Apps.gov signifies a sea change

For example, at the State Department and the Veterans Administration, I’ve seen internal innovation tech being used to figure out how to better get stuff done, like serving veterans. At the White House, I’ve seen the open-government initiative, finding out how to give voice to any American.

ADVERTISEMENT
However, the technology is secondary compared to the culture that comes with these Internet-style tools. Despite the noise we encounter on the Net, the culture is about collaboration, of people working together for mutual benefit.

In my day job, I’ve observed tens of millions of people working together for mundane reasons, just getting through the day.

Technology tools, then, are interesting but unimportant in themselves. They’re transformative in the cultural attitude implicit in their use, that people should work together. I’ve seen that firsthand in Washington over the past year.

Key to the success of this approach is management buy-in: The boss needs to tell everyone that their work matters, and that the new culture is one where everyone gets ahead. Fortunately, many in government circles got ahead of this curve, and a lot of people were ready to go when they got presidential support. A visit to the U.S. Southern Command a couple of years ago showed me that the Pentagon was way ahead of the curve, maybe because so many war-fighters are “digital natives.”

As a nerd, it’s hard to look beyond the tech to the human issues, but the culture that the tech brings is way more important than the tech itself. As citizens, though, we begin to reap its rewards. I feel the big result is a change in the way government business is done, a real big, transformative change.

Newmark is founder of craigslist.com and works for the site as a customer service representative. He serves on the boards of the Sunlight Foundation, OneVoice, FactCheckED and VotoLatino.