Using Technology to Improve Education, Cut Red Tape, Reduce Gridlock,
and Enhance Democracy
& Littlefield Publishers, January 2005)
By William D. Eggers
Government 2.0 Talking Points
From Industrial Age to Information Age Government
We are in the midst of an historic change similar to what we experienced
a century ago when starry-eyed Progressives sought to remake government
in the image of a private sector revolutionized by technology. The Progressive
Era gave us the civil service system, the city manager, independent public
authorities, administrative agencies, and the Federal Reserve. Our own
Information Era requires similarly sweeping changes, many of which involve
unmaking much of what the Progressives wrought.
Change of Thinking Required
While existing technologies give us the power to transform everythingfrom
how businesses are regulated to how government protects citizens from
terrorismour thinking hasn't yet caught up with our tools. We're still
trapped in an industrial-age mindset. Government will never truly realize
the transformative benefits of information technology until government
systems, ways of delivering services, and bureaucratic structures are
rethought and redesigned to reflect the realities of the Information Age.
Since governments have begun posting information online, the Internet has become one of the most important tools in the
quest for achieving more transparent and accountable government. Citizens no longer need to feel like they cannot find out
what their representatives are really up to; they can now hunt for corruption and monitor performance on the Web.
Transforming the Political Debate
When you consider the two dominant American political parties' current stances on most big issues of our time it's hard
not to get a sense of déjà vu about arguments that haven't changed much since the New Deal. What's more, on one issue after
another the two sides can muster nearly even strength. That's a recipe for slow and ineffective change, even gridlock - and a
sense of futility among voters. Digital government promises to change all that-not by shifting alliances along the Left/Right
spectrum (though that will happen); or by helping one side finally win the Left/Right debate once and for all (that almost
surely won't happen); or by offering mushy, technocratic "Third Way" answers to policy questions. On one issue after another,
technology advancements will not so much help one side win over another-it will instead change the question that's asked in
the first place.
Government 2.0 on Today's Most Critical Issues
On the Relationship between Citizens and Government
"Thanks to IT's ability to deliver customized services and information
at relatively low cost, one-size-fits-all" government can be transformed
into "government you design." Digital government can also help
open up the public sector to greater participation and regular scrutiny
by citizens, the result: a power shift from governments to citizens."
On the Decline of Civic Participation
"The Internet is no panacea for the well-documented decline in civic
participation. However, by reducing the barriers to civic engagement and
widening the opportunities for political debate in a myriad of ways, from
e-advocacy and online consultation forums to electronic town hall meetings,
political information sites, and other new electronic capabilities it
can update the agora and the town meeting for the digital age."
On Education Reform
"By changing how teachers teach, how students learn, how schools
are managed, even what schools are, online learning has the potential
to alter the structure and system of public education in ways every bit
as fundamental, if not more so, than vouchers, charters, national standards,
smaller class sizes and other better-known public-school reforms."
On Traffic Congestion
"Technology can help convert roads from inert slabs of concrete into
living, dynamic transport networks. Traffic control, for example, is ultimately
a problem of turning data about congestion into usable knowledge for drivers
and transportation planners. By linking transportation planners with emergency
road crews and drivers, providing all of them with real-time information
about congestion, drivers can make more informed travel decisions and
transportation planners can get more out of existing roads."
"The dangers to privacy from some of today's technologies are real
however we protect our liberties not by prohibiting government agencies
from using the latest technologies, but through our system of checks and
balances, our Constitution and our Bill of Rights."
"The more we rely on cyber-based systems to run our economy, operate
our government, and organize our society, the more tempting a target they
present to hackers, criminals, terrorists and others who would do us harm.
Digital government will never realize its full potential until citizens
have the utmost confidence that their personal information is secure from
those who would use the information in malicious ways."
"In this important book, William Eggers shows convincingly
just how much promise technology holds for making government
more efficient, transparent, and responsive to its citizens.
Eggers displays a keen understanding of policy-making in the
digital age. Accompanying his insightful policy prescriptions
are invaluable tips for putting the ideas into practice. Government
2.0 is a great contribution to freedom and democracy."
- Governor Bill Owens,
"Government 2.0 should be required reading for all policy
makers; it showcases the power of harnessing new technologies
in a readable fashion with wonderful, real-life anecdotes.
The information is vital for anyone helping to chart the political,
cultural and economic future of our country."
- Cathilea Robinett, Executive Director,
Centers for Digital Government and Education Executive Vice
President, e.Republic, Inc.
"Bill Eggers effectively identifies that democracy in
America today is increasingly being played out by everyday
citizens in front of computer screens. He shows that political
leaders can be in constructive two-way conversations with
their constituents if they understand the dynamics of today's
- Minneapolis Mayor
"Bill Eggers is one of the country's leading experts
on government reform. I have been reading and listening to
for a decade, since I first was elected mayor of Indianapolis.
His new book, Government 2.0, provides a major contribution
to the public policy debate."
- Stephen Goldsmith, Professor, Faculty
Chair of the Innovations in American Government Program, Harvard
University and former mayor of Indianapolis
"Every year, more governments are using technology to
become more user-friendly and transparent for citizens, and,
ultimately, more effective - moving from old-style patronage
politics to performance politics. Government 2.0 is a great
place to start for government leaders who want to make the
right choices to have the biggest impact."
- Baltimore Mayor
"Bill Eggers is out front ably tackling the huge challenge
of making America's governments more rational and more electronic.
This is the last frontier of the information age. Let's hope
Eggers is right that "IT" shall overcome!"
- Richard P. Nathan, Director, Rockefeller Institute
of Government, State University of New York