, and international level. We can distinguish between a time when people passively consumed Internet content to now when we actively engage with real-time electronic information.
Government Services 2.0 is the application of this concept to citizens’ interactions with public officials and political representatives. Constituents consume politicians’ messages on Twitter and make political value judgments accordingly. This is an active consumption because they are not only reading as if they would read from a newspaper but have the opportunity to interact with the messages. That is, they are able to retweet, reply, or “like” the message.
But how do governments make the jump to an interactive electronic system? Experts divide the process into four stages:
- First, ask constituents. Since the primary goal of a shift to government 2.0 is to engage the public in government operations, constituents should be your first step. The end vision is for your jurisdiction to produce user-friendly content. So ask your users, “what would make this user-friendly for you?” Different cultures and generations will respond differently, so keep this in mind when interpreting your results. For instance, government 2.0 allows administrations to take advantage of social media to communicate information. But this will be interacted with differently depending on age.
Also, what barriers would constituents face when interacting with only culture? Understanding potential barriers to participation will allow you to proactively problem-solve when you reach the implementation stage.
You can ask these questions via online or in-person public forums, online forms, and surveys, or stakeholder convenings.
- Assess what datasets are currently available. What do agencies publish via reports and raw datasets?
Is there an organization in your district that hosts an “open data” repository? Open data sites can be helpful, but we know government 2.0 can take this data transparency to the next level by expanding access and content. Also, open data sites are limited in what they can share. In Government 2.0 transformations, government administrators have the opportunity to reimagine how data is shared. Are privacy laws preventing data with identifying information from being made public?
Keep in mind that these laws were written by the same government structures that you are operating from. Therefore, it’s within your responsibility and your power to amend these rules in a way that benefits citizens. That may mean de-identifying the data and installing firewalls that prevent users from infiltrating the names associated with each data point. It may mean ensuring that individuals’ information is only published once since that prevents someone from stringing together pieces of a story and connecting it to an individual’s name. This is an opportunity to be creative with your information technology directors.
Knowing what datasets are currently available and what is labeled as private and why is an important stage in the process. This will help you with stage 3; once you identify where there are gaps in available data, start to build out those gaps.
- Build the datasets that will maximize constituents’ knowledge. The data available should help the public shape an accurate story about what’s going on around them. If stage 2 revealed that some data is not available, create it during this stage.
This stage requires collaboration between agencies and data sources. When mapping what exists and identifying gaps, agencies must work together. Before building a new dataset, ask if any agencies track some form of this information. If not, then ensure a collaborative format is used when collecting the new data. For example, if both a human services department and corrections department are collecting information on people who are arrested, they may track whether or not the person they come into contact with has a prior record. But how do the two agencies define “prior record?” Does this take the juvenile record into account, or only count adult records? When building new datasets, collaboration on definitions and means of tracking data is crucial.
The data-collection format also has to be uniform across agencies. To be usable, constituents should not have to figure out how to use different data processors. If all datasets are in an XML format, they will be easier to access.
It’s also helpful to keep your end goal in mind during this stage; we want citizens to interact with the data. They should be able to perform their own analysis and build their own understanding of what’s happening in their community. The way the internet currently functions traps users in an echo chamber, where they continuously hear feedback that reinforces their existing worldview. Data transparency will expand people’s perspectives outside of their day-to-day bubbles.
- Build the API that will host the datasets. The API should allow a continual feedback loop between government data publishers and the public. Ideally, the public would be able to leave public comments or messages to officials about the usability of the data, as well as transparency. Users will also share feedback about themselves. Whether this is through a brief survey or more in-depth tracking, data scientists will be able to see who is using their government 2.0 tools and why.
For example, if they are using social media as a tool for constituent interaction, use Instagram analytics to evaluate who is interacting with your online content. The engagement analytics with any link can be viewed using Bitly or other services. This is a tool that maintains your link’s content and allows the person on the back end to log in and view who clicked on the link and when.
Governments can also overlay useful data onto maps. And while many platforms are expensive, the United Kingdom found a way to utilize this tool for free! They used crowdsourcing to create free maps. To list one outcome, published geographical data for Palestine increased contributions from the UN and EU. Everyblock.com and openstreetmap.com are two spaces that have increased government access to this tool.
Generally, choosing what venue through which to visualize data to the public on the internet will be the last stage in your Government 2.0 transformation.
Government 2.0 allows both citizens and government officials to make data-driven decisions. They will have access to transparent data and have strong communication pathways between the public and government leaders. Open data sources allows officials to connect with citizens; citizens’ use of the platforms feeds user data back to the government to create a mutually beneficial feedback loop. Both parties better understand each other’s needs after these four stages are executed.
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OECD (2020), "The OECD Digital Government Policy Framework: Six dimensions of a Digital Government", OECD Public Governance Policy Papers, No. 02, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/f64fed2a-en.
Whisenant, Greg (2010). “Four Steps to Gov 2.0: A Guide for Agencies.” http://radar.oreilly.com/2010/02/four-steps-to-gov-20-a-guide-f.html