Of the People, By the People and For the People – Online
Originally published May 15, 2013
There has been much talk about how the latest advances in technology, especially social media and mobile devices, are altering our reality. They are changing everything, from the way we buy goods and services to how we educate our children, how we interact with family and friends, and even how we choose our future partners. Less has been discussed in relation to how these same phenomena are substantially transforming the way we govern ourselves and hence the nature of the relationship between the people and their government.
Citizen Partners: Those who will work with government to accomplish the country’s goals more efficiently and effectively. Their theme could be perceived as “making society better together.”In the context of our nation, we know the importance of the constitutionally mandated decennial census. It is at the root of our representative democracy since it is this count that determines the apportionment of representatives in Congress by state. At the same time, we must periodically review and revise procedures when the reality of technology starts to point to a better way. While we are not suggesting a constitutional amendment to do away with the decennial census, the reality is that we need much more frequent counts of our demographic distribution in order to assist us in determining where to build schools, roads or hospitals, as well as to decide how to reapportion federal funding addressing health care, education or transportation to the states that make up our republic. The American Community Survey, conducted by the Census Bureau, in effect keeps the pulse on the nation’s demographics on an almost continuous basis. Technology enables it, and we are all the better for it.
From the point of view of direct citizen interactions with government, there are many interesting programs at the federal level that are being used with positive results.
The paper points to a range of examples popular with the citizen partners including: 1) SeeClickFix.com, a service for local governments where “citizens take pictures of potholes, broken hydrants and other deficiencies and text them to a central repository;” and 2) The Code for America project that “enables citizen participation through ‘hack-a-thons’ and fellowships for talented individuals.”
Citizen advocates are holding their own through initiatives like the very visible and highly popular Data.gov launched early in the first Obama administration. It has allowed citizens to become “change agents” by using government data to develop applications addressing environmental, health care and veterans’ needs. Another forum for citizen advocate engagement featured is the White House’s online petition site, We the People, that “bridges the gap between formal participation through lobbyist groups and informal exchanges, such as Twitter.”
Citizen consumers also have their own examples of initiatives catering to their needs. One of them is the online community for small business owners created by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). It is singled out as a solid example of citizen engagement that can be used as a model for other applications. The paper notes how on this site “small business owners collaborate, get answers to questions and find helpful tips and access tools that help them complete their desired action instead of muddling through pages of content.”
Likewise the paper notes that “citizens consume government services both directly by applying for permits or passports and indirectly by leveraging data created during the course of government business or through the physical and digital infrastructure supported by the government.” In this context, there are many examples from different agencies that empower the citizen by enabling self-service online. Furthermore, the National Broadband Initiative is singled out as an example “a unique crowd sourcing system sponsored by the FCC to measure and collect broadband speeds throughout America.” The results from many of these findings can be seen in the Department of Commerce’s National Broadband Map.
ACT-IAC proposes many recommendations that it hopes the new Administration will pay heed to in order to facilitate and advance citizen engagement with its government. Among them are the following:
There are clearly issues to be addressed, as the ACT-IAC paper points out, in terms of capability to deliver organizational readiness, human capital/culture and success metrics. But it is clear that the movement is positive. In paraphrasing Abe Lincoln in our title for this article, we are suggesting that all this is good for democracy. That technology has now reached the point where we might aspire to a government “of the people, for the people and by the people” that is primarily technology mediated.
* This is one of six articles addressing the six papers offering input to the new administration that resulted from the Quadrennial Government Technology Review (QGTR) commissioned by the ACT-IAC Institute for Innovation. The American Council for Technology (ACT) - Industry Advisory Council (IAC) is a non-profit educational organization and a unique public-private partnership dedicated to helping government use technology to serve the public. (www.actgov.org) The QGTR initiative’s purpose was “to take a strategic look at the role that technology can play in achieving federal government objectives and missions.” More information can be obtained at http://www.actgov.org/quadrennial.
A Steering Committee provided guidance and governance to the QGTR and the papers were prepared by teams drawn from IAC member companies.
Empowering Citizen-Driven Government through Collaboration and Service Delivery was prepared by the following team:
Adam Coonin, Hitachi Consulting (Member)All six papers can be downloaded from the following link: http://www.actgov.org/quadrennial
SOURCE: Empowering Citizen-Driven Government through Collaboration and Service Delivery
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