The economics of government 2.0

{This is the original version of an article that appeared from Dec to February in two installments in the Canberra Times}

Australia has an official policy, pursued by the Ministry of Finance and Deregulation, on the relationship between government and the web that attempts to outline how the government will take advantage of the ‘opportunities’ opened up by the web. Similar undertakings are in progressin many countries where governments are struggling to come to terms with the role of government in the online age. ‘Our’ policy, which is still under construction, has been kicked off by accepting 12 of the 13 recommendations of the ‘Gov 2.0 taskforce’ led by Nicholas Gruen.

In this blog I will attempt to sketch the political economy of the enterprise so that it might become clearer, to those schooled in the language of markets and incentives, what is going on. The three main tenets of gov 2.0 as I see it are to put lots of documentation online, to tap into the free lunch of online volunteerism, and to make money from the government’s unique ability to identify you and tax you. Apart from talking you through these three main tenets, I will also try to dispel some particularly confusing myths doing the rounds about gov 2.0, in particular the idea that gov 2.0 will lead to more ‘participatory democracy’.

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