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Federal Open Government Directive, Social Media, SEO & Information Sharing

The directive comes from a memorandum signed by President Obama

Last week’s “Meeting the Open Government Directive” (OGD) conference hosted by GovDelivery (new owners of the popular GovLoop.com public/private social media forum) showcased a number of very important, relevant initiatives and ideas to help Federal Agencies comply with this important White House mandate. The directive comes from a memorandum signed by President Obama on his very first day in office, to all federal agencies directing them to break down barriers to transparency, participation, and collaboration between the federal government and the people it is to serve. Most agencies have already started their compliance initiatives, creating “Open Government” pages (for example at DHS) to highlight shared data sources and programs, and all agencies are required to present their holistic strategies (i.e. their “Open Government Plan”) by April 7th of this year.

Ideas from the public regarding how agencies should approach their Open Government Plans are currently being accepted through March 19th, 2010, at specific agency pages under Ideascale.com – this “citizen engagement tool” and crowdsourcing online social media service was wisely implemented as a single program investment and IT infrastructure under GSA, shared across all agencies. This is a great opportunity to create and submit opinions and ideas regarding government information-sharing transparency – this kind of crowdsourcing has already been proving successful to the Data.gov initiative, with the open dialogue hosted at datagov.ideascale.com.

With the backdrop of the GovDelivery conference in mind (find discussion on Twitter via #govdogd), here are a few Open Government ideas and comments from a few perspectives, including those of Blackstone Technology Group’s New Media Practice.

Localization
While the OGD initiative is entirely appropriate and useful at the Federal level, so too are (and would be) similar efforts and the State and County levels. There do exist many more localized public/private initiatives where government is reaching out to harness the wisdom and unique talents of its constituents, for the purpose of rapid feedback and identification of critical applied knowledge. These initiatives are, however, typically very grassroots-driven or otherwise non-uniform in their implementation; the Federal Government might find an advantage (perhaps through individual agencies, aligned with particular government service lines of business) in extending the Open Government offerings for local use. An example might be the rapidly-developing Loudoun County, VA Economic Development Council’s New Media initiative

, where local business and government leaders are working together to find ways to leverage new and social media to attract and retain business investment in the County. Where this initiative does have presence on most major social networks (for example on LinkedIn and GovLoop), perhaps the Department of Commerce’s Open Government dialogue could be segmented (or enhanced via “tagging”) for those focused on particular localities or geographic regions. Models and methods might then develop that are more quickly consumed and leveraged by others in the same situation.

Social Media and Search Engine Optimization (SMO/SEO)
The GovDelivery folks delivered an extensive set of recommendations and ideas for enhancing and delivering the OGD, from emphasizing use of existing/current tools (vs. building new ones) to making sure successes are tracked openly, effectively and collaboratively. Also covered was the fact that integration and cross-promotion of socialization channels was an important facet of building and sustaining audience participation. One very important “channel” not quite covered, was Search Engines. The Internet Marketing/SEO industry provides a broad array of tools, techniques and methods to help businesses and organizations promote themselves and be found more easily via search engines (like Google, Bing, Yahoo, YouTube/Search, Twitter/Search); those agencies seeking to promote their offerings and information transparency would do well to adopt some of these SEO techniques. Optimizing content (text or multimedia) when and as it’s distributed through content channels or syndicators is absolutely imperative, to be sure it’s easily found when people are searching for it in their own terms and their own language. DC-are subject matter experts like KME Internet Marketing find that “citizens most typically will use search engines like Google or within their social community platforms to quickly find data – but they’ll use words and phrases that are typically informally descriptive, vs. prescribed labels or acronyms. Government content needs to be optimized for search engines wherever it lives or is consumed”.

Information Sharing and Management
Several of the great presenters at the GovDelivery conference played on the core themes for success in delivering results – i.e. begin with the “Problem”, develop the “Community”, and apply the “Tools”. The point in this method is not to start with all those nifty Web 2.0/Social Media/New Media tools, but to approach Government Transparency initiatives first from the business or mission perspective. This is a common and well-recognized refrain to those of us practicing Enterprise Architecture and IT Investment and Governance Management within Government, i.e. making sure that Information Technology serves the investor requirements, within appropriate constraints and standards, and with full communication and approval of the user community.

The facet missing or under-represented from this 3-step plan is the management and packaging of the information that’s required, in a manner that enables SEO objectives like those expressed above, and that takes advantage of all the great Federal Information-Sharing Environment initiatives (including NIEM.gov) that are gradually finding use in Social Media context. We’re not yet to the point that reliable and easy-to-use automated content management is readily available for most social media exchanges. We do, however, have access to many examples of traditional portal/collaboration/situational awareness programs enhancing their offerings to include social media or “Enterprise 2.0” features - all while maintaining traceability to data standards, information lexicons and other information sharing models that promote reusability and ultimately citizen value. An example of this is the Homeland Security Information Network (HSIN), enhancing its “socialization” capabilities while maintaining compliance with NIEM standards.

In summary, the Open Government Directive is off to a great start, with likely thousands of great ideas to be absorbed from interested constituents and industry experts – through modern social media channels and in a manner that truly contributes to the greater good.

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More Stories By Ted McLaughlan

Summary: Currently a Federal Enterprise Architect with Oracle, Ted has over 25 years in Commercial and Government Information Technology with University of Virginia, EDS, Accenture, KME Internet Marketing, Blackstone Technology Group, NavigationArts and CSC; additional focus recently on Interactive Design, Web 2.0 Internet Marketing, SEO, Social Media and Advertising. Specialties: Enterprise Architecture and Information Management, SOA/ESB, Enterprise Integration, Business Intelligence, Internet Safety and Security, Family Content Networks, Knowledge Management and Collaboration, User-Defined Operational Pictures/Common Operating Pictures (UDOP/COP), Situational Awareness, Portals, Internet Marketing and Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Website Design/Development and Optimization - Certified Systems Engineer - Certified Enterprise Solution Architect