- Posted July 20, 2009 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Stories from Second Life
White House Speaks in SL on High Technology in Government
White House e-government expert, Beth Noveck, who is the Deputy Chief Technology Officer of US, gave a seminar today in Second Life (SL). This mixed reality event, included a live seminar conducted at the Markle Foundation in real life (RL) New York City, and an interactive discusssion at the MacArthur Island in SL. Markle's Cynthia Ceilan explains: "The virtual portion of the event was made possible by a grant from the MacArthur Foundation; Global Kids was the grantee."
Vesuvius.com's Rhiannon Chatnoir said in SL, "Beth Noveck is the White House official responsible for Open Government... This talk gives an innovative and informative look on the power of networks."
Noveck spoke about how to improve government through the use of online technologies. The Markle Foundation hosted the event and Chief of Research Stefaan Verhulst (Picture 2) spoke words of welcome to the RL and SL audiences, and a speaker introduction with a review of Noveck's career as law professor and social media innovator, including using early Internet tool called UnChat. Noveck said that President Obama has 5,400 advisors during the campaign who actively used wiki sites to share knowledge. A key application of technology includes bringing deliberation to the public realm. Getting people with knowledge engaged and involved in solving problems.
One of the core SL organizers of the event, Rik Riel (SL) of Global Kids summarized the event as "From my perspective, Beth Noveck speaking within Second Life is another demonstration of how important these virtual world tools are becoming for civic engagement, government transparency and institutional efficiency. Our democracy is going to be indelibly changed by these synchronous and asynchronous tools of collaboration, from wikis to 3D environments in ways unanticipated by our forefathers. It's incredibly encouraging to know that there are people in the White House that share this perspective."
More than 80 avatars attended Noveck's talk in SL (Pictures 3, 5, 7). The SL event organizers supporting made these announcements "As you have questions for Beth, please type them into the chat log or IM Kuri Minotaur [SL] or Bing Appleton [SL] with your organization." Appleton could send questions directly to Noveck from SL to RL. SL's key role in the seminar was acknowledged at the start by Verhulst, and Noveck mentioned the importance of SL as collaborative social media in several of her statements.
The following comments and several others were read from the SL chat to the live audience in RL (Picture 4). One of my favorite aspects of SL is the chat that goes on, even during a serious presentation. At this event, there was very active banter in the SL text chat from avatars such as Hackshaven Harford (SL) of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Amanda Linden (SL) of Linden Labs, the creators of SL.
Greever Wemyss (SL) said, "We in municipal government are on the front lines of direct citizen service but should have an awareness and input into federal level services provided directly to the nation's citizens - social media tools seem to be a viable option for this collaboration."
Helena Whittlesea (SL) made a counterpoint comment, challenging the premises: "allowing people to 'rate and review' doesn't guarantee anything -- people game that system too. It's naive to think just because it's an 'open' (read: "do-good") system that everyone involved has noble objectives."
An Environmental Protection Agency staffer participated from the virtual world, Farnham Farjones (SL), said "When can we address the Pipe (buggy, intermittent audio/video streaming)? It's going to be impossible to market Collaboration in our organizations without stable streaming."
Noveck had many interesting insights to share. Patent applications were highlighted as a problematic government process. Patents take 3 to 5 years and give 20 years of exclusive invention rights. Patents are highly litigated, including large expensive lawsuits. Many companies are going to Europe first to patent, then come back to US patent office through the back door. The patent office recruited volunteer scientists and engineers using a custom Internet application to review patents and lend expertise, determining if the inventions were truly novel. The pilot of this application, called Peer to Peer, completed after 2 years with 59% of patent examiners wanting to use the tool. Noveck claims that Peer to Peer proves that public is capable of self selection and contribute quality work to the patent officials.
Eli Lilly's InnoCentive and many other examples of getting experts together solving problems through collaborative Internet tools. For example, Health and Human Services agency has an H1N1 video prize to help educate the public. Noveck says crowd sourcing (e.g. Wikipedia) is great but you have to apply people to a specific challenge.
Noveck says, "We write memos and we go to meetings, that is what we do in government." The problem is that they ofent do not have the ideal experts in the room to help solve problems. Noveck continues: "The beauty of open government is that it takes us out of the insular world and opens up the process to new ideas and energy." There are 27,000 government websites in the dot gov domain, but not enough are engaging the public. It is important to try things that may not succeed, in order to learn. For example, there is a 90 day program to deliver immigration status updates to citizens via cellphone text messages.
On a light note, Noveck said that her office title used to say Deputy CTO, and now says Director of Intergalactic Policy. When they opened the White House website for public contributions, they received many comments about UFOs.
Markle's Steffan Verhulst Biography: http://markle.org/about_markle/management/stefaan_verhulst.php
Beth Noveck's Biography on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beth_Simone_Noveck
Vesuvius Group Information: http://www.thevesuviusgroup.com/
Event Location in SL: http://slurl.com/secondlife/Foundations/109/231/34
Global Kids: http://olp.globalkids.org