Government taps the power of us: Officials turn to blogs and wikis to share information and achieve goals

May 21, 2007 by Richard W. Walker,

First, he joined the blogosphere, creating a Web site that encouraged constituents to comment on issues, no matter which side they were on. And then last year, he started an issues-based wiki, a Web site where everyone can read, edit and post views. The site,, became a virtual town hall for a discussion about vouchers.

Earlier this year, the Utah House and Senate approved the measure on vouchers, and the governor signed the bill into law.

“Politicopia helped move the debate on vouchers,” Urquhart said in a speech at the recent Government CIO Summit, sponsored by 1105 Government Information Group. The summit’s theme was “Government by Wiki: New Tools for Collaboration, Information-Sharing and Decisionmaking.”

For example, at the General Services Administration, the Office of Citizen Services and Communications’ Intergovernmental Solutions Division has created an open, collaborative work environment. It includes a wiki to enhance interaction among its stakeholders at various levels of government. The collaborative site doesn’t eliminate stovepipes and silos in government, but it helps turn them into wind chimes that talk to one another across agencies, said Susan Turnbull, the office’s senior program adviser.

“Our mission is to improve the communications, trust and information sharing at all levels of government,” Turnbull said. But “we’re not in a position to change the dynamics, borders and missions at any of these agencies.”

Instead, she said, “a large part of [our activity] has to do with spending constructive time with one another in a way that we can understand each other.” Indeed, she added, one of the office’s performance metrics is the quality of the discussion.