Welcome

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 »

Organizing Chaos

For all the benefits of living in a city, traffic seems to be a never ending drawback.  And when traffic is further complicated by construction projects, or planning issues, that can create a negative impression of local government.  The City of Sacramento is looking to government web-based solutions innovator Accela to help mitigate traffic flow issues due to construction, special events, utility projects, traffic and other incidents:

Home to more than 450,000 residents, the City of Sacramento is the capital city of California and the sixth-largest city in the state. Accela Right of Way Management will help the City coordinate all street activities and road construction in the public right of way. Through dynamic map-based coordination solutions delivered via the web, agencies like Sacramento can optimize street performance by having real-time insight into street activities of all kinds, enabling proactive management of utility projects, public works, permitting, incidents, traffic and events. The solution uncovers potential conflicts, identifies new opportunities, improves planning and communication and saves agencies time and money in managing activities in the public right of way, while reducing environmental impact.

You can find more of the specifics here.

Washington, DC: Online Input for Council Bills

Washington, DC has launched an online program where citizens of the city can propose amendments and opinions on certain aspects of a bill before the city council. The idea of this program is to allow more transparency and use technology to enhance voter participation. Although this is in its beginning stages, the idea is to bring the workings of the city government to the people directly so they can have a voice in the shaping of bills:

Washington, DC has launched a program where citizens of the city can propose amendments and opinions on certain aspects of a bill before the city council. The idea of this program is to allow more transparency and use technology to enhance voter participation. Although this is in its beginning stages, the idea is to bring the workings of the city government to the people directly so they can have a voice in the shaping of bills.

You can read more here.

Contributor: Elliott Parisi, Pepperdine School of Public Policy, MPP Candidate ’15

How Civic Tech is Changing Cities

This week, tech innovators specializing in the civic arena met in Philadelphia for Rise, a two-day conference on Civic Innovation. The conference was hosted by Technical.ly, and NextCity sat down with Technical.ly founder Brian James Kirk to discuss their “four big questions about civic tech.”

Technology is changing the way government works, and the pace of change is likely only to speed up — in 2004, there were 34 companies working in the realm of civic technology; in 2013, there were 121, according to a study published last year by the Knight Foundation.

Kirk offered his answers to questions like why he thinks technology has the potential to improve our cities and what are his top go-to examples of positive impacts technology is having on urban civic life.  You can read the full interview here.

Renewing Cities through Crowd Sourcing?

On Huffington Post, the mayor of Jersey City, New Jersey recently shared how their community has successfully funded much-needed restoration, not through raising taxes, but by seeking out crowdsourcing:

In Jersey City, we tried to capitalize on the increasing number of millennials becoming residents by using crowdsourcing to fund for a public project and it actually worked. Working with a local community organization, Sustainable Jersey City, and the Jersey City Art School, BikeJC used the crowdsourcing site ioby.org to raise tens of thousands of dollars in just six weeks for the installation of hundreds of bike racks throughout the city. The crowdsourcing surpassed the initial goal and illustrated the demand for creating better neighborhoods for biking. Residents were able to drop a pin on a Google map precisely where they wanted a rack and then donate with the result being exactly what they envisioned.

You can read more here.

Is Technology a Friend to Citizen Engagement?

In the realm of Gov 2.0 and Open Data, technology can seem like the answer to all of democracy’s problems.  But a recent piece on the Engaging Cities blog reminds us that online and mobile tools are exactly that – tools.  The article provocatively quotes Catherine Howe from Public-i, reminding readers that “technology without democratic evolution is like ‘lipstick on a pig'”:

Back in 1795, the very first model of the telegraph, the Napoleonic semaphore, raised hopes for – and fears of –  greater citizen engagement in government. Similarly the invention of the TV sparked debates on whether technology would strengthen or weaken democracy, increasing citizen awareness or creating more opportunities for market and government manipulation of public opinion.

Throughout history, technological developments have marked societal changes, but has technological innovation translated into better democracy?

You can read more about this question here.

Contributor: Sarah Mirembe, Pepperdine School of Public Policy, MPP Candidate ’16.