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 »

Governing and the Internet of Things

Local governments both in the U.S. and the U.K. are trying to figure out how to operate in the “The Internet of Things” (IOT) era – but perhaps not hard enough. William D. Eggers, Max Meyers, and Claire Niech argue in Governing that, “government agencies that adopt a wait-and-see attitude toward the Internet of Things are unlikely to develop the expertise needed to effectively and efficiently deliver services in this new reality.” They focus on IOT’s potential to enhance problem-solving:

How should public-sector leaders begin to tap into the potential of the IoT? Start by identifying specific, pressing mission challenges, and then analyze how more or better information, real-time analysis or automated actions may help address them. By solving for concrete problems, governments can more effectively identify technical, organizational, and talent changes necessary to realize new benefits – and then scale up what works.

Darren Samuelsohn is more concerned about security and privacy threats IOT presents. He argues in Politico that the federal government is unprepared to deal with these issues.

What do you think? To what extent and in what manner should governments appropriate IOT technology and regulate it for the benefit of citizens?

Read more on this fascinating development in technology at Governing and Politico.

Contributor: Ben Peterson, Pepperdine School of Public Policy, MPP Candidate ’16.

Data for Less Congestion?

As the economy recovers, Angelinos may be noticing an increase in congestion on their freeways.  It makes for a bit of a Catch22 – economic growth is obviously good for the community, but added commuters tax already overburdened systems.  Can technology help?

Rick Schuman, the Vice President of a traffic data producing company INRIX, examines the picture of the traffic congestion surges within several US cities. The problem is mainly pinned on the low gas prices and the increase in urbanization, though poor road conditions also account for delays in some  cities (including Los Angeles). City governments are beginning to use data analysis technology to help identify problems – for instance the impact of defunct signals:

Schuman said the type of data available to cities now can not only improve current traffic flow and congestion, but can also help cities make better informed decisions as they plan future infrastructure investments. States and regions including Maryland, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Texas are leading the way in using data to identify their worst bottlenecks and then creating plans for addressing those problems.

You can read more here.

Co-contributor: Sarah Mirembe, Pepperdine School of Public Policy, MPP Candidate ’16.

Balancing App


If government is about taxing and spending, responsive government is about doing so in a manner reflecting citizens’ priorities.

Many cities have published budgets online, but the new app “Balancing Act” does something a bit different: it helps citizens get a feel for the budgeting process right from their phones. From Govtech.com:

This app – called Balancing Act, developed by Engaged Public and Causelabs – is an interactive infographic that allows users to tweak the numbers and see how the budget is affected. Users can see that increasing a city’s parks and recreation budget creates a budget deficit, meaning either other services need to be scaled back or taxes must be increased to cover the new costs. A generic simulation allows anyone to play with the tool and see how balancing a budget is a game of compromises.

In Colorado, you can plug in your personal demographic information and get a sense of where your own tax dollars are going – a “Taxpayer Receipt,” as the app is called. These apps, in use in Colorado and Hartford, CT, don’t get too far into the budgeting weeds, but they demonstrate the old TNSTAAFL principle (“there’s no such thing as a free lunch”), and help citizens think about what’s important to them and their communities.

Read more about these apps at Govtech.com, Fast Company, or this statement from Chris Adams, president of Engaged Public.  And take some time to explore them yourself.

Contributor: Ben Peterson, Pepperdine School of Public Policy, MPP Candidate ’16.

Research: Policy Crowdsourcing

For anyone really interested in diving deep into the question of crowdsourcing for public policy, various techniques and available research regarding their relative benefits, challenges, and effectiveness, a recent paper by John Prpic of the Lulea University of Technology (Sweden), Araz Taeihagh of the Singapore Management University, and James Melton of the Michigan University, College of Business Administration may be right up your alley.  From the abstract:

What is the state of the research on crowdsourcing for policymaking? This article begins to answer this question by collecting, categorizing, and situating an extensive body of the extant research investigating policy crowdsourcing, within a new framework built on fundamental typologies from each field. We first define seven universal characteristics of the three general crowdsourcing techniques (virtual labor markets, tournament crowdsourcing, open collaboration), to examine the relative tradeoffs of each modality. We then compare these three types of crowdsourcing to the different stages of the policy cycle, in order to situate the literature spanning both domains. We finally discuss research trends in crowdsourcing for public policy and highlight the research gaps and overlaps in the literature.

You can download the paper here.