Heading into the second decade of the 21st century, we constantly hear about how social media, geolocation, mobile apps and similar technological innovations are changing the way we interact with each other. But how are they changing the way we interact with our governments (particularly local governments)? Are they offering new opportunities for civic engagement? Are they changing the way residents view their role in local government, creating new opportunities for citizen involvement? Or are they cementing old ideas of citizens as customers by facilitating the delivery of government services?
These questions are of particular interest to those of us at the Davenport Institute for Public Engagement and Civic Leadership as we seek to help solve public problems by promoting citizen's participation in governance. We have created this blog to provide up-to-date information relating to what is being called "Government 2.0." We hope what you find here will help local governments and their residents make the most of the technology available for genuine citizen engagement.
New to Gov 2.0? Check out our foundational documents »
Last year, a couple young entrepreneurs from southern California launched Voter – an app designed to not only encourage more young people to vote, but to help them be a bit more informed in their voting choices. Now they have launched their “2.0” version which, in addition to the presidential race includes all gubernatorial and senate seats open in 2016.
The platform has been getting attention in the tech world, with features this week on the Blaze and re/code. From the Blaze article:
The app’s chief executive and founder, Hunter Scarborough, said he wanted to create a mobile app that responded to a practical concern millennials like him often face: Many are skeptical of traditional news sources, but lack the time or energy to dig deep into candidates’ voting records, speeches and endorsements.
“I was working very long hours — 12-hour days, 14-hour days. When it came to an election, I didn’t have time to do research. I was frustrated by the lack of objective information. I was at a loss,” Scarborough told Recode. “In the 21st century, there’s got to be a way to take technology and make that process easier.”
Scarborough wanted his app to make politics accessible to those who might otherwise be inclined to disengage altogether. Today, the app joins a growing number of voting aids designed to equip voters with information so that they can enter the voting booth with confidence.
The app is available in the itunes store.
Our friends and University Network for Collaborative Government (UNCG) colleagues at UNC School of Government host a vibrant discussion around public engagement on their blog. A recent post by contributor Eric Jackson looks at the Opportunities and Gaps in online engagement around municipal budgets today. From the post:
All these initiatives are very much to be celebrated. They are the leading edge of a powerful and growing trend toward greater openness in local government and promise better citizen access to the critical financial information and decision-making that underlie nearly everything city and county governments do. However, it’s important to ask just where we’re going and how we’ll know that we’ve arrived. How do we ensure that open budget efforts actually improve community engagement and outcomes over other means for learning citizens’ priorities?
Explore Jackson’s answers to these questions and join the conversation yourself here.
A new paper by Tiago Peixoto of the World Bank Group and Jonathan Fox of American University may prove a valuable resource for those interested in the relationship between citizen participation and technology. In particular the paper explores the difference between systems that allow for individual feedback and those that allow for more extensive deliberation and collective action, and which allow for better government responsiveness. Peixoto and Fox draw their data not from developing countries, but the implications are broad. From the introduction:
Around the world, civil society organisations (CSOs) and governments are experimenting with information communication technology (ICT) platforms that try to encourage and project citizen voice, with the goal of improving public service delivery. This meta-analysis focuses on empirical studies of initiatives in the global South, highlighting both citizen uptake (‘yelp’) and the degree to which public service providers respond to expressions of citizen voice (‘teeth’).
You can read more and download the article here.
In their regular This Week in Civic Tech feature, Gov Tech.com takes forward to explore “the Top Civic Engagement Challenges of 2016.”
The weekly feature is a good way to stay on top of the latest in the ways that technology is helping to connect citizens to government features. This round highlights “Go LA” – a new app that seeks to capture options for transit available in the city:
With today’s smorgasbord of transit apps, cooking up something new requires a rare kind of alchemy. Los Angeles, however, may have done it: The Go LA app went live on Jan. 27 with a bevy of features that integrate ride-hailing companies like Lyft and Uber in addition to the typical fare of buses, trains, taxis and bicycle commuting. Officials say this is to capture the entire “universe of transportation options” available.
You can read more here.
Reporter Jason Shueh interviews Chris Bullock, CEO of ClearGov, a new interactive budgeting application that California, Massachusetts, and New York have implemented:
Though the truth may be in numbers, uncovering that truth often can be a matter of interpretation — as is often the case for those swimming in the murky waters of city budgets. There are terms to define, foggy correlations tying income to expenditures, and a near innumerable array of lists and spreadsheets, categories and subcategories.
This confusion was enough to drive Chris Bullock toward entrepreneurship. In 2015, he founded ClearGov, a financial transparency platform to decipher city budgets with interactive infographics. Bullock launched the venture after co-founding the legal analytics and benchmarking company Sky Analytics, acquired by Huron Consulting Group in 2015. As a serial entrepreneur, Bullock said his new startup is mostly self-funded, but also has gained support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation’s Prototype Fund.
For the full interview at Government Technology, click here.
We have profiled other open-budget applications including OpenGov and Balancing Act. Here’s to constructive competition!
Contributor: Ben Peterson, Pepperdine School of Public Policy, MPP Candidate ’16.