May 11, 2010

‘Open Government’ review: Big & beautiful ideas

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Book chronicles how the Gov 2.0 movement is slowly becoming a reality

JD LasicaWe’ve known for years how social media and Web 2.0 have been transforming the way political campaigns are run, the way we interact with big institutions, the way news is reported and distributed — indeed, practically all facets of modern society. So it comes as no surprise that social technologies are slowly transforming the way government works.

What is surprising is that editors Daniel Lathrop and Laurel Ruma and O’Reilly Media have managed to make a potentially wonky topic like Government 2.0 accessible, fresh and actually interesting. Open Government: Collaboration, Transparency, and Participation in Practice is a big (432 pages), beautiful book, from the gorgeous, sumptuous cover to the breadth of ideas and angles inside. In its collection of 34 essays written by thought leaders and practitioners in government reform, the book offers dozens of examples of a new approach to government: open, democratic, distributed, bottom-up, shareable, data-driven and focused on making “we the people” a reality again.

Tim O’Reilly, CEO of O’Reilly Media — the best computer book publisher in the world — carried the same message in a webcast today that proved so popular my browser crashed four times. O’Reilly has been at the forefront of the open government movement and contributes the key second chapter, “Government as Platform.” O’Reilly Media co-produces the Gov 2.0 Expo, coming May 25-27, and Gov 2.0 Summit on Sept. 9-10, both in Washington, D.C.

In today’s “The Power of Platforms” webcast, O’Reilly touched on Apple’s iTunes Store, saying that Apple programmers had written only 15-20 apps for the launch of the iPhone but by opening up the platform (relatively speaking) to third-party developers, there are upwards of 200,000 apps in the store. “That’s the magic of the platform,” he said. He said governments need to take a similar approach, creating emergent platforms “instead of building finished solutions.”

O’Reilly cited a number of great examples (and the live chat contributed a few), ranging from Ushahidi in Haiti to the U.S. State Department on Twitter to the local businesses in Hawaii that decided to fix a key road themselves instead of waiting two years for government contractors. (I had already included a few of these examples in my upcoming Mobilize Your Cause Bootcamp at Personal Democracy Forum on June 2.) The webcast should be live soon — it’s worth a look Continue reading

September 3, 2009

Which nonprofits are having global impact?

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Web 2.0 Summit asks public to nominate organizations creating positive change

Tim O'ReillyJD LasicaIf you were to ask me to name the single most important technology conference of the year, I’d say the Web 2.0 Summit (with TechCrunch 50 coming on strong in second place). Startup executives, VCs, entrepreneurs and others will gather at the Westin in San Francisco on Oct. 20-22 to hear about the latest trends in Web 2.0.

Now, the conference’s organizers — John Battelle, Tim O’Reilly (pictured above) and team — want to enlist the tech industry to “step up” and support a nonprofit that can make a significant contribution to “the principles of openness, collective intelligence and transparency.”

They write: “The spark of inspiration that led to this year’s Web 2.0 Summit theme, Web Squared (Web + World), has made it clear that we must embrace not only disruptive change, but also a ‘pay it forward’ attitude if we are to realize change on a global scale. We’re excited to put inspiration into action by asking our attendees to join us as partners in creating change. Continue reading