Editorial: National ‘IT Dialogue’ at midway point

It has been nearly a full seventy-two hours since President Barack Obama and his team of celebrated techies opened the doors of Recovery.gov for improvements. The crowdsourceing experiment is nearly half-finished (or half-full for all you optimists out there) and so a quick recap is in order.

The Recovery.gov Dialogue on Information Technology Solutions or the “IT Dialogue” is meant to lure leading IT business, thought leaders, developers and consumers to join the discussion on how Recovery.gov operates. CivSource covered the story on Monday, outlining the broad goals and objectives of the IT Dialogue. The dialogue is being held in conjunction with the National Academy of Public Administration, a non-profit, non-partisan coalition of top public management and organizational leaders.

So, how are things shaping up thus far? How has the tech community responded to this open call for collaboration?

In a word: Poorly.

As of this writing, (April 29 PM EST) there have been a total of 260 ideas submitted to the IT Dialogue. 306 “discussion topics” or keywords have been submitted to correspond with these 260 ideas. Among some of the discussion topics, transgender healthcare programs, helping me with, and saving social security. Miscellaneous topics and “ideas” are bound to happen in a setting such as this, but if these are the kinds of things making it through the moderator, they might be more desperate for ideas than anyone had imagined. There are obviously others, more relevant to the overall intent of the project, like cloud computing, semantic, and Web 2.0.

But what about the substantive part of the IT Dialogue – the comments?

The comments offered and the ones gathering the most votes or creating the most chatter are definitely relevant and of the kinds I envisioned. The top four ideas, in terms of highest rank, are: Open Data Will Enable Democratized Analysis and Accountability; Add National Online Mapping to Recovery.gov; Provide Enterprise Resource Planning Solutions to Local Agencies; and Use semantic technology to link data.gov and recovery.gov resources. These ideas all have four stars.

The top three-star ideas are, Count ACTUAL jobs created or retained with CertiClear Job Counter; Add Mapping and Geographic Analysis to Recovery.gov; and Tracking through Google Earth and web cam.

The most commented on thus far are: Online cascading performance budgets and performance reports; Tracking through Google Earth and web cam; and Add Mapping and Geographic Analysis to Recovery.gov.

Thus far, the ideas populating the top seats are not a terrible batch of concepts and themes. There is interest in having geo-spacial data integrated with Recovery Act funds and the top vote-getters have some interesting ideas as far as how ERP and semantic technologies can be utilized. There remains one hugely glaring problem, however.

Participation.

The top four vote-getting ideas have a combined 100 votes. The top three, three-star ideas have 97 votes. The most commented idea has thirty comments, most of which seem to involve two users engaged in a sales pitch by the person who submitted the idea for CASCADE™ Performance Based Budgeting Software.

The Washington Post reports this morning that,

“The forum received more than 300,000 visits in its first seven hours and more than 1.5 million by Tuesday night, according to Earl E. Devaney, chairman of the recovery accountability board and the site’s de facto managing editor.”

For all the hype behind the Obama administration’s technology prowess, we are disappointed that industry leaders and developers are not more engaged with this process. If so many people are looking at the website, then word has surely spread to all corners of government and industry. We know there hasn’t been wall-to-wall coverage of the IT Dialogue on CNN or the New York Times, but we would have expected much more participation from the Twitter, GovLoop, LinkedIn crowd.

Or is it simply business? Why try to promote an idea that may possibly be adopted for government use when you can just as easily sell it to them?

Go to http://www.thenationaldialogue.org/. Sign up, submit ideas, vote and comment. There are four days remaining. Show the country that our networking millions can leverage technology and creativity more than once an election cycle.

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