CVP's Open Government Apps Initiative
The increasing need for transparency in government as our world becomes increasingly complex and government decision making becomes more critical to our collective welfare.
The need for public engagement and transparency in government and public access to information about government operations and decision-making has never been greater. To achieve better ongoing community participation in local planning and development decisions, it is no longer sufficient to simply have a static web site where notices are published about the activities and meeting schedules of local planning committees and city agencies. And with the costs of public outreach and regulatory compliance ever escalating, interactive, Internet based technology is the only viable solution.
As discussed by Gavin Newsom, Lieutenant Governor of California, in his new book, Citizenville, local government and governmental agencies are falling behind in their implementation of communications technology. This is causing a critical disconnect between government and public participation that can only lead to a more contentiousness.
The interactive exchange of information between governments and their constituents needs to be enhanced and made more easily accessible. Toward that end, CVP has been working on a proposal to create mobile phone apps to help residents communicate with their local governments and promote government transparency.
CVP Mobile Apps
"My Town" Mobile Apps
CVP is developing a suite of mobile and Internet based applications that empower residents to bring about change in their city.
Community “engagement” is all about empowering residents so that their concerns and actions actually do something that the city is then held accountable for. My Town is a suite of Apps and Tools Mashups using Google Maps, Twitter and Instagram and custom coded UI widgets that enable this outcome.
Reporting Apps allow residents to:
Report incidents to the city,
Take a photo of what they are noticing, and
Add a comment about it.
The incident they reported will show up instantly on an interactive Google Map that anyone can view on the web or mobile device. Their posting will also show up on the Admin control panel of the appropriate city agency, and send an email notice to that agency, alerting them to the new posting. All Apps will also provide click and dial for cell phone users, and provides phone numbers of the city agency to call, where appropriate. The Apps instantly notify the proper city officials. Notices are viewable on a daily basis, but all incidents are archived and retrievable by any signed in user. City officials will have the ability to post comments on that incident or condition reported, and / or remove it from the map when completed or addressed.
POTHOLES, WALKS AND STREET HAZARDS
Report a pothole, broken sidewalk, felled tree limb, overflowing storm drain, water line break, etc.
CREEKS, DRAINS & WATERWAYS
Report a creek obstruction, stream damage or pollution, or any other incident related to the proper use and maintenance of our creeks and streams.
PARKS, TRAILS & TREES
Report an issue in your city’s parks and open space, fallen trees, overgrown, eroded or damage trails, etc.
TRAFFIC & PARKING
This mobile App incorporates a “Rate the Traffic” reporting widget that allows users to indicate the severity of the traffic issues. The App incorporates a “Parking Issues” reporting widget that allows users to indicate parking problems in their town. All incidents are archived and displayed on the internet web site to view historical patterns, time of day patterns and other useful ways to look at the data, both for the city and the residents trying to plan routes around town.
Engagement & Communications Apps
Engagement & Communications Apps allow residents to:
Promote public policy change from grassroots voices.
Inform local government about community values and ideas.
Voice their opinions on any subject.
Tell their local government how they feel about their performance.
PETITION YOUR GOVERNMENT
This App allows residents to create a petition on any issue that concerns them and put it on the agenda for a public meeting. Once a petition reaches a certain number of residents the discussion item is automatically put on the agenda of an upcoming City Council meeting, to be heard in a public hearing.
A tool similar to this is now being implemented by the Obama Administration and offers real engagement and allows residents to have a tangible impact on government affairs.
TELL YOUR GOVERNMENT
An open to all, blogging page for any topic a resident wants to communicate to their City.
Community conversations will include supplemental comments running alongside, each with the ability to link each comment to the article or document being commenting on.
RATE YOUR GOVERNMENT AGENCIES
Essentially a “Yelp” of the city and its agencies. Users will be able to give a “star” rating to each (a 1 to 5 star rating system) and add a comment (of limited length).
This will hopefully create a more competitive environment among various agencies and be useful to both resident users (empowerment) and city management and elected officials to get ongoing, real time feedback on city operations and performance.
TAKE A SURVEY
Informal periodic polling of residents and business owners, on public policy initiatives under consideration by cities and counties, is a great way to promote open government and engage the public in the legislative process.
Once a bona fide database of residents and businesses has been established, the technology required to enable meaningful engagement between the city and its residents is readily available. Each survey would include a concise explanation of the issue at hand, in simple and easily understandable language, similar to how official voting mailers describe the pros and cons of initiatives being voted on.
Although the results will not be legally binding, informal polling is an invaluable method to “take the temperature” of the public before spending too much time and money on ideas and initiatives that are unlikely to receive widespread public support. It can also reduce the costs of highly paid consultants and professional facilitators, who have been the traditional, though often inferior, method of engaging the community.
CROWD SOURCED INNOVATION
This mobile and Internet based application will allow cities and counties to post public invitational contests to solicit ideas about how to solve local planning, development and government services challenges. Drawing from the talent base of our communities, these informal "RFPs" can foster productive engagement and are an efficient and economical way to address 21st century solutions.
Data Mashup Apps
A fundamental responsibility of government in a democracy is transparency about finances, operations and decision-making. CVP's data mashup Apps as designed to open up government information to its taxpaying residents and businesses on any type of Internet enabled device, to allow instant and easy access to information.
Some examples of the type of data that would become available to the public would include:
Committees and quasi-governmental agencies elected representatives and paid staff have a seat on.
Voting record of each elected representative and paid staff member on local and regional issues.
How the past budgets compared with spending.
Amounts each city employee is paid in salary and benefits.
The pension and healthcare obligations of the local government.