05/27/2010 08:19 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

O'Reilly Media's Laurel Ruma on Open Government

Many of us have heard about open government -- this is where government from all levels make their services available online. In addition to making these services available -- government agencies are also democratizing public sector data and making it available online. This phenomenon is growing in part due our participation.

  • 46% have looked up what services a government agency provides

  • 41% have downloaded government forms

  • 35% have researched official government documents or statistics

  • 33% have renewed a driver's license or auto registration

  • -Pew Internet

    O'Reilly Media has taken special interest in open government. Each year O'Reilly holds a Government 2.0 conference where thought leaders, industry experts and government officials can discuss -- best practices, projects and collaborations. Gov 2.0 took place this week at the Washington Convention Center in Washington, DC. There were presentations from industry leaders like Tim O'Reilly, Tim Berners-Lee and Jeffrey A Sorenson.

    Managing the conference is Laurel Ruma -- she is the Gov 2.0 co-chair and Gov 2.0 Evangelist. I had the opportunity to speak with Ruma on open government. She explains that "open government is an empowering platform -- not just for our government but for its citizens." Laurel continues by stating that Gov 2.0 strives to build a strong community.

    Laurel's passion is placed squarely within local and city government. "This is where you live. It's just not about going to your city council meetings but it's about recording and taking notes and posting it back to a web site." The synergy between open government and technology has allowed from some truly remarkable applications.

    One application that caught my attention was Microsoft's Town Hall platform.  Microsoft's intent is to provide a tool for government officials -- who are searching for ways to obtain feedback and gauge the interest of various communities. Laurel explained,"Town Hall should not be used by politicians but by the government agencies." Ruma pointed out NASA's Be a Martian Town Hall, as a great use case for the Microsoft platform.

    Laurel continues to explain that government must continue democratizing public sector data -- like in the case of By making public data available -- individuals and communities are empowered to drive innovation.

    Efforts by government agencies to post their data online are resonating with citizens. Fully 40% of online adults went online in the preceding year to access data and information about government (for instance, by looking up stimulus spending, political campaign contributions or the text of legislation).

    -Pew Internet

    The Gov 2.0 community is a platform of innovation. It is a podium for industry leaders like City of Los Angeles CTO Randi Levin -- to explain how a local government not only improved technical support but saved LA tens of millions of dollars.

    You can follow all the Gov 2.0 conversations at: