Politics seems to be in everything now. Whether it is your home loan, your school loan; even your reproductive rights or the right to bear arms. Believe it or not, it is now in Gov 2.0 and transparency in government. The United States is faced with an extraordinary amount of budgetary debt. The recent wrangling over the budget on Capitol Hill was not even about the actual budget, but rather something arcane called a continuing resolution. Now insert technology like social media, mobile apps for democracy and access, and ubiquitous Internet access. The result is politics as usual.
President Barack Obama is credited widely with being the first president to push through Open Government through such things as the "Open Government Directive" and the resulting creation of Data.Gov. As such he has gotten a lot of notoriety for the success of his social media and mobile campaign in 2008.
The issue became fodder for attack by the Republicans in the U.S. House. It was an easy thing to do; they could take a whack at the "E-Gov" fund -- Funnily enough the E-Gov fund did not actually fund Gov 2.0 projects, and it was indeed a holdover from earlier initiatives. This accomplished two related things:
1. It made the Republicans look tough on the budget.
2. By targeting a key initiative of the president, GOP announced they are playing a hard game of chess.
But -- the reality is actually much different. In a recent meeting in his office with Aneesh Chopra, I personally had the opportunity to informally ask him about the meanings of these cutbacks. His take on it was that this was a minimal amount of money coming out of a small fund ($35 million). He went on to point out that the government had budgeted social media and Gov 2.0 programs "e-Gov" that were hard baked into the accounts of various agencies of government. Meaning that the initiatives like "shifting to the cloud" as well as increased attention to cyber security and citizen engagement models were being paid for out of accounts having nothing to do with this highly politicized media circus that is the "E-Gov Fund."
Julianne Shinto, Founder of both Imprimatur and Twain Group, is a leading political branding expert, had this to say about the episode: "This particular E-Gov fund was actually started by George W. Bush, who initially asked for funding in the arena of $100 million, rather than the initial $3 million that was granted. Transparency of government through technology is the way of the future. It will happen. The Senate republicans have largely been for transparency in government, noting where every single dollar would be spent on the budget. The rub in drastic spending cuts is, they have to be drastic, and statesmen must look to cut all areas, even those they might wish to fund."
In the most basic terms, this whole episode is a pure example of political theater -- and of how quickly those shouting about the budget in the media can manipulate opinion. Here is a look at the outcry about the House shutting down the E-Gov fund. That is just one example.
Both sides used this as a political club to fight over a "budget" that was not even the actual budget but rather the continuing resolution part of the budget. We elected people to do a job. Instead we get kindergarten antics. Technology is just the latest target of politicized theater coming out of the republicans and democrats. What's next, someone is going to tell you what not to post on your social media account?
As published originally on Silberberg Innovations