As society becomes more digitally connected, organizations must embrace concepts and technologies that lead to more collaborative and participatory work cultures. This is the foundation behind Empire 2.0, New York state's strategy to increase transparency and productivity by using social media to better connect government with its citizens.
Why should government adopt Web 2.0 technologies? Because citizens are demanding better online services, more information and less red tape. In addition, there continues to be an increasing demand for government transparency, accountability, responsiveness and engagement. State and local governments can harness social media for e-government, e-democracy and public-sector reform.
New York has become a leader in utilizing Web 2.0 tools to enhance constituent engagement. Last June, on behalf of the New York State Chief Information Officer/Office for Technology (CIO/OFT), I had the distinct pleasure of launching Empire 2.0, a social media initiative designed to promote government participation, increase collaboration and expand the state's ability to share information with social media users.
Empire 2.0 is the first statewide strategy in the country to provide agencies with a road map for using Web 2.0, new media, and collaborative tools and technologies to improve intergovernmental communications and encourage citizen involvement.
The list of New York agencies utilizing these new tools continues to grow. CIO/OFT has adopted a number of tools ranging from the ubiquitous Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to the less-common crowdsourcing tools to generate ideas, wikis for collaborative development and portals for virtual collaboration.
The New York State Department of Labor is using Facebook around the clock to answer questions about unemployment benefits and to provide information about training, job fairs and job postings to help the unemployed get back to work. "Social networking sites have helped us reach thousands more people at a minimal cost to taxpayers," says Labor Commissioner Colleen C. Gardner. "Through direct communication, real change can and is happening every day."
Our legislative branch is arguably the furthest along in adoption of Web 2.0 tools within state government. Built entirely using open-source software, with content ranging from senators' blogs to live webcasts and integrated Twitter and Facebook news streams, the New York Senate's NYSenate.gov website sets a new benchmark for Gov 2.0. Citizens can use the site to comment publicly on legislation, register their stand on key issues, and share content through social bookmarking.
Research shows ongoing exponential growth in the adoption of social media and Web 2.0 technologies as a primary mode of communication and engagement. In the end, it comes down to serving the customer -- our citizens -- in the most efficient manner possible.
Therefore, as responsible governments, we should embark on these opportunities to improve transparency for our citizens and communicate with them in a manner conducive to their participation. This shall become a new form of democracy.