Wednesday, November 17, 2010

On Government 2.0

Tom Slee's twin posts on Government 2.0 (here and here) are definitely worth your time.

Tom is a little more pessimistic than I would be (although his pessimism is the principled, rigorous type, which is always welcome). 

Quickly, these are his main objections:
  1. The rhetoric of citizen engagement too often masks a reality of commercialization (last time)
  2. Information is not always democratizing.
  3. Information is not always the problem.
  4. Transparency is an arms race.
  5. Privacy is the other side of the coin.
  6. Money flows to Silicon Valley.
Point 2, that information is not always democratizing is well-taken.  Slee points out that people who take most advantage of information that is made freely available are those who are already privileged and posses a certain amount of capital (both economic and cultural).  He links to this article, which in turn links to this very interesting paper, on how the digitization of Bangalore land records has turned out.  Both are also well worth taking a look at (and I should mention that I only skimmed the paper).

But point 2 also strikes me also as too broad.  It strikes me that the same thing can be said of the deployment of any technological framework; its use can only be made by those who have the skills and the cultural capital to access it.  Again, like everything else, it is all contextual.  One could argue that Government 2.0 will also make it easy for NGOs, watchdog groups, and so on,  to do their job, which in turn may end up helping the underprivileged.  As always, everything depends on context.

No comments: