Government of the People … For the People

10 Downing Street is on TwitterOne of the under-appreciated benefits of the Web is how much closer it has brought government to the people — and the people to government.

What I’m talking about is how we have access to an unprecedented amount of resources, tools and information from our respective governments. We even have access to people working in the government. And it’s all from our desktops and mobile devices, making it incredibly convenient and instantaneous.

Consider just two examples I’ve run into this week alone:

  • Business.gov has a new Twitter account – Business.gov, the U.S. Federal government’s website link between government and business, is now on Twitter (@BusinessDotGov) as of last Thursday. Even more interesting, they followed me! Five years ago, I couldn’t have imagined THAT happening — them reaching out to me. No way! Yet, they reached out. They’re just getting their feet wet on Twitter and I look forward to their updates. Go ahead, follow them — I’m sure they will appreciate it. By the way, Business.gov is an awesome website — read my review from last year.
  • British Prime Minister’s office is on Twitter – @DowningStreet is the Twitter account giving frequent updates from the PM’s office. For instance, 4 hours ago I learned that the Sultan of Brunei had visited 10 Downing Street. Now, I know what you’re thinking: “you could have gotten that information from Reuters — what’s the big deal?” The big deal is that @DowningStreet actually follows and replies to others on Twitter. For example, they recently responded to questions by a James Henley (@jameshenley), who describes himself as a 20-year old youth pastor, and to Nick Booth of the UK (@podnosh). I may not be a citizen of the UK, but considering the close cultural and political ties between our two nations, I am very interested in the British Prime Minister’s policies.

The Web and computer databases also make it possible for governments to intrude into the lives of their citizens. Who among us doesn’t feel unsettled by the thought of Big Brother examining our lives too closely? That’s definitely something all of us need to guard against happening.

But consider the progress we’ve made on the flip side. The Web is bringing us access to the people working in government. It brings us closer to the resources our respective governments offer. And it gives us a voice to communicate easily and quickly with those who are representing us in government.

I think that is admirable progress. What do you think?

More in: 14 Comments ▼

Anita Campbell - CEO


Anita Campbell Anita Campbell is the Founder and Publisher of Small Business Trends and has been following trends in small businesses since 2003. She is the owner of BizSugar, a social media site for small businesses, and also serves as CEO of TweakYourBiz.com.

14 Reactions

  1. Very surprising. But I’m not sure how I feel about this. I’m having a mixed reaction but I can’t wait to hear everyone else’s thoughts.

  2. Invasion of privacy is not the fault of the internet; government spying on citizens is as old as government itself.

    Government participation in social media is the best opportunity for democracy to fulfill its potential to date. Real time voting on legislation by the people would be the biggest paradigm shift in governing since the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

  3. Anita, I’m curious. How do you know that the Business.gov twitterer is anything to do with the government and not just someone who is interested in such things?

  4. I have mixed feeling too. Why should the government spend time and money on these kind of things? It is good to see that you could get an inside view of what is going on. But shouldn’t you continue the great tradition of town hall meetings and direct “democracy”? (As a note: I am for a constitutional republic as proposed by the Founding Father. I am opposed to today’s majority rule systems.).

    Please read my post, Big Brother Snoop Law in Sweden. Click on my name. Have you heard that Sweden has an “embassy” at Second Life? http://www.thelocal.se/7347/20070518/

  5. Put me in the mixed feelings camp as well. If all this leads to more transparency and direct communication between citizens and elected officials, we all gain. If it leads to people on both sides trying to game the system and manipulate conversations, then all of today’s problems and disconnects are going to get worse.

  6. Hi Laura, I agree that we have to watch out for imposters and poseurs. But in this case, based on email correspondence I’ve had from the SBA (which manages Business.gov), I am confident they are for real. I’ve been on their press release email lists for some time.

    Hopefully they will start giving government-specific updates soon. Then it will be unmistakable that they are the people behind the Business.gov website.

    Anita

  7. Hi Martin and Gary, great points about democracy.

    But you see, to me, this is democracy in action. 21st Century democracy.

    It would be much easier to hide behind a website and never come out and show yourself or hear from people. But on Twitter, the government is actually engaging with us.

    I am a huge supporter of democracy but I’m afraid running things through town hall meetings would not be practical. Most of us wouldn’t have time. So even though it sounds on the one hand like a good idea, I’m afraid we’d quickly descend into a small group taking the time to vote anyway — representatives we didn’t even elect.

    Anita

  8. I can see both the good and bad here with this. I’m impressed that they’re connecting but I guess I’m just a tad old fashioned about technology still. I don’t even have any desire to have a system such as OnStar in place in one of my vehicles. I know the benefits outweigh the negatives there, but it just bothers me that your motions can be tracked. I realize no one would care what I’m doing or where I’m going anyway. . .but there’s just something about that I don’t like. I kinda feel the same about cell phones, too. When they ping, they are reporting the vicinity you’re in. Just doesn’t sit well with me.

  9. Thanks for the interest in Business.gov! We are excited to be on twitter and the site is official government information. http://www.business.gov is the “Official Business Link to the U.S. Government.” The site was created and is maintained by the Business Gateway Initiative, a program managed by the Small Business Administration in partnership with 21 other Federal agencies. The program does a very good job of having authoritative, government information posted to help small business owners meet their regulatory and compliance needs. We know the compliance burden on small business owners is great, and we are trying to aggregate the information for business owners in one place that they can trust.

    We are using new technologies such as twitter, blogging, social networks, etc. to get the word out and drive people to use the site to find the authoritative information they need to run their business.

    Please provide your comments and suggestions as we greatly value business owner feedback and use it to make updates to the site. http://www.business.gov/contact-us/

  10. Tracy, thanks for stopping by and participating in the discussion! Anita

  11. Thanks for the mention.

    We have grown up to understand government as a process, something that is done to us. In truth good government is a conversation between the governed and the governors. Town meetings are important because thats where people go to vote – but in truth they are more valuable as a way of provoking conversation throughout the town .

    Any tool which reminds us of that and encourages those inside government to have conversational relationships with the rest of us is good news. Twitter, used properly, is such a tool.

  12. Well, It will be century before we can see this thing happen in France gouv.

    Seems you are buiding next online democracy in US

    Anita, you are famous now ;-)

    Best regards from France

    Claude

  13. Anita, I have read your article, as well as all of the previous comments, and I find myself quite torn on the subjuect of the internet being the greatest thing since sliced bread to be the “ultimate-end-all-solution” to creating a more thoroughly democratic union. Yes, the internet has brought us to a place where information is more readily available than ever before in history. We can get on-line and read the actual words of the founding fathers as they debated between one another about how to draft our great Constitution–which is awesome! But we can also get online and be guided to sites that suppose themselves as truthful while being comepletely disengenious and propogandizing with a full intent to deceive.
    In light of this, the problem I have with the government sites is not that they tend to be informative and full of terrific information, (because they are and I frequently use them), but that they are written by, and altered by, the government in power at the time. It is akin to having the history of your life online and having that history be subject to the nuances and perspectives of everyone who knew you while you were alive–but also by those who only heard about you via some kind of grape-vine gossip.
    Some of the respondents also spoke about an invasion of privacy when it comes to “internet-era technology” such as gps. My view of GPS is that it is an invasion of privacy. It does not matter if you turn GPS location off on your phone (or other device), because there is always someone, somewhere, whether in a company or in the govenment, that can track your every move. I know this from experience, as I was called and berated several times by person’s high up in my company for not being “on the job” while I was at “my doctor’s office” by the permission of lower level managers. Face it…if you have a device that has GPS you can be tracked 24 hours a day–7 days a week.
    The third thing to note here is the comment by Claude. Claude is from France and he says that government site info is something that will not happen in France for at least a 100 years. I think we need to listen to Claude. I thik we need to seriously consider where we are headed as a nation.
    France has looked to us for guidance since the days of our Colonial Rebellion against the British. They had a true sense of who we were when they gifted us the Statue of Liberty.
    I’d like to say we should listen to Claude, but France has changed much more than we have over the past two hundred years,
    and we do not want to go in their direction.
    Let’s try looking at ourselves. Let us go back and remember who we truly are. Let us see the truth of our journey.
    Let us have the Freedom, let us have the Choice, to choose our Destiny.
    Let us be friends with the Liberty of the Lady who stands at the shore; And let us keep alive Our Constitutional Rights.
    Long Live the Archive of History,
    Joseph

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