Government 2.0 – Engaging with the population?

I don’t know about you, but in my work and social spheres there are few phrases more likely to induce a groan and eye-roll than “Web 2.0”. Apparently Web 2.0 is this amazing new thing that involves Blogging, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and so on. The thing is that if you’ve been using one of these sites, or contributing to the social media and social networking phenomenon then you already know that there’s nothing really new about it.

Social networking and media have been around so long now that businesses are all over ways to make money from it. From Facebook fan pages to corporate blogs and brilliant video campaigns like “Will It Blend?” business has grabbed hold of the opportunities afforded by the current media landscape. In fact, this success is very close to peaking. As the competition for the limited attention of online users increases, the audience will inevitably fragment or give up and move on. Most likely both will happen.

And that’s the heart of the problem facing the Gov 2.0 Conference being held in Canberra later this month. According to the conference website, “Gov 2.0 is developed to answer Web 2.0 implementation questions”.  Not only does the conference need to deal with the institutional issues to do with the implementation of social media and the operating principles and guidelines by which it will function. Perhaps far more importantly, it really needs to consider how making use of new media outlets will help it to better engage with an audience that is rapidly disengaging.

It’s not at all a bad move for government to get more involved in the social aspects of the web, but it will take a lot of skill and planning to make this involvement meaningful and relevant for a socially and technologically skilled populace.