Gov 2.0 Hero: Dustin Haisler

Dustin Haisler

What was your path to Gov 2.0?

Coming out of the banking industry, I began my career in local government almost four years ago as the Finance Director for a small growing city in Central Texas. After a few days on the job I realized there were significant technology shortfalls that needed to be addressed. At the time, the city did not own a server and each department’s software operations were run on stand alone machines, and there was no integration. The biggest challenge was how to overcome this monstrous obstacle with an IT budget less than $100,000. We could have issued debt to pay for building a technology infrastructure from scratch, but instead, we decide to innovate most of our own solutions. After three years of software and network integration, the City of Manor is now recognized as a leader in local government technology. The amazing thing is that through innovation and creativity our city was able to make this transformation with limited funds in such a short period of time. These technologies have allowed us to further increase efficiency and transparency in our community.

One of our most notable Gov 2.0 campaigns can be seen in our deployment of a Quick Response Code (QR-code) program. I discovered QR-codes when I initially began hunting a solution for our lack of a document management system. I was drawn to QR-codes because I could generate them for free and they could also be decoded using a camera phones equipped with a free reader installed. This meant that instead of investing in a $50,000 document management system with expensive barcode reading equipment, I could make my own system for free. In addition, I realized that QR-codes could be used not only for document management but for information dissemination, and ultimately, economic development. We placed 24-fixed mounted QR-codes signs throughout our community. When scanned, each code links to a website specific to its location of placement. For instance, if you scan the code in front of one of the water towers we are constructing, your mobile phone browser would be redirected to a website with information about that particular capital project. It contains information about the company building the water tank, how much it costs the taxpayer, when it’s scheduled to be completed, and much more. If the project information needed to be updated, the only thing that needs to be changed is the content on the website. Once this project is complete, I can simply move the metal QR-code sign to a different project and replace the content on the website that it links to. We also have the QR-codes placed on historic homes and other points of interest. If you scan a QR-code on a historic home your mobile phone browser will be redirected to additional historical information including pictures and audio narratives. This two-year old program has celebrated great success, and I enjoy traveling the US telling cities how they can use this program, or one of our many others, to change the status quo by increasing efficiency while cutting costs in the process.

What area of government offers the biggest opportunity for improvement via Web 2.0 tools?

Local government agencies have the biggest opportunity for improvement using Web 2.0 tools because, speaking from experience, they have the lowest number of resources available and the greatest needs. Local governments are on the frontlines of citizen interaction, and for many people, their primary government experience is with a local government agency. Through the use of Web 2.0 technologies, local government agencies can offer their citizens many features that would have otherwise been unobtainable through an expensive industry software package.

What’s the killer app that will make Gov 2.0 the norm instead of the exception?

I don’t necessarily believe that there’s a killer app that will make Gov 2.0 the norm. I think that this will be achieved by a change in thought process. As a government employee I know that minimizing risk is a top priority; however, I have seen some agencies that claim that using Gov 2.0 technologies is risky because it gives the public “too much” information. This flawed thought process needs to be purged from any government agency that still clings to it. Gov 2.0 is not a new model for information dissemination; instead, it is a new way of thinking.

What part of Gov 2.0 most excites you?

What excites me about Gov 2.0 is its ability to empower and engage citizens in their local, state and federal government agencies. Our citizens can help drive innovation and creativity in government, and Gov 2.0 allows their voice to resonate in agencies across the country. Some of the greatest ideas in the world came from the bottom of the totem pole, and what allowed them to ultimately be successful is the open atmosphere in which they were derived. In my community, we refer to this atmosphere as Gov 2.0.

Luke Fretwell is the founder of the civic innovation and technology blog GovFresh. He advises civic leaders and businesses on how to best leverage digital strategies to create more effective, collaborative governments. He has written about government IT for Federal Computer Week, NextGov, FedScoop, StateScoop and FierceGovernment, and has been referenced by the Washington Post and Fast Company on civic technology issues. He has worked with a number of government-focused companies and media, including CivicActions, NuCivic and FedScoop and has been involved in broad-focused community efforts, such as GovPress, CityCamp, CivicMeet, Agile Government Leadership and Open Source for America. Connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn.


Thank you

Every day I get to engage with entrepreneurs, public sector innovators and journalists on re-imagining and re-energizing how government works, what it means to be “civic,” and this year has been an incredible one for many friends and colleagues.

Funding government technology

I’m always inspired talking and working with entrepreneurs trying to solve big civic problems, especially those who realize much of the challenge lies within modernizing and empowering internal government operations, so it was great to finally meet with Govtech Fund Founder and Managing Partner Ron Bouganim this week.

Government and the ’empowered product owner’

The 18F Delivery team released a “Partnership Playbook” that aims to help federal agencies understand what to expect when working with 18F, and the gem within is play number two, “We work with an empowered product owner.”

Benchmarking for better government

Citizens simply glaze over when they are confronted by a sea of large numbers with many zeros. These figures need to be relatable to the person reading the data. Otherwise, open data is just more data that dies on the vine.

Why local government must go digital

The Welsh Government released a report of its findings on how local government in Wales can better leverage digital technologies and realize significant savings while still providing quality, scalable citizen services.

‘No ugly, old IT.’

“No ugly, old IT” jumped out at me when I first reviewed DataSF’s strategic plan, “Data in San Francisco: Meeting supply, spurring demand,” and it still sticks, mostly because someone inside government was so bold as to make this a priority and openly communicate it and also because this should be a mantra for everyone building civic technology.

Why is a big deal

Enabling internal government tech shops to quickly stand up applications in a secure testing environment is fundamental to quick prototyping, and 18F’s new is a major step in realizing ultimate IT flexibility.


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