I am at the Government Leadership Summit today in Williamsburg, where I just moderated a panel on Intellipedia, a MediaWiki-based wiki that the us intell community is using to share data.
And as I type this on my Blackberry, folks from the Navy, State Department and GSA are talking about blogging. You wouldn’t think there would be so much regulation standing in the way of government talking to itself–let alone the public–via Web 2.0 tech. Procurement, congressional oversight, policy and administrative rules are all tooled against direct communication.
*and an edit from a real computer*
After taking in the whole conference, and looking at what 3 cups of coffee and a crackberry wrung out of me, I figured maybe I should expand on the buzziness above.
I had been away from covering government stuff for almost 15 years before this January. And as much as things have changed, the people in government IT largely haven’t. The average age of the Federal IT workforce is 47, according to a factoid I heard yesterday–which I’m going to have to get a cite for, but based on the folks I’ve seen at various events, it seems on target. Unlike the commercial world, there has long been a culture of risk-avoidance, and resistance to change is embedded in both the regulations and culture. One person I spoke to talked about how regulations are to the point that government employees now have to basically break them in order to get anything done.
Another problem is that there’s a dependency on contractors to do much of the deep technical work in government IT, and contracts are generally driven by specifications from within government. Cross pollination of new ideas — and a flow of fresh blood into the Federal IT gene pool– is something that hasn’t been made easy by the way the government does business.