Monday, January 12, 2009

To Everything There Is a Season

I stumbled on an old memo, the other day. It was a July 2001 memo from the fledgling Web Content Managers Forum (with its 59 members) to Mark Foreman, President Bush’s first E-Gov czar. Though the Forum had formed only months before (October 2000), we hoped to get the attention of this new official, asking to engage in a discussion of web content management issues.

“We need to talk about content issues we are facing: how to assess what our customers want and need, how to generate and maintain content that is citizen-friendly, how to measure whether we’re delivering content in ways they find useful, how to promote and market our web sites, how to manage the ever-growing numbers of e-mails generated by our web sites, and how to overcome organizational cultures and values that inhibit our efforts to create e-government and e-governance.”

We hand-delivered that memo, but – alas – we never got a response.

Now, 8 years later, the Federal Web Managers Council – the leadership committee of the Web Content Managers Forum (now 1,500 strong!) has issued a White Paper that is getting top-level attention not only from the incoming Obama administration, but around the world. To everything there is a season.

The same month we sent that memo to Mark Foreman (July 2001), Sam Gallagher (HUD’s current Web Manager and my long-time associate) and I were asked to do a presentation for the annual E-Gov conference. We decided to end it with a “sky’s the limit” section, offering some of our ideas about the possibilities for the future. Honestly, I think most people thought we were nuts. The session wasn’t very well reviewed. Here’s what we projected:

"Possibility 1: One single government database; citizens go through one door; integration of all government levels; eliminates silos and layers

Possibility 2: Many/most government employees work from home or from cross-agency work centers; citizens want government services at all times - employees work non-traditional schedules to deliver; new job: “subject specialists” (knowledgeable about info from all levels of government) help guide citizens through options

Possibility 3: Online communities form and look for power; citizens find support from “virtual friends;” government will struggle with its role in these communities and the impact of these communities on bricks and mortar communities

Possibility 4: Citizens become government; citizens demand to be involved; virtual teams/work groups work together from legislation to implementation; government’s role: teacher/enabler (not parent/implementer)

Possibility 5: Nationwide access to internet; Federal internet centers in every community; public/private partnerships provide wireless access in remote areas; web access through TVs

Possibility 6: Consolidation of government programs; portals highlight overlaps/redundancies; public demands consolidation"

To everything there is a season.

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