Government 2.0-- Less M.C. Escher Print, More Aqua User Interface

In the spirit of change, President Barack Obama will appoint the first United States federal Chief Technology Officer. The job description is to:

ensure that our government and all its agencies have the right infrastructure, policies and services for the 21st century. The CTO will ensure the safety of our networks and will lead an interagency effort, working with chief technology and chief information officers of each of the federal agencies, to ensure that they use best-in-class technologies and share best practices.

Obama demonstrated his tech savvy during the 2008 election, and proved that taking advantage of innovative technology leads to success. Recasting the Director of New Media from stagehand to starring role by titling Macon Phillips “special assistant to the President” is a new and notable deviation from previous administrations’ commitment to giving tech its proper place in the White House. On January 20 at 12:01 PM, Phillips posted the first ever blog entry at WhiteHouse.gov.

On March 26, WhiteHouse. gov hosted its first online town hall style question and answer session. “Open for Questions” converges the web and democracy by allowing users to login to whitehouse.gov and submit and rate questions. The most popular will be answered, live, by the President via webcast.

Our country has never seen a webocracy before. If the Director of New Media and the rest of the Obama team are using advanced technology to improve the public face of the White House, imagine what the Chief Technology Officer could do to transform the remaining 90% of the U.S. Government.

Basically, the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) could do for the U.S. government what Steve Jobs did for the personal computer.

Currently, navigating our government, understanding its framework, and accessing its information is about as easy as finding your way out of an M.C. Escher print--staircases leading nowhere, freestanding doorways, sideways arches...the architecture of our government is long overdue for renovation.

The Mac OSX aqua user interface is navigable, appealing, functional and interactive. It turned computing into a user experience that has delighted legions of consumers. It turned the personal computer into a Mac--and it turned Apple into the pioneers of innovative computing technology. It enables ordinary people to do extraordinary things, easily. Our government should enable its constituents to design, navigate, and interact with its content. The government should be one product, tool, for me to use to get things done, and so far, this is only theoretical. I can only use what is within my reach, and so much of our government’s usability is concealed, or too confusing to find. The CTO could change this.

And, well, because Steve is not currently available for the Job, enter my nomination, David Kelley. Founder of IDEO and the d.school at Stanford University, Kelley received his B.A. in electrical engineering in 1978 and has been innovating his pants off ever since. IDEO is “a worldwide leader in the user-centered design of products” and Kelley is pioneering “design-thinking” at Stanford to get students “to create delightful design experiences and embrace and promote a culture of innovation.”

Kelley is not a designer. Kelley is a design consultant. The design consultant. Kelley doesn’t have allegiances, and IDEO does not design its own products. IDEO’s agenda has always been you. As a design consultant, IDEO has simplified via innovation everything from your tube of toothpaste to the way you save money. And the government could use some simplification via innovation.

Specific challenges the use of current technology could meet: participation (people), coordination (agencies),  improvement (transparency), and communication (ideas). How will technology triumph idea flow to and from the government? How will technology turn bureaucracy into webocracy, monologue into dialogue, walls into windows? This is where the U.S. government has significant space to become a usable product. A means to an end. And this is where Kelley shines. Technology is the bridge between the government and the people, and Kelley can build it.

updated 03.26.2009

No comments:

Post a Comment