Digital services are just life now. And yet governments aren't all that efficient at bringing essential communications and services online. That's why in 2008 I became an activist for what folks at that time were calling "Government 2.0" on the heels of the rebirth of the dot-com economy. Eight years later we're so much further but we've got so far to go.
In 2011, I wrote about how demand for "free" services was a fiction in competition with the sustainable business models needed to drive government innovation further through for-profit open data and web services providers like NIC and Socrata. Five years later, NIC and Socrata are among the establishment players in what came to be known as "open government software," besieged by venture capital darlings like, wait for it, OpenGov, and scrappy startups like CityGrows. And my unpolished attack on "free" is supplanted by Stephen Corwin's excellent reasoning for why CityGrows doesn't charge.
Like NIC and Socrata, I'm also first generation open gov. And that's OK - because most of government moves a little slower than Silicon Valley. It's designed that way. So while many of us are out pioneering digital service in the federal government or founding our own open government startups, there are still thousands upon thousands of agencies and legislatures making their first stabs at creating digital citizenship. As one peer told me years ago when I dissed Microsoft products - Adriel, without Microsoft, there wouldn't be government IT.
Last year, after four years in the belly of the political software beast with SaaS startup NationBuilder, I started an agency with the goal of helping civic tech companies with their growth. "People. Insight. Technology." our mantra. Along with helping data append vendor Accurate Append with its growth in the political sector, one of my first clients was iConstituent, a government CRM provider and true e-gov pioneer. iConstituent's founding team members are scrappy Southern California entrepreneurs who beat MySpace to online music fan portals and built the first band shopping cards before releasing the first large-scale enewsletter platform for politics and government. They took email newsletters to Capitol Hill in 2004 and never looked back, growing to offer Congress websites, CRM and even hardware maintenance services.
This year my firm, The Adriel Hampton Group, worked with iConstituent's marketing team to refresh the company's website and branding, revealing its spot as the innovative workhorse powering government offices in DC and across the country. iConstituent's chief competitors on the Hill, meanwhile, are the youthful Fireside 21, which works only in the House of Representatives, and a defense contractor that runs software to keep top of mind of budget-makers. iConstituent's brand refresh included a new tagline, "Connecting People and Government."
And that's what it's about, from 2008 to tomorrow.