The Power of Web 2.0 on Government Legislation

December 13, 2007 - 1 Comment

Recently, the power of Web 2.0 came to the fore front on influencing copyright legislation in Canada. The story wasn’t about individuals on Facebook, MySpace, or in blogs influencing the drafting of legislation, but rather how they were able to prevent it from being introduced. Prior to this chapter of Canada’s ongoing copyright protection saga, government officials had signalled they were about to introduce legislation, rumoured to be ratifying specific WIPO treaties. However the bill’s specifics were not shared with those concerned and naturally, the lack of information lead stakeholders to draw their own conclusions on what it would or wouldn’t entail. Through a number of social media outlets, the ringleaders against potential copyright measures were able to quickly generate a flood of negative press and even mobilize a protest at the office of the government Minister who is responsible for copyright. The coverage forced the government to withhold the tabling of legislation and rethink its strategy.No matter what side of this issue you fall on, the reaction demonstrates the power of Web 2.0 to disseminate information and mobilize support or opposition to an idea. It certainly bodes well for the evolution of e-government and participatory democracy. Gauging reaction to the potential bill, it was obvious that views of all stakeholders had not been properly presented to the Minister. In addition to formal hearings and written submissions, elected officials and government bureaucrats need to put resources into more collaborate consultations. Future generations will demand government use these types of tools.Here are links to some of the coverage the issue garnered:Globe & MailNational Post CBC itWorld Canada

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  1. The presidential campaigns used new tools in their strategies to engage people. The financial manager and their staffs need to become familiar with these new tools and incorporate them into their strategies. The major change required for these new tools is that finance must be more proactive rather than reactive, with results examined in real time.· Internet —We need to monitor the changes in the Internet (the enormous network of networks connecting disparate computers using languages called protocols). Internet Protocol Version 6 (aka IPV6) has now expanded the addresses and tags that can be used. Have our governments transitioned to IPV6?· Web—We need to accommodate the different vehicles that customers use to travel on the “http” protocol to visit our sites. Can the different vehicles (MS Internet Explorer or Firefox or Safari or on a Web-enabled phone or PDA) that visitors use to access out sites allow them to seamlessly navigate through our Web pages?· XML—Do our Web pages use of “eXtensible Markup Language” utilize well-formed and valid smart tags with corresponding end tags to get the user where she or he needs to go?· XBRL—Are we presenting our financial documents—PAR, budget, CAFR or PAFR—into “eXtensible Business Reporting Language” to our customers so that they are not seeing a large financial document as a mere block of text but rather as a set of smart tags for the different parts (assets, liabilities, net assets, revenues, expenditures) that can be drilled down to the lowest level?· Wikis—Are we using “What I Know Is” tools, internally and externally, to aggregate and share financial information on an ongoing basis in a collaborative manner?· Blogs—Are we utilizing blogs to discuss financial topics and issues, internally and externally, to enhance and refine ideas, opinions and approaches in a collaborative manner?· Social Bookmarking—Are we engaging the customers of our financial information by inquiring what they want to know (categorize whether it is a salary or revenue query) and where they go (assigning a tag—bookmark) to find it? Do we examine these social bookmarks to modify or adapt our financial information based on user trends?· Social Media —Are we creating financial information forums utilizing blogs, Wikis, podcasts, MySpace, Facebook, Youmeo, Twitter or Plaxo to keep in touch with our users of financial information?· Collaboration—If we do not manage collaboratively now, then what do we need to learn about it to enable us to take advantage of collaborative tools like Google Docs or MS SharePoint? Do our Intranet websites allow for collaboration? What is our government’s or agency’s strategy on collaboration?If you expect that citizens and customers will wait for you to implement the above, or come to you asking you to implement the above, then nothing will change. I believe that we must engage our customers about government finance with these existing tools. I believe that the government budget, accounting and auditing professions must incorporate these tools into their existing strategies. The easiest way to implement them is to incorporate them, where appropriate, into your defined business processes. If presidential campaigns can use these tools with people all across the country, many of whom never met face-to-face, then why can’t government finance do the same?