Advancements in technology have added convenience and availability to so many aspects of our lives with seemingly nearly everything being a mere mouse click or smartphone app away. One area which has lagged behind is local governments. For example, back in 2009, Councilman Peduto worked with two Carnegie Mellon University professors to create iBurgh — the nation’s first mobile app for city government. iBurgh made it possible for anyone with a smartphone to report neighborhood issues directly to our city’s 311 system. However, the current administration did not keep up the relationship with iBurgh and it is no longer available. But many cities are beginning to understand the value technology can bring to services for residents and to increased civic participation.
A post at ICIC’s (Initiative for a Competitive Inner City) blog takes a look at the partnership between the City of Philadelphia and local tech entrepreneurs. It relays how programs such as “Open Access Philly” (OAP) has opened up the flow of data to both foster citizen engagement and support the regional tech and startup community. OAP led to a contest — “Open Data Race” — to find Philadelphia-related datasets that were still unavailable to the public. That in turn made the next step possible: “BIG Ideas PHL,” which encourages technology companies to look for solutions for Philadelphia’s IT problems.
New York City recently announced a collaboration with “Nextdoor,” a Silicon Valley-based social network which operates on a neighborhood level. It not only allows neighbors to discuss local issues, it will allow city government to post information from everything from power outages, construction notices, and traffic accidents to severe weather events.
Government Technology gives an overview of five platforms that are redefining the way that citizens can engage with their neighbors and their local governments. From helping schools collect feedback from parents, to giving voters an early heads-up on important issues, to fostering meaningful discussion via virtual town halls, they give promise to a more ground-up, grassroots, community-based democracy for us all.