Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/washington/news.aspx?id=106019
Story Retrieval Date: 5/24/2013 2:55:00 AM CST
WASHINGTON -- There is an 800-pound gorilla sitting at the table as President-elect Barack Obama plans his transition to the White House.
But this gorilla isn’t measured in pounds; it is measured in dollars – a little more than $90 billion, the market cap of Google Inc., arguably the Internet’s most successful company.
Eric Schmidt, the CEO of the global search giant, has an honored seat on Obama’s Transition Economic Advisory Board. And if he and Obama have their way, Web 2.0 could give way to Government 2.0.
Schmidt addressed an audience of about 200 Tuesday at the Ronald Reagan Building. He spoke about government policy creation, information access and energy change.
The message was simple: Open.
Schmidt advocated government based on the same principles which drove the creation of the Internet. The common phrase is to write what you know, or in this case, recommend what you know.
The Web was a collaboration between and public and private sources, balanced appropriately so that innovation could develop.
Schmidt asked why government can’t be the same way, starting with the fix for the economic slowdown.
“Unlike many other countries, we have… the people in the room not only to solve these problems but make a better place,” he said.
But innovation is something Schmidt doesn’t see slowing after the current crisis has passed.
He envisions it broadening to other areas, including developing new ideas for electricity generation, revitalizing the auto industry and helping encourage debate.
For Schmidt, the key is allowing everyone to participate in the discussion, mimicking a key part of the corporate culture at Google.
Google’s employees are routinely grouped together on projects where they have a common interest. And the culture is one of debating multiple ideas to find the best one.
“You never know where innovation comes from, but in an innovation environment, you welcome it,” he said.
Yet, this open innovative model may not have the appropriate influence when it comes to legislation, according to John Samples, director of the Center for Representative Government at the libertarian Cato Institute.
“These [collaborative] networks are less territorial,” Samples said. “The problem is that representatives are. To influence them, they have to believe it matters to their re-election.”
The power of these online networks to influence policy and legislative changes might not exist.
Despite that, Schmidt’s vision for a new democracy relies on the government moving forward with its use of new ideas and technology.
“The government has not embraced generically the tools we use every day,” he said, pointing to the lack of blogs and other Internet innovations.
But that might be changing quickly. Obama pioneered political campaigning on the Internet, through his successful use of Facebook and multiple sites during his campaign. Now, in his transition, the use of the Web continues.
Obama posted his first address to the nation on YouTube, but that in itself wasn’t the innovative part. Instead it was what came after, Schmidt said.
By using YouTube, Obama enabled all the viewers to comment and respond with their own videos, opening the dialogue long before he takes office.
Welcome to Government 2.0.