Maybe all diplomacy should be conducted this way — directly on webcam and out in public.
Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg and U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron followed up on their meeting in London last month with a video chat today on how the government can leverage the social network to help solve its fiscal woes.
The U.K., which is in a difficult financial state, just as the U.S. is, posted a 155 billion pound deficit this year, and the government is asking citizens for ideas to cut public spending. Facebook is stepping up to support it on its Democracy U.K. Fan Page.
Cameron’s government, which just stepped into power in May, has been using crowdsourcing in all kinds of novel ways. It has also created a web site where citizens can suggest laws the government should get rid of.
The chat comes at a time when governments in developed countries are experimenting with social media technologies to become closer and more transparent with their citizenry. Tech publisher Tim O’Reilly has coined the metaphor that government is a platform in much the same way that companies like Facebook are platforms, supporting hundreds of thousands of small businesses and hundreds of millions of dollars in commerce.
At the same time, Facebook is getting large enough with nearly 500 million users that if it were a country, it would be the third most populous in the world. Brad Burnham, a partner at Union Square Ventures, which was one of Twitter’s earliest investors, has made the opposite (but not mutually exclusive) argument that web services are becoming more like governments, requiring two-way dialogue with the users and developers they serve in order to create effective policies. This is perhaps a sign that we’ll see the two types of organizations collaborate further in the future.