Thursday, February 19, 2009

Wikis and Facebook for FSA IT?

Here's a post at the Federal Computer Week discussing the possible use of Web 2.0 technologies by federal agencies. I note most of the examples cited seem to be on intranets, not accessible by the public. I think I don't like that, but am open to discussion.

It's true enough that the enthusiasm of a President and a Secretary can affect the bureaucracy, but in my experience unless the enthusiasm goes down the line, the effects die out. The cautionary lesson in this regard is the "tempos" on the Mall. When I first toured the Mall in 1965, there were these disgusting grey buildings, wood and metal, not stone, lining Constitution Avenue at the west end of the Mall. Turned out these were temporary buildings, or "tempos", occupied by the military. Oh, you say, being smart readers, they were erected in World War II as a stopgap before the Pentagon was finished.

Oh no, smart readers, you are wrong. They were erected in WWI, and were still there 50 years later. The military wasn't about to move out of them and away from their proximity to power. And no leader had the power to move the military bureaucrats. Finally, in his single greatest domestic achievement, President Nixon set his German on them (I think Erlichman, but it might have been Haldeman) and finally got them emptied and torn down. Constitution Gardens and the Vietnam Memorial occupy that area now.

The bottomline: unless the new administrator of FSA is a computer nerd, FSA won't be using Web 2.0 in the next 4 years.

[Updated--this piece in Government Executive is also relevant.]

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