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Is Change.gov Really Changing Our .gov?

BY Michael Turk | Wednesday, December 3 2008

Matthew Burton posted yesterday on the Daschle health care video over at Change.gov. His question?

Is this video something that we tech-politics geeks should be excited about?

Honestly, if the subject was just the clip I would answer with a resounding no. I don't think the video itself was anything terribly interesting or revolutionary.

However, Greg Elin over at the Sunlight Foundation has sort of a different perspective that gives the effort a bit more meaning for me.

Yesterday, in one small blog post for a web site, but one giant web page for .gov web sites, Change.gov demonstrated how government sites could begin to join the rest of Web 2.0-kind.

Elin has a great breakdown of the features present in the Health Care effort (from comments to RSS) and even touches on sole-source vendor favoritism. He briefly alludes to section 508, but doesn't get into whether Change.gov is compliant.

I have to admit, I have been, and continue to be exceptionally skeptical. It's one thing for Change.gov (a quasi-governmental website run by the transition team) to be innovative. It's entirely another for that sort of thinking to permeate entrenched bureaucracies.

Having spent a year trying to get Energy to do something as relatively straightforward as agreeing to a common CMS and using it, I foresee a lot of opposition. Career feds like their habits and they're hard pressed to give them up. I actually had the union reps at DOE threaten to file a grievance (change of working conditions) because I dared to suggest that we would migrate from Windows NT to Windows XP. Now that's a fairly small lift compared to moving from web 0.1 to web 2.0.

While Change.gov represents a shift, it is more exception, at this point, than rule.

I will say, however, that Change.gov has impressed me with an effort to incorporate new technology into at least one government site. I suspect that the White House site may become more open, but I still suspect that we're unlikely to see wholesale change throughout the agencies. Hopefully I'm wrong.