Dan Mintz on the future of Government 2.0

Dan Mintz on the future of Government 2.0 - top government contractors - best government contracting event

Dan Mintz on the future of Government 2.0 - top government contractors - best government contracting eventWeb 2.0 activity has exploded across the government, and few have a better understanding of what that change will mean than Dan Mintz, former chief information officer with the U.S. Department of Transportation. Mintz’s recent responsibilities included serving as the senior agency official for privacy and the Secretary's lead for the Department's Identity Theft Task Force. Mintz came to the government from Sun Microsystems, where he chaired a corporate-wide team that studied protection of federal government sensitive information within Sun's corporate information systems. Here Mintz shares what it takes to be successful in the Government 2.0 space, and what trends lay ahead.

What are some ways government agencies can strengthen their relationship with stakeholders?

Dan Mintz: Simple. Create a dialogue. I'll give an example. At the Department of Transportation we created a Secretarial blog where the Secretary not only provides information, but also allows stakeholders to blog and participate in the blog.  We received comments and after looking at them to make sure they are appropriate, we posted their comments on the site.  So we weren’t  just expressing the Secretary's opinion, we were also creating a dialogue and allowing people who otherwise might not get access to the public-government discourse to get access.

What role do wikis play in your communications approach?

Dan Mintz: We have internal wiki's that are for information sharing. Historically my own office “” the CIO's office “” published all of its policies in paper form.  In my role, we started to move all of that to the internet.  Inside the department we made comments on our internal intranet and when we asked stakeholders for comments,  we got those comments electronically on the external internet.

In terms of an integrated approach where do you see Web 2.0 activity going?

Dan Mintz: This is still an experiment so therefore “˜how this will play out' will require people who are comfortable with experiments.  The government has a tendency to be risk-averse, which is understandable.  It will be very important for the leadership within the departments and agencies to provide support for people who are willing to do the experiments.  The second important factor to remember is that it [2.0 activity] will be user driven, not IT driven.

How can companies from both the private and public sectors get their message out there online without losing control of their message?

Dan Mintz: Let me argue the point of the premise.  First of all, I think any organization that decides to use social media must remember: It's important to have at least some idea as to what they are trying to achieve. What gap is there?  What stakeholder is not being represented or what activity are you trying to enhance?  Otherwise they are likely to do it just for the sake of doing it.  This also means that the activity won't have enough value to overcome the problems that will occur.

The second issue is that there is a reality to these activities.  The internet does not treat “˜rules' kindly.  If you look at the internet, the reason it became such a powerful tool is there is in fact no limitations on it.  There is a very interesting book, The Future of the Internet “” And How to Stop It, by Jonathan Zittrain.  His comment is that the freedom of the internet, which caused it to be so powerful, is now causing some very undesirable side effects.  For example, 70 or 80 percent of all email is now spam.  And there are all these bad guys out there trying to break in.  One of the challenges is how do you retain the freedom of the internet and still survive.  Participation in the 2.0 world means reaching out.  That is part of the message and you can not control the message.  That is the whole point. You can't have it both ways.  If your culture or your management cannot handle the unpredictable results of the internet then you might as well not be on it because you can not control it.  In my opinion, you will fail.  You know the old saying “Everyone wants to go to heaven but no one wants to die.“  You are going to pay a price to use the social media.  When you allow people the freedom to create their own content you have given up the control of what the content should be.

As for executives who have clients in the government web 2.0 space “”  any words on how they can help their clients?

Dan Mintz:
If they really want to be successful there are at least two things that company executives have to wrestle through.  The first is that there are some clearly identifiable problems that everyone is wrestling with.  For example, if you are going to use the internet and open up the access points to a lot of new stakeholders, there is a whole series of privacy and security implications to what you are doing, areas that the government is wrestling with even without this complication.  Those companies that can help the government work through those complications, understand the end-to-end technical architectural issues and help the government determine how to allow this incremental activity while protecting the data that has to be protected and providing a privacy protection as appropriate through regulation and law “” those companies have a leg up.

The second issue is the quality of standards issue.  Those companies that are not merely providing a product or service but can make the investment to understand what the government departments or agencies are trying to achieve, how they can help make the stakeholder or end-user successful or pleased with the service interaction, will be of the greatest help. Those companies are not just providing a product that enables Web 2.0 but actually would be helping the government be successful in its mission.  Those government organizations and the companies who are helping them are going to do better.

Interview with Dan Mintz was conducted by JD Kathuria

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