Technology is changing how people interact with government forever, says a prominent homeland security consultant.
In Federal Computer Week on Monday, W. David Stephenson argues that emergent behavior enabled by the convergence of personal communications and publishing technology with massive private and government data sources will “empower individuals in their relations with governments.”
Stephenson cited examples of New York City’s plans to allow mobile phone users to send text and multimedia messages to 911 and 311, as well as a private project in Washington, D.C., which publishes District-provided road work data overlaid on a Google map, as two examples of the changes in the way citizens interact with government.
Displays showing the status of potholes repairs subtly, but effectively, keep the city’s Department of Public Works on its toes. That example also illustrates an important aspect of the Web 2.0 world. Some call it “sousveillance,” which happens when people turn the tables and monitor government.
Also, the growing scientific understanding of the principle of swarm intelligence is an important aspect of this potential transformation of government. The term suggests that groups of people may be capable of a higher level of collaborative behavior than could be predicted from the abilities of individual members. — Federal Computer Week
In the past, Stephenson has also cited how private citizens collaborated during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to share information, help reunite families, and pick up the slack where government failed.
Smart mobile phones, PDAs and other communications devices, all connected to Web 2.0 applications on the Internet, have the potential to utterly transform the way people react to natural disasters, terrorist attacks, or even ordinary fender benders, Stephenson argued, as people collaborate with each other to find solutions.
“These devices have transformed our daily lives and the media,” Stephenson said in an e-mail. “It’s inevitable that they will have the same impact on government.”
Stephenson also has had a long-running weblog which he recently relaunched, along with a new RSS feed. For those of you who have wondered where he disappeared to, Stephenson said he’s trying to move all of his old content from Userland to the WordPress platform.
“Unfortunately those who have subscribed to my blog in the past don’t know that, because, with everything else, the blog feed changed,” Stephenson said.