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Archive for April 2009 Team Obama puts out the help wanted sign for transparency ideas

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One of the more vexing issues right now is transparency and the recovery program, and I keep pointing out that this is all unprecedented. There has arguably never been this level of transparency on this scale done this quickly… and I would argue that this is unprecedented in the private sector as well. That being said, it is also critically important. And the team working on the administration’s recovery plan understand that.

I mentioned back in March that the Obama administration was trying to get some transparency around the stimulus transparency initiative by, at least initiatially, reaching out to feds. And they used an existing tool — OMB’s MAX federal community wiki. (If you don’t know about the MAX federal community, the National Academy of Public Administration’s Collaboration Project has a case study on it here … and last year when I was at Federal Computer Week, we highlighted it as a case study in collaboration.)

The administration was quickly chided — somewhat unfairly — for being transparent in a way that wasn’t publicly available. In my conversations with people, what they were trying to do was to use the tools that they had and the plan has always been to reach out in additional ways. And I have been hearing parts of those plans, but we’re getting the first official look at them on’s home page … and on Facebook… on Twitter … and below…

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The administration is turning to the National Academy of Public Administration , which has been way out front on collaboration issues with its with its Collaboration Project, to create a public “dialogue” as a way of eliciting ideas from the public and from industry.

For one week beginning April 27th, The Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board and the Office of Management and Budget in partnership with the National Academy of Public Administration, will host a national online dialogue to engage leading information technology vendors, thinkers, and consumers in answering a key question:

What ideas, tools, and approaches can make a place where all citizens can transparently monitor the expenditure and use of recovery funds?

Participants from across the IT community will be able to recommend, discuss, and vote on the best ideas, tools, and approaches. Your ideas can directly impact how operates and ensure that our economic recovery is the most transparent and accountable in history.

This is similar to the National Dialogue on Health IT and Privacy that the National Academy held last year. Back in October, I suggested that the concept was worth watching … and on Federal News Radio 1500 AM’s Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris, we had the National Academy’s Lena Trudeau on several times to talk about it. Hear an early one here [.mp3] … or her most recent one here talking about their report assessing the National Dialogue tool.

One of the big industry concerns was whether “transparency” means that they will have to surrender proprietary information. Frankly, if they do, they will not participate. And I believe that the organizers have considered that and they have devised a plan that allows a public description with additional follow-up data available for consideration purposes. That being said, this is a big issue for industry and some companies will be reluctant to participate if it means the loss of their intellectual property.

That being said, this seems like an important opportunity… and I’ll be fascinated to see what evolves from this dialogue. The Obama CTO reader

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The Obama administration’s announcement late Friday — and officially made on Saturday — of the OMB deputy director of management/chief performance officer as well as the much discussed Obama chief technology officer has been the talk of weekend water-coolers, such as they are. For those who are just catching up, more here… the President announced new chief performance officer and OMB deputy director of management, Jeffrey Zients, and also the much discussed Obama CTO, Aneesh Chopra, who has served as the Virginia Secretary of Technology.

In general, the CTO announcement wasn’t a total shock. Back on Feb. 12, we had Chopra on Federal News Radio 1500 AM’s Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris talking about Virginia’s innovative, you get a sense that Chopra has at least thought about the job. In fact, at that time, we promised Chopra we wouldn’t focus on the ObamaCTO job, but… I said that at the end of our conversation. Unfortunately it got chopped off. I’ll see if I can hunt it down today. Regardless, you can hear that conversation here.

Also if you want to get insight into the new Obama CTO, here is a video for you…

Hat tip to Read-Write-Web, where they said, “We’ve embedded a video of the keynote Aneesh Chopra gave at this year’s State of the Net Conference earlier this year to give you an insight into the thoughts of our new CTO. In this 50 minute talk, Chopra discusses health IT, broadband policy and open education among other things.”

I thought it would be good to pull together some readings on what people are sying about Chopra and the Obama CTO post. Some of the Dorobek Insider’s writings can be found here.

Other writings about the CTO:

* OMB Director Peter Orszag’s blog post about the Zients, under the delicious headline Move Over R2, CPO is Here (I’ll get more on Zients later, but… this was interseting):

The President decided to make the Deputy Director for Management the government’s first Chief Performance Officer because the goal is not just good management or solid operations, but generating good results for the American people. Through this performance lens, government operations become a way to drive better results, not an end in and of itself. Specifically, Jeff will lead the President’s efforts on contracting and procurement reform, improve government productivity by helping to root out error and waste, build a performance agenda across government, and enhance the transparency of the government’s finances so that citizens are empowered to hold us all accountable for improved stewardship and performance. He will work closely with the also just-announced Chief Technology Officer,Aneesh Chopra, and the Federal Chief Information Officer, Vivek Kundra.

*’s Micah L. Sifry: Obama Names Aneesh Chopra US’s First CTO

Great analysis from Sifry… as always. (And no — not just because he mentions me!)

First, it looks like very good news for the transparency movement, as well as those of us looking for an open-minded leader willing to experiment with new forms of collaborative governance. For example, back in early 2007, under Chopra’s leadership, Virginia was one of the first states to move, with Google’s help, to make its state websites more searchable and thus more accessible to ordinary citizens. The state has also been in the forefront of efforts to create robust web services tracking the giant government stimulus spending package enacted by Obama, and as fed-watcher Christopher Dorobek points out, Chopra is well aware of and supportive of citizen-led watchdog efforts like Jerry Brito’s (Give points to Dorobek for also noting Chopra’s potential as CTO.)

Under Chopra (and it must be mentioned, his boss Governor Tim Kaine), the state also launched a highly interactive website that collected more than 9000 suggestions from residents on how the stimulus monies might be spent. “Relative to calls and letters, it’s fairly safe to say this is probably a tenfold increase in civic participation by allowing people to click on a button, submit their ideas and engage with their governor,” Chopra told a local paper back in March. Finally, like his soon-to-again-be-colleague Vivek Kundra, Obama’s Chief Information Officer, who also came out of Virginia before serving as DC’s CTO, Chopra is willing to try new ways to innovate government processes, inspired by the open and lateral networking development culture of the internet.

Read the full post here.

* O’Reilly Media’s Tim O’Reilly (the guy who invented the term Web 2.0): Why Aneesh Chopra is a Great Choice for Federal CTO

Some in Silicon Valley have hoped for one of their own, a CTO with a deep technology pedigree and ties to the technology industry. For example, the Techcrunch coverage leads with the title Obama Spurns Silicon Valley. This is a narrow view. I’ve been working for much of the past year to understand what many have been calling Government 2.0, and in that process, Chopra has been one of those who have taught me the most about how we can build a better government with the help of technology.

Chopra has been focused for the past three years on the specific technology challenges of government.

And O’Reilly goes on to list nine reasons why Chopra is good for the job. This post bullet points them :

  • The role of the CTO is to provide visionary leadership, to help a company (or in this case, a government) explore the transformative potential of new technology.
  • Chopra demonstrates a deep understanding of the idea that the government is an enabler, not the ultimate solution provider.
  • Chopra understands that government technologists need to act more like their counterparts in Silicon Valley.
  • Chopra is a practical innovator.
  • Chopra has a real focus on measurement, and on figuring out what really works.
  • Chopra has specific expertise in Health Care IT.
  • Chopra is incredibly charismatic.

But read O’Reilly’s full post here. (O’Reilly will be on Federal News Radio 1500 AM’s Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris this afternoon in our Meet the Innovator series talking about government 2.0.)

* WSJ’s Digits blog: Tech Industry Cheers as Obama Taps Aneesh Chopra for CTO

Silicon Valley execs and tech bloggers sounded genuinely excited about Obama’s choice Saturday morning and tech industry lobbying groups TechNet and the Business Software Alliance quickly released statements of support, as did several tech heavyweights.

I actually hear that many Valley techies were consulted — and gave an early thumb up for Chopra.

Much more to come… and we’re trying to get information on the chief performance officer, Jeffrey Zients. Stand by for no real news on the administration’s cyber-security review

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Not only was the administration telling people about the new chief performance officer/OMB deputy director of management and the Obama chief technology officer/director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, but… the White House also announced late Friday — at 9:37p ET, in fact — that the administration has completed its 60-day top-to-bottom cyber-security review … and that there was nothing to announce.

The White House review is being led by Melissa Hathaway, the Office of the Director for National Intelligence’s senior advisor and the cyber coordination executive, who joined  the National Security Council on a 60-day detail to oversee and review federal cybersecurity. Many people have been hoping that there would be some conclusion about the future of the government’s cyber-security efforts, which have been leaderless, particularly after the departure of Rod Beckstrom as the director of the Homeland Security Department’s National Cybersecurity Center. (Read Beckstrom’s resignation letter here … and more on Beckstrom’s departure here… and Miller about Beckstrom’s recent appearance before Congress.) There have been some who have proposed a cyber-security “czar” in the White House, including the much watched study by the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Commission on Cybersecurity for the 44th Presidency‘s recent cyber-security report . But Federal News Radio’s Jason Miller has reported that post seems unlikely.

Here is the money quote from Friday’s White House announcement — or the non-money quote: “After the President has had an opportunity to carefully review the group’s report, we will begin discussing the results,” the White House release said.

I have posted the release below:

April 17, 2009

Statement by the Press Secretary on Conclusion of the Cyberspace Review

On February 9, the President directed a 60-day review of the plans, programs and activities underway throughout the government that address our communications and information infrastructure (i.e., cyberspace). The purpose of the review is to develop a strategic framework to ensure that our initiatives in this area are integrated, resourced and coordinated appropriately, both within the Executive Branch and with Congress and the private sector. Today, theinteragency group undertaking the review concluded its work and is now in the process of submitting its findings and recommendations for the President’s review.

The report being submitted summarizes the review team’s conclusions and outlines the beginning of the way forward in building a reliable, resilient, trustworthy digital infrastructure for the future. It provides to the President recommendations regarding an optimal White House organizational structure to address cyberspace-related issues and includes an action plan on identifying and prioritizing further work in this area. After the President has had an opportunity to carefully review the group’s report, we will begin discussing the results.

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April 19, 2009 at 5:30 PM Worth reading: Social Software and National Security

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This has been buzzing around for a few days now — a paper looking at the relationship between social software and national security. Wired blogged about it … FCW’s Ben Bain had a good piece … You can now read it for yourself below… or find the link on this page… download the PDF.

Social Software and National Security: An Initial Net Assessment by Mark Drapeau and Linton Wells II

View this document on Scribd

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April 18, 2009 at 9:10 AM

DorobekInsider: Obama names a new chief performance officer, Jeffrey Zients, and the Obama CTO, Aneesh Chopra, the Virginia Secretary of Technology

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In what rapidly became the worst kept secret in Washington, the Obama administration used the weekend address to name the new chief performance officer and OMB deputy director of management, Jeffrey Zients, and also the much discussed Obama CTO, Aneesh Chopra.

Here is President Obama’s weekend address:

It was known that Chopra was in talks with the White House, but there is much less known about Zients.

More of the buzz later, but… here is the White House release:

WEEKLY ADDRESS: President Obama Discusses Efforts to Reform Spending, Government Waste; Names Chief Performance Officer and Chief Technology Officer

WASHINGTON – In his weekly address, President Barack Obama announced that Jeffrey Zients, a CEO, management consultant and entrepreneur, will join the administration as the Chief Performance Officer, and that Aneesh Chopra, Virginia’s Secretary of Technology, will serve as the Chief Technology Officer. Zients will also serve as Deputy Director for Management of the Office of Management and Budget. He will work to streamline processes, cut costs, and find the best practices throughout the government. As Chief Technology Officer, Chopra will promote technological innovation to help the country meet its goals from job creation, to reducing health care costs, to protecting the homeland. Together with Chief Information OfficerVivek Kundra, they will help give all Americans a government that is effective, efficient, and transparent.

President Obama announced his appointments of the following individuals today:

Jeffrey D. Zients

Zients has twenty years of business experience as a CEO, management consultant and entrepreneur with a deep understanding of business strategy, processreengineering and financial management. He served as CEO and Chairman of the Advisory Board Company and Chairman of the Corporate Executive Board. These firms are leading providers of performance benchmarks and best practices across a wide range of industries. Currently, he is the Founder and Managing Partner of Portfolio Logic, an investment firm focused primarily on business andhealthcare service companies.

Aneesh Paul Chopra

Chopra serves as Virginia’s Secretary of Technology. He leads the Commonwealth’s strategy to effectively leverage technology in government reform, to promote Virginia’s innovation agenda, and to foster technology-related economic development. Previously, he worked as Managing Director with the Advisory Board Company, leading thefirm’s Financial Leadership Council and the Working Council for Health Plan Executives.

Read the transcript here … or even listen in an MP3 here.

A few quotes from the President:

On budget cuts:

This Monday, at my first, full Cabinet meeting, I will ask all of my department and agency heads for specific proposals for cutting their budgets. Already, members of my Cabinet have begun to trim back unnecessary expenditures. Secretary Napolitano, for example, is ending consulting contracts to create new seals and logos that have cost the Department of Homeland Security $3 million since 2003. In the largest Department, Secretary Gates has launched an historic project to reform defense contracting procedures and eliminate hundreds of billions of dollars in wasteful spending and cost overruns. And I commend Senators McCain and Levin – a Republican and a Democrat – who have teamed up to lead this effort in Congress.

On his new hires:

I have named Jeffrey Zients, a leading CEO, management consultant and entrepreneur, to serve as Deputy Director for Management of the Office of Management and Budget and as the first ever Chief Performance Officer. Jeffrey will work to streamline processes, cut costs, and find best practices throughout our government.

Aneesh Chopra, who is currently the Secretary of Technology for Governor Kaine of Virginia, has agreed to serve as America’s Chief Technology Officer. In this role, Aneesh will promote technological innovation to help achieve our most urgent priorities – from creating jobs and reducing health care costs to keeping our nation secure.

Aneesh and Jeffrey will work closely with our Chief Information Officer, Vivek Kundra, who is responsible for setting technology policy across the government, and using technology to improve security, ensure transparency, and lower costs. The goal is to give all Americans a voice in their government and ensure that they know exactly how we’re spending their money – and can hold us accountable for the results.

I know that Zients needs to be confirmed by the Senate, but I’m not sure about Chopra, who technically will be the head of the White House Office of Science Technology Policy.

More about the buzz on these folks later, but… it’s too nice in DC today not to be outside.

Written by cdorobek

April 18, 2009 at 8:30 AM

Posted in Uncategorized Yes, we know there is a new chief performance officer nominee — and a CTO

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The White House issued a release earlier today — under embargo until 6a ET Saturday morning — about two senior White House posts.

A number of organizations decided to reject the embargo, including, somewhat shockingly, an un-bylined story in Federal Computer Week. ( has the best analysis so far.) I won’t do that. No, the stories are not hard to find out there. (Frankly, why the White House would issue an embargoed press release is somewhat inexplicable, but why would a new organization post the story? So you broke an embargo to post a story that everybody will have in a few hours? Um… congratulations! And yes, I got the release too. See — it’s right here!)

My late night causticness aside… we’ll reserve our thoughts for the actual release. All I’ll say is that the CTO isn’t totally unknown (and more here ), but we’ll have to see what we will all be Googling the chief performance officer.

So… we’ll just have to wait a few hours and then we can ponder.

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April 18, 2009 at 12:22 AM The Federal News Radio Book Club — Grown Up Digital by Don Tapscott

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The third episode of the Federal News Radio Book Club is coming up on Friday, April 17 at 2p on Federal News Radio 1500 AM’s In Depth with Francis Rose . The third book is Grown Up Digital: How the Net Generation is Changing Your World by Don Tapscott… and Tapscott will be joining us for the hour.

UPDATE: You can hear the Federal News Radio Book Club here.

400000000000000097782_s4Tapscott is the author of Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything, which he co-wrote with Anthony D. Williams. Even years later, I think Wikinomics is still one of the better explanations of the power of Web 2.0 thinking.

The reason I selected Grown Up Digital is that I think this is a very unique time for governments — a time when young people are looking at public service in a way that they haven’t in generations. But the real questions is whether governments are ready for this new generation. In Grown Up Digital, Tapscott argues that this generation is… well, wired differently. They are networked, and that they will be a powerful force for change. He argues that options is like oxygen, they want to customize… and they have great dis-truth detectors. And they want to innovate.

Does the federal government sound well tuned for this generation?

And that is why I selected this book because these are the people that agencies are going to have to attract.

As with previous sessions of the Federal News Radio Book Club, this is similar to the Oprah book club — so no, you don’t have to be anywhere, other then near your radio at 2p ET or online at

The Federal News Radio Book Club is something akin to the Oprah book club — but we talk about books that help feds do their jobs better. So unlike other book clubs, our “meetings” take place on the radio — Federal News Radio 1500 AM. And we’d love to hear your thoughts about these issues. You can send me your thoughts… Twitter them to me… or post them on our Facebook page about this month’s book club.

I hope you’ll join us.

Links to the previous Federal News Radio Book Club meetings:
* Discussing
The SPEED of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything by Stephen M.R. Covey… More details and a link to hear that book club meeting here. And hear DOD Deputy CIO Dave Wennergren talking about this book here.
* Discussing Jeff Jarvis’s What Would Google Do?More details and a link to hear that book club meeting here.

Meanwhile, here is a video of Tapscott talking about the book.

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April 16, 2009 at 9:18 PM

DorobekInsider: Transparency and stimulus – this stuff simply isn’t easy, but it could be powerful

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20090416-cgiI had the opportunity to attend a fascinating session Wednesday focusing on transparency and, specifically, the stimulus package — creatively titled “Transparency as a Management Tool.” The session was hosted by the CGI Initiative for Collaborative Government and George Mason University… and featured some of the best and the brightest:

* Kshemendra Paul, Federal Chief Architect at OMB’s Office of E-Government and IT, who is actively involved in establishing a central governmentwide system for Recovery Act reporting.
* David McClure, Managing Vice President at Gartner Government Research, who has consulted with numerous federal, state, and local government executives about the Recovery Act.
* Stan Czerwinski, Director of Strategic Issues at the General Accountability Office, who coordinates GAO’s work on stimulus programs.
* Lisa Schlosser, Director of the Office of Information Collection at the Environmental Protection Agency, who heads up EPA’s collection of environmental data submissions from state and local governments.

Just a few resource before I offer up some of what I took away from the conversation…

* On Federal News Radio 1500 AM’s Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris, we managed to get Andrew McLauchlin, director of the CGI initiative, who gave us his insights on the session. Hear that conversation here.

* Federal News Radio’s Jason Miller was also at the session. You can read his full story — and hear it — here. And Amy and I spoke to him about what he learned from the session. Hear that conversation  here … particularly how the EPA is dealing with the approximately $7 billion in recovery act funding that it has to award — and track. The money quote from Miller’s story:

“The Recovery Act will illustrate some long standing problems with federal management,” says Paul Posner, a professor and the director of the Master’s in Public Administration program at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va.

“The information systems needed to carry out the transparency goal and help agencies work collaboratively will come under a lot of strain.”

* Federal Times reporter Gregg Carlstrom was also there and posted this story … And his lead actually captures the session nicely. “The $787 billion stimulus package requires unprecedented levels of transparency — and some federal managers and auditors are worried those requirements will place unfair scrutiny on their agencies,” Carlstrom writes.
* One of the documents that was discussed during the session was OMB’s recent guidance on the recovery spending and transparency . You can read the OMB guidance for yourself here.
* And, in full transparency, I posted my notes that I was taking during the session. Read them for yourself, if you dare. But remember — they are notes, so… not everything is spelled correctly or even coherent. But… you’re welcome to them.

Some of my take aways from what was a really excellent and insightful session.

* This is hard… It is important to remember that this has never been done before. This has never really been done before period, but this has really never been done before with this speed and at this scale and with this amount of focus. In fact, I would argue that there are few private sector organizations that could post near real time financial data. And it would be difficult enough if this was only federal agencies. That would be a Herculean task itself, but layer on the state, local and tribal organizations, grantees, and others… this is a monumental challenge.

* Transparency is additive… There was some conversation, as highlighted by Federal Times, that making raw data public could allow people to take data out of context. Trust is implicit intransparency . And most people are smart — at least most people who are going to dig through this kind of data. I think it would be very powerful for agencies to acknowledge that they don’t have all the answers — and acknowledge that they do, in fact, make mistakes. Data can be taken out of context, but it will be anyway. The best way to deal with that is to make data available in standard forms — seeDC’s Apps for Democracy — and, to quote Craig Newmark of Craig’s List fame — free the nerds.

* This is a unique time — and opportunity… I’ve been covering the federal government for a long time, and for as long as I can remember, we’ve been talking about information sharing and collaborating among the different levels of government. This isn’t easy. Schlosser noted that EPA has developed good lines of communication — mostly out of necessity, and over time — nearly a decade. (See the top bullet point about the speed.) That being said, There can be real lessons to learn here — and real opportunities.

* This isn’t easy for the overseers either… I often hear from the program people about the challenges. But Czerwinski noted that this isn’t easy for the oversight community either. Essentially, they are having to provide oversight as the plane is in flight. Auditors tend to like some hindsight. (He offered up one of my favorite quotes of the day: Auditors like to come in after the war and count the dead and bayonet the wounded. Yes, it is an exaggeration, but… it’s funny. There are challenges here across the board.

One other quote from McClure… He said many agencies are in a “transparency coma.” There is so much coming at they, they just really don’t know what to do next or where to go. I have described that as the government turtlesyndrome — govies don’t get in trouble for something that they don’t do. They generally get in trouble for something that they do, so when things get risky,govies have a tendency to disappear into their shell where it is safe, but where they are unable to get much done. There is a real concern that could happen, but there is also real opportunity. Paul noted that the OMB guidance on recovery and transparency is available for comment — in fact, he said, they welcome it. So offer up your thoughts.

It was interesting because there was a general consensus that everybody is pointed in the same direction — they want to spent stimulus money as efficiently, effectively and transparently as possible. The question — and challenge — is how to get there.

This is a challenging time, but it is also a time for real opportunities.

Thanks to CGI and George Mason University for an illustrative session.

DorobekInsider: Video from NewsChannel 8 talking Government 2.0 Camp

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I mentioned that I was on DC’s NewsChannel 8 ‘s Federal News Tonight program last night… talking about Government 2.0 Camp. And you can find the notes and for links and to get more information, you can click here

But now NewsChannel 8 posts video online… so you can see that video from last night here.

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April 15, 2009 at 4:51 AM

DorobekInsider: On DC’s NewsChannel 8 tonight talking Government 2.0 Camp

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government_20_camp2I am on DC’s NewsChannel 8 ‘s Federal News Tonight program tonight… talking about Government 2.0 Camp. Government 2.0 Camp, held late last month, was the inaugural event of the Government 2.0 Club.

I have pulled a bunch of links together for those NewsChannel 8 viewers.

* Meet the organizers … On Federal News Radio 1500 AM’s Government IT Solutions Spotlight, we spoke to the four organizers of Government 2.0 Camp. Get more information here.

* DorobekInsider on Government 2.0 Camp … My impressions just after the two-day event. Find that here.

* The Government 2.0 Camp wiki, where many people have posted notes and presentations.

* Government 2.0 Club posts about day 1 … and day 2 … There is also information on GovLoop, Facebook and Linkedin.

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April 14, 2009 at 5:39 PM