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USDA to Mix Social Media into Online Training

One of the leading online training programs in the federal
sector has an interesting idea to improve the completion rate and overall
quality of its online courses. The USDA’s AgLearn
has plans to install social media and “Facebook-style” aspects to
their training program in order to provide a more traditional classroom structure
to the emerging world of online training.
Some of these aspects include blogs, wikis, groups, and comment/user

OhMyGov recently spoke with Stanley Gray, the USDA’s
director of e-training, about this new idea and how it is coming along.

[Read More on OhMyGov]

Federal Agreements with Social Media Providers Released

Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...
Image via CrunchBase

In response to a Freedom of Information Act request in April by the Electronic Information Privacy Center (EPIC), the GSA has released the “Web 2.0 agreements” that were generated by the agency on behalf of the federal government with many social media providers in March of 2009.  The release includes contracts with, Blist, YouTube, Flickr, and MySpace and the amendments to the Facebook, Slideshare, Vimeo, and AddThis Terms of Service.  It seems that while these agreements may resolve legal concerns associated with many standard terms and conditions that pose problems for agencies, such as liability limits, endorsements and freedom of information, the contracts with the GSA consistently omit statements concerning Web 2.0 service providers’ obligations to protect privacy.

Read More: Privacy and Government Contracts with Social Media Companies

Related Post: Government Social Media Provider Update


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Government Social Media Service Provider Update

In May of this year, the U.S. General Services Administration negotiated Terms Of Service (TOS) with several big social media providers.  The goal was to arrive at a TOS federal agencies would be comfortable enough with to sign so each agency – and provider – would be spared from negotiating separate TOS agreements. The White House and GSA have now also negotiated Terms of Service agreements with nine additional social media providers:

Cooliris (video and picture browsing)
Dipity (multimedia timelines)
FriendFeed (social networking aggregator)
IdeaScale (voting and feedback)
MixedInk (collaborative writing)
Scribd (social publishing)
TubeMogul (video analytics and distribution)
TwitVid (video sharing)
Wikispaces (collaboration)

This brings the total number of agreements to 19, including previous agreements with AddThis,, Facebook, Flickr, MySpace, Slideshare, Socrata (formerly Blist), Twitter, Vimeo, and YouTube.

You can read more about the Federal TOS agreements on

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Boston Announces First iPhone App for City Complaints

Boston city officials will soon debut the cities first official iPhone application, which will allow residents to snap photos of neighborhood nuisances – nasty potholes, graffiti-stained walls, blown street lights – and e-mail them to City Hall to be fixed.

City officials say the application, dubbed Citizen Connect, is the first of its kind in the nation. It was designed as an extension of the city’s 24-hour complaint hotline for the younger set, making the filing of complaints quicker and easier for iPhone users.

The application, which will be free to download from Apple, will allow residents to use the global positioning system function on their iPhones to pinpoint the precise location of the problem for City Hall. After submitting a complaint, users will get a tracking number, so they can pester city officials if the problem persists.

In the past, residents have grumbled that their complaints disappeared into a bureaucratic black hole. Some said they had to call the city hotline repeatedly to get results. A new computer system Menino installed last fall has quickened response times.

The iPhone initiative is part of a push to make City Hall younger, hipper, and generally more user-friendly, a campaign that Menino has intensified during the mayor’s race.

The application was largely the brainchild of Nigel Jacob, a 36-year-old mayoral aide who totes a silver MacBook covered in bumper stickers and holds the exalted title senior adviser for emerging technology.

City officials say they expect to pay Connected Bits, the New Hampshire firm that designed the software, about $25,000 for technical support this year, and then review whether the cost is worth it.

[Read More]

Government IT Dashboard Debuts

Tuesday at the Personal Democracy Forum conference in New York, Federal Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra and White House Director of New Media Macon Phillips announced the launch of the new government IT Dashboard (beta of course) to provide an online window into the details of Federal information technology investments and provides citizens with the ability to track the progress of investments over time.

Filled with news, statistics, and charts, the dashboard reveals IT spending across all the major federal agencies. Select any agency, and you can see its budget and spending pattern. For example, according to the site, the Department of Defense chews up the most tax dollars, with a 2009 IT budget of $33 billion.

An interactive data feed page lets you filter specific types of data by IT project, category, and department to see a spending snapshot and then export the data as a CSV file or RSS feed. While there is a thick smog of government-ease within this feature, the ability to export the data and create even more usable mashups is very promising.

I am very excited about the new Dashboard, however, I think the Whitehouse should take a step back from creating fancy new websites to evaluate and improve (or decommission) similar sites already out there. Late last year, the Visualization to Understand Expenditures in Information Technology (VUE-IT) site was debuted by the Whitehouse which basically gives the same info that the IT Dashboard has suddenly made “more transparent”.

The goal of VUE-IT is to improve the understanding of the annual Federal Government Information Technology investments made through the President’s Budget (sound familiar?). VUE-IT organizes IT investments by agency and bureau, as well as by the Federal Enterprise Architecture’s (FEA) service groupings; Service to Citizens, Support Delivery of Services to Citizens, Management of Government Resources, and Service Types and Components.  While VUE-IT doesn’t have all the pretty pie charts and visualizations as the new Dashboard, it kinda makes more sense.

Hopefully both VUE-IT and the new IT Dashboard will contribute to the accountability that we’ve all been looking for in agencies to create a substantial change to how IT programs are developed and managed before they start spending the money.

Related Articles:

New dashboard shows where federal IT tax dollars go

Whitehouse Preparing 2.0

Launching in Beta – A Look at PdF ’09, Day 2

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White House Open Gov Initiative Launches Final Phase

The Open Government Team, in the Office of Science and Technology Policy at the White House has announce the opening of Phase 3 to accept draft recommendations.  The final phase of the initiative was launched yesterday and runs through this Sunday, June 28.  Phase 1, Brainstorming, encouraged the sharing of idea recommendations on how to make government more open. Citizens could vote on proposed ideas or their own.  The next phase, Discussion,  encouraged participants to dig deeper on the ideas and challenges identified during the Brainstorm phase.  The goal of Phase 3, Draft, is to encourage collaboration on crafting constructive proposals to address challenges from the Discussion phase.  This is your chance to participate in drafting policies that will promote greater transparency, participation, and collaboration across government.   Federal employees as well as the general public are highly encouraged to participate in this final phase.  An informational teleconference will be held today, June 23rd,  at noon eastern to explain more about the drafting phase.

Call-in #: (800) 553-0272
Call Name: "Open Government Call"


Dear All,

Today the Drafting Phase (Phase III) of the Open Government public consultation process begins at (click on Participate). This Drafting Phase invites you to collaborate on creating recommendations for open government policy using a web-based wiki tool. You are invited to a teleconference on Tuesday, June 23rd at noon eastern to learn more about the Drafting Phase and how it will work.

The first phase invited you to brainstorm topics for the Open Government recommendations and the second phase explored those topics in greater depth through on-line discussion. This third phase is intended to translate good ideas into specific, concrete, actionable policy. We are asking you to craft recommendations on each of the topics you identified as being of greatest importance.

The Drafting Phase begins today and runs through Sunday June 28th (at midnight). We suggest that you review the submissions from the earlier phases of this process, such as the Discussion blog, the public brainstorm, the government employee brainstorm, and From the Inbox. Incorporating earlier input, you can write your own draft recommendations, or combine and edit those of others to create a new recommendations. You can then vote on the best draft under each topic through June 30th.

We encourage you to contribute early, so other participants can build on your proposed text. Complete directions and a video tour are available on the wiki website.

Also – don’t forget to add any final comments to the weblog, where new postings on collaboration have recently gone up.

  • Collaborative Problem Solving and Alternative Dispute Resolution (Coming soon!)

Many thanks in advance for sharing your time and thoughts with us.  Your participation is critical to this effort’s success.

The Open Government Team

For questions, please contact Robynn Sturm at:

Web Site Helps Coordinate National United We Serve Initiative

The United We Serve summer service initiative began yesterday and runs through the National Day of Service and Remembrance on September 11th. The United We Serve Web site will help volunteers find projects in their communities and exchange stories about projects that make a difference in their communities.

[Read More on GovTech]

New York State Launches Web 2.0 Initiatives

On June 5, the New York State Office for Technology announced Empire 2.0, a strategy to encourage state agencies to use “Web 2.0, new media, and social collaborative tools and technologies” to improve communication and services, and facilitate transparency and openness in government.New York State Tech Talk

The Office for Technology is leading the way. Since May it has launched its own Facebook and Twitter accounts, a wiki for developing IT policy and strategy, and crowdsourcing Web page that collects pubic comments and ideas for future projects.

[Read More]

White House Preparing 2.0

June 5, 2009

White House officials plan to release Version 2.0 of the new government data portal,, in the next couple of months, federal chief information officer Vivek Kundra said today.

The federal Web site, which makes government data available for public reuse, will likely feature new tagging capabilities and an expanded array of information tools, Kundra said., which debuted May 21, has 87,000 data feeds from various government agencies. That number is expected to top 100,000 by next week, Kundra said.


[Read More]

Congressman Wants You to Redesign His Website

Congressman Mike Honda, 15th District of California Representative, recently announced the Rep. Mike Honda Websitelaunch of his new initiative to crowdsource the redesign of his website.  His goal of this project is to move America closer to Government 2.0, where Rep. Honda’s constituents can play a role in the creation of a site that will better serve them. This is a unique opportunity for the public to give input into the design of a government website serving hundreds of thousands of people.

Entries will be accepted via Crowdsource.  The final design will be chosen based on votes, design functionality, usability, and other criteria and will be award $1000.  The deadline for entries is June 10th so, there’s about a week to get your entry in.  Interestingly enough, there are no entries as of posting time.

Rep. Honda hopes this initiative will make his website easier to use and more accessible through the use of new online technologies. Since the Congressman is active on Twitter, Facebook, and his blog, he intends to incorporate these technologies to make his new site be an example for other member sites to follow.