When the Obama administration came into office, utopian hope spread across the digital land: the internet was finally going to be used for governance. More than a mere fund-raising tool, the medium would reveal its true self as an instrument of self-organization, problem-solving, and collaboration. Like Twitter and Google before it, Change.gov would become a verb!
We're now nine months into the administration, and it's time to ask the question: Is the internet changing anything?
In January, I noted that the only time I ever visited a government website was to download tax forms. In the intervening months, that hasn't changed much. Is it just me?
Anil makes the case that the most interesting startup of the year has been the federal government. While all the new dot-gov sites he lists look cool, I have to wonder: are there any practical examples yet? (It was a HuffPo puff piece, so I hope he expands it.)
The primary criticism of the Obama administration is similar to my concern: good planning, questionable execution. Apps.gov is cool and noble and interesting... but I'm trying to think of use scenarios where it will be used effectively. Is it my lack of imagination?
It's possible that the limited innovation has nothing to do with the the administration -- perhaps it's the shortcomings of the medium itself. (It strikes me that the Internet and American pragmatism have similar historical tracts.) Or maybe it's just too soon. That's a common answer to much of the anticipation of the past year. That seems to be Anil's answer too, as he closes with a notion that returns us back to that utopian vision:
And it's likely that soon they'll be platforms that spawn their own ecosystem of developers, users and applications, just like Facebook or Twitter or the iPhone. When that does happen, we can safely say that dot-gov is the new dot-com.