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10/06/10 Civic Technology , Digital Government

From Gov 1.0 to Gov 2.0: A change in users, too

A study based on Eurostat data on ICT usage among individuals in Italy demonstrates that current Web 2.0 users are not interested in eGovernment, while eGovernment users are reluctant to be involved in Gov 2.0 initiatives. A change of paradigm is needed to evolve from Gov 2.0 for policy wonks to large scale participation.

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p class=”paragraph_style_5″>The figure below summarizes one of the main findings of the Report on Digital Divide among households in Italy commissioned by the Italian Parliament and co-funded by all the major telecom companies operating in the country (see this Abstract of Chapter 2 in English, or the full report in Italian). Using data from Eurostat (year 2008), the study classifies the users according to a number of Internet activities that they had performed in the last 3 months. 
Users tend to cluster into three main groups:

• the first group (in light green) tends to carry out quite traditional web activities, such as on-line banking, information search or eGovernment
• the second (in darker green) tries out new technologies mainly devoted to communication and the web 2.0, i.e. blogging, social networks, on-line gaming, listening to streaming music, etc.
• the third (in red) is composed of occasional users who did not do any of the activities considered in the last 3 months

Looking at the personal characteristics of the people belonging to the various groups, the data shows that age still plays a very important role, following a pattern that could be thought of as a ‘digital circle of life’ (purple line). Internet users, while starting this virtual cycle among the occasional users when very young, tend to move to the innovation adopters group at 16 to 25 years old, and then join the traditional group once they reach middle age. The circle is eventually closed by virtue of the fact that senior people belong to the occasional users group. As expected, the level of education (blue line) is also positively correlated to the use of the Internet, but the arrows are pointing right to center of the web 1.0 cluster.

Today, who is Gov 2.0 for?
Once again data shows that, on average, digital natives seem to maintain the monopoly of web 2.0, while traditional and bureaucratic on line services are generally used by completely different people, namely well-educated persons in their 30s or 40s.
The difference from 1.0 and 2.0 users is even more dramatic considering e-government services. People who download public forms or use advanced on line services (“sending filled in forms”, in Eurostat vocabulary) are represented in the chart at the exact opposite of blogs creators. They are different users, having different habits and showing completely different ways to use the Internet. Gov 1.0 users do on-line banking, read newspapers on line, etc. Maybe they have responsibilities, have to pay taxes, find a new job and so on, but are probably not used to Twitter, Ning or Second Life. On the contrary, Web 2.0 people are younger and just want to communicate and play.
A tremendous change in service design is necessary to meet the needs of web 2.0 people without leaving traditional users behind; a change of paradigm in fact. New services have to be co-designed with 2.0 kind of users, and a hacker mentality has to be promoted to loose the boundaries between institutional bodies and society.
But today who is Gov 2.0 really for? David Osimo thinks that the existing initiatives are just for elitists – designed, he says quoting the New York Times, for Lisa Simpson, not for Bart – and that new tools are needed in order to involve him, i.e. to enable large-scale participation. Using the Simpsons to interpret the Eurostat data, Bart would be – well… he actually is! – a teenager probably just not interested in political participation and eGovernment services, or at least not yet. He would know how to use 2.0 tools to interact with Government, but he prefers to “play networked games with others” or to download illegal content on peer-to-peer networks. And Lisa, where is she in the chart? Data shows what is happening on average, and Lisa is therefore not considered. In fact, she is absolutely an exception: she is politically involved, she cares about policies (a policy wonk, someone said), while having the media literacy to be 2.0.
Time is probably going to help this. It is reasonable to expect that, as the digital natives get older and new commodities and tools such as the iPad spread, more Barts are going be turned into Lisas, and the hacker/wonk mentality will eventually become more widespread. In the meantime, as Alberto points out, it is better to be ruled by a few Lisas than by Mr. Burns.

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