Governance framework shows public sector how to approach Web 2.0

The key to successful public sector implementation of Web 2.0 tools is to evaluate potential benefits of citizen-centric governance against both costs and inevitable risks associated with any new technology, says a new report by Accenture.

The idea of government involvement with social media or Web 2.0 technologies has been at the heart of many conversations the last few years. “Gov 2.0” has been widely, and some might say wrongly, embodied by the likes of Senator Charles Grassely (R-Iowa), former Governor Sara Palin (R-Ak.) and others who use Twitter to muse, protest, and inform.

Like the multitude of technologies falling under the heading of social-networking or collaborative-communication, government stands to benefit in many ways, if only they could figure out how to pair the tools of Web 2.0 with their constituents’ needs.

The key to successful public sector implementation of Web 2.0 tools is to evaluate potential benefits of citizen-centric governance against both costs and inevitable risks associated with any new technology, says a new report (.pdf) from Accenture.

In a new report, “Web 2.0 and the Next Generation of Public Service,” Accenture analysts and researchers outline the tenets of effective Web 2.0 practices in the public sector by using the Accenture Public Service Value Governance Framework.

The Governance Framework consists of four main criteria, simply stated as: outcomes, balance, engagement and accountability.

“The governance framework provides an evaluation structure that can help decision makers discern and articulate the value of Web 2.0 technologies in terms of how they contribute to the genuine engagement of people in their governance,” Sean Shine, Managing Director of Accenture’s Systems Integration & Technology group, wrote in the report.

The report says good Web 2.0 tools focus on improved social and economic outcomes, balance choice and flexibility with fairness and common good, allow citizens to engage in the production of public value, and clarify accountability by facilitating public recourse.

Accenture framework

Accenture’s findings are the result of previous research, based on the company’s experience working with government agencies around the world and through an ongoing research initiative called the Global Cities Forum. In the report, several of these experiences are highlighted, including projects in Australia, Norway, New York City, and the state of California. Accenture has worked with several partners including Oracle and Microsoft to implement Web 2.0 solutions to do everything from helping a tax agency offer more personalization and a better interaction style, to increase a city’s budget transparency, to crowd source a museum’s name.

“Web 2.0 technologies should be of increasing interest because they support a broader evolution in public service: a new relationship with government that is about genuine engagement of people in their own governance,” Mr. Shine wrote.

The report also outlines several risk factors involved with Web 2.0 adoption and some of the ways public sector agencies can get started identifying the best kinds of social media technologies to use.

Some of the pitfalls that have hindered adoption of Web 2.0 tools in the public sector, according to the report, include problems between the sometimes competing interests of transparency and information control, increased security and data privacy risks, infrastructure and bandwidth strain, as well as compliance and administrative burdens unforeseen when undertaking new initiatives.

Finally, the report outlines seven things to consider when launching a public sector Web 2.0 project. Among the seven is the need to understand the constituencies being served, developing clear goals and strategic plans to drive clear outcomes, as well as setting up clear information sharing policies and working with a “beta mindset”.

“Web 2.0 technologies resonate with governments because these technologies support a deeper engagement of people in their own governance,” Greg Parston, director of Accenture’s Institute for Public Service Value said in a statement. “The shift is really being driven by citizens, and public-sector leaders are responding by figuring out how to use Web 2.0 technologies to improve services to, and more deeply engage with, their citizens.”

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