Expertnet Wiki for the White House OpenGov Initiative

Claude AlmansiBy Claude Almansi
Editor, Accessibility Issues

On Oct 29, 2010, the White House launched the http://expertnet.wikispaces.com wiki and announced it publicly on its blog on December 8:

One vexing challenge to engaging Americans in governance has been finding new models and tools for the next generation of citizen consultation.  We want to take advantage of the latest technology to: 1) enable government officials to circulate notice of opportunities to participate in public consultations to members of the public with expertise on a topic; and 2) provide those citizen experts with a mechanism to provide useful, relevant, and manageable feedback to government officials.

That is why the White House Open Government Initiative and the General Services Administration, working closely with the Office of Management and Budget’s Office of Performance and Personnel Management, are today launching a public consultation (through January 7, 2011) to obtain input on a design concept for a government-wide software tool and process to elicit expert public participation. In addition to making government more open

and accountable to the public, this also advances the Administration’s objective of strengthening problem-solving networks to improve outcomes and reduce costs, one of three key performance management strategies laid out in the President’s FY2011 budget.  To be clear, there is currently no specific funding identified for building this platform.  Rather, we anticipate adapting already available tools and know-how to achieve the goal of getting better expertise faster and more openly.

… It is in this spirit of innovation that GSA, the Open Government Initiative, and OMB’s Office of Performance and Personnel Management once again pioneer a new model for citizen consultation! We are eager to see if this kind of technology helps us receive meaningful, manageable feedback in response to a written policy proposal like the draft concept for ExpertNet.  But while we continue to experiment with innovative ways to engage the public, we also recognize that it is essential to ensure that our opportunities to comment are accessible to all Americans.  So, if you prefer not to access the wiki, you can post your comments on the discussion forum or email them to us at expertnet@ostp.gov.

Beyond the interest of an open consultation on usability issues of the initiative, usually dealt with by appointed experts,  the choice of a wiki  is welcome as it may also revive interest in wikis, an option too often neglected in favor of other Web 2.0 tools (social networks, blogs, microblogs). Yet wikis are far more efficient than these for joint elaboration of a project’s documentation.

The offer of an alternative to the wiki is also worthy of note: while people who have something to contribute about the usability of web communication are likely to be familiar with wikis, some may not wish to offer their suggestions publicly.

Modestly, when announcing this Expernet wiki in its December 2010 newsletter (sent Dec 29), Wikispaces only featured it in the second place, after the possibility to get notifications for several wikis in a single daily digest, which was also chosen for the subject line. Other web tool providers might have bragged to high heaven about being chosen by a government. Wikispaces does not need to, apparently.

One Response

  1. Claude, this article covers a wonderful indicator of how government is using the web to become more open and interactive. I have a feeling this move, as a preliminary step toward transparency, participation, and change is far more critical than we suspect. -Jim S
    (Note: This comment is based on a private email message sent to Claude about an hour ago. -js)

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