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 »

Public Engagement and the Internet of Things

Rancho Cucamonga mayor L. Dennis Michael considers the “limitless” possibilities that the Internet of Things presents for engaging communities and improving city services:

In my city, Rancho Cucamonga, we are asking ourselves how we can make more use of technology in serving the public — and how that intersects with the Internet of Things. For example, what if streetlights had multiple uses? In addition to lighting the streets, they could perhaps be used as signal beacons to report incidents or they could self-report when the light stops working and needs replacing.

If there are no boundaries to the functionality of our infrastructure, what might we envision?

Read more at Western City here. For more tips and information on using technology to increase transparency and community engagement check out this brief by the Institute for Local Government.

Contributor: Benjamin Peterson, Pepperdine School of Public Policy Alumnus, MPP ’16. 

Engaging on- and offline

Earlier this month The City of Summit, NJ announced an additional way to share feedback online during the Summit re:Vision Master Plan re-examination process. The city is partnering with coUrbanize, a community engagement platform focused on urban planning.  The platform will not be offered in lieu of traditional engagement efforts, but will augment those.

According to Summit Mayor Nora Radest:

The Summit re:Vision tool provides residents an online way to engage in the Master Planning process…

Input from residents and other members of the business community will ensure the success of this vital project; this tool will allow for the effective gathering and processing of that information.

To read more click here. To check out The City of Summit website click here.

What Makes a City “Smart”?

Kris Hartley weighs in, pushing for a broader metric for cities’ smarts than mere efficiency:

Appreciating the complex and paradoxical dimensions of smart cities can help improve human welfare, particularly when leaders and citizens look beyond efficiency. Rather than optimizing discrete goals, the new architecture of smart cities should be oriented towards broader social and political outcomes. Planner and academic Murtaza H. Baxamusa recently stated, “To be effective, urban planning needs to dig deeper than obscure code, pretty pictures and jumbling data. It needs to make a difference in the lives of all people” . . .

While technology improves certain aspects of business and governance, its broader potential should not be undersold. The new ‘smart’ implies extension of opportunities to the disadvantaged, broadening of political participation, and enabling of social forces to shape urban space for the greater good.

Hartley is working on his PhD at the National University of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, currently a Visiting Research Fellow at the University of the Philippines Diliman. His recent piece at NewGeography.com is here.

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

Creating a Data-Driven Culture

Michael Nutter served two terms as mayor of Philadelphia.  During his tenure he sought to foster a culture of transparency and a coordinated strategy for incorporating data and evidence into city operations. Nutter spoke with Stephen Goldsmith at Governing:

A part of this is really all about transparency and openness and integrity, but also a better relationship with your citizens. Initially, people just thought we would do a little bit. But we have hundreds of datasets that have now been released from virtually every department and agency in the government. I’m not sure if we even send out press releases anymore about the release of data. It’s become the norm.

 Read more at Governing here. You may also like Goldsmith’s piece from last year on Karl Dean, former mayor of Nashville.

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