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Web 2.0: Small Incremental Steps Needed

Web 2.0: Small Incremental Steps Needed

CIOs in government departments have no choice but to run small, incremental trials of Web 2.0 technologies, says Eric Wood, director of Ovum's government practice

Wood says the demand for new ways of interacting with government causes concern because it challenges established practice about who speaks for government and the public sector, and what they can speak about. The "freeing of the reins" implied by these technologies does cause concern as agencies test the waters and define the boundaries.

But they also raise new issues for CIOs focused on ways to make government more effective, which most governments around the world have only just begun to address.

"I think the way forward for them is actually pretty obvious in the sense that the only way forward really is small, incremental experiments if you like to try and understand some of the issues," he says.

In some areas such as health-care professional guidelines already exist to make it easier to define rules, but those in policy setting areas feel much greater concern about the leaking boundaries, he says.

"On the other hand I think everyone is aware as well that the nature of policy making in government, the nature of communication in government, is already under strain in terms of those older models," Wood says.

"The use of e-mail to define and create communication exchange is already putting a lot of the older paper-based models under strain. So in some ways this is both exacerbating that change but also potentially offering solutions to some of these e-mail problems. Wikis, for example, can offer greater possibilities for auditing, for more control, for collaboration.

"So it is a mixed bag at the moment in terms of benefits and dangers. People are going to feel quite uncomfortable with many of these pieces, but it's the environment in which we swim now."

Woods says neither sticking your head in the sand nor pretending there is no need to engage with the new technologies will serve the public sector. Instead it must engage in a careful process of experimentation via small pilots, and recognize that success will only come to those who accept the need to relinquish some control.

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