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 »

IBM Study on Government Technology

Last month, GCN.com highlighted a study by the IBM Center for The Business of Government that looked at how 12 cities have successfully used innovation and technology to improve services and engagement. “(Author Sherri Greenberg) cited a variety of success factors, including a city’s policies and platforms, third-party partnerships and the framework for a successful funding initiative.”  The article goes on to note:

Among the technology trends Greenberg found driving innovation in local government were:

  • Adopting digital and mobile technologies
  • Using internal and external technology development methods
  • Using technology to increase public engagement
  • Expectations by residents for mobility, transparency, accountability, collaboration and civic engagement via technology.

You can read more here.

The Engagement Game

We have written a fair amount about gamifying civic engagement. Mary Morgan and Dave Askins, publishers of the local Ann Arbor Chronicle in Ann Arbor Michigan have partnered with existing programs to gamify local storytelling and are now looking for ways to do more:

CivCity’s website and Twitter feed refer to the mission of “cracking the nut of civic apathy.” CivCity stakeholders say disinterest in governance has intensified in recent years due to increased demands on people’s time, and it’s especially bad at the local level–even in a well-educated town like Ann Arbor.

“I think we take a lot for granted,” says CivCity board member Linh Song. “The lifestyle here can be pretty comfortable…I think a lot of folks just kind of check out and think, ‘Well, you know, Ann Arbor kind of takes care of itself. We don’t have to pay attention.’ But I’m hoping that’s changing.”

Morgan and Askins have ideas for a wide variety of programs to help effect that change, but their fledgling organization is taking it one step at a time. One of CivCity’s first projects is an online game called CivCity Quest, expanding upon the way the Chronicle “gamified” election results last summer. CivCity Quest would use the AADL’s Summer Game template to create a “playful” online competition for players to participate in various civic activities, from doing neighborhood cleanup to attending public meetings.

You can read more here.

Engaging the Engaged

This article from govexec.com is a few months old, but raises a great point about increasing users for government apps and platforms:

A few years back, I was having a conversation with a very successful social entrepreneur. She ran a nonprofit that builds technology to boost engagement and participation, and her organization had done a remarkable job attracting and retaining users. We were sharing war stories, and I was keen on her input on civic technology, and in particular, how we might learn from her experience to boost usage levels on the tools we were building. She asked me an interesting question: “When someone signs up for one app, do you recommend they try out another?”

Keep reading here.

An Engagement Platform for Scotland

With the recent referendum, citizen engagement has been a hot topic in Scotland. Now the government has launched an online platform to facilitate citizen engagement across the country:

The Delib platform provides numerous options, including a variety of question formats, the ability to embed all sorts of media and a powerful search tool.

The new hub also makes it easy for residents to access public responses and succinct responses for consultations under a ‘We Asked, You Said, We Did’ tab. . .

Before launching Citizen Hub, the Digital Engagement Team and a representative from Delib worked alongside central and local government to ensure the system was one both employees and users could get behind.

You can read more here.

Planning for Technology

One of the challenges to cities adopting civic technology is that the pace of traditional planning is often far behind the pace of technological development.  Strategically planning for technology needs a different sort of roadmap.  That’s what the City of New York is seeking through its “Council 2.0″ digital strategy:

Council 2.0 was developed by an internal Working Group on Public Technology and Civic Engagement in consultation with a range of experts in building open digital platforms and tools for civic engagement. The working group will continue to meet regularly to evaluate progress around the outlined objectives. Staff will also study web and social media analytics to help study the type and substance of digital interaction.

The plan already includes a call for the creation of a public technology team within the city council to drive tech initiatives, as well as a partnership with Civic Hall, a local hub for the tech community in New York City. “Council Labs” an experimental mobile friendly website is also on deck for fall of this year.

You can read more here.