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New Technologies and Participation

Innovation in social technology has created unprecedented opportunity to connect you to your government in order to obtain information and services and to participate in policymaking. If you are on Facebook or MySpace, government should be accessible there, too.   This is the core of what we call "context-driven government." Government is only open if it is accessible. So we must bring the important services and issues of public interest into the online communities in which we already work, live, and play and create new communities for mutual engagement. This is why the White House has created communities on Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, YouTube and Flickr and why we’ve established the Open Government blog for public engagement. We want to make it easy to see the latest news, photos and videos from the Obama Administration and, more important, to provide a platform for you to comment, ask and answer questions, and engage with us, your family and communities around important issues.
This weekend we’ll do two postings about opportunities and impediments to adopting "Web 2.0 technologies" as they are often called– and creating context-driven government. This one focuses on technology. The next addresses policy.
Innovative technologies like those referenced above are particularly relevant to this discussion because they represent new media tools that improve communication, empower users to create content, enhance information sharing, and promote collaboration. Common examples of are social networks, blogs, and wikis.
How You Can Help
  1. Improving dissemination of government information to inform participation: The National Weather Service does a great job of taking complex satellite data and making it widely accessible to people via new and traditional channels. When you wake up, you can reach for your i-Phone, radio or newspaper and know whether it’s going to rain. How can we do this with other important government information, such as Medicaid and Medicare benefits, the state of the power grid or the Federal budget? What are the tools and techniques for democratizing access to government data?
  2. Enhancing public participation in government activities: New social technologies like this blog are making it possible to participate in government in new ways. With the right tools, there are opportunities to bring government decision-making to the people. What are the best technological strategies – in the public or private sector – for empowering government officials and the public to work together to:
    • Gather information and data to inform a policy – collects public comment on agency rulemakings.
    • Generate ideas and innovations – TSA’s Idea Factory generates ideas from 40,000 employees.
    • Analyze data and underlying assumptions -- The NASA Clickworkers project invites the public to sift through images of Mars.
    • Peer-to-Patent project taps the expertise of distributed scientists and technologists to inform the patent examination process.
    • Draft policy statements – The Open Government blog will be starting a collaborative drafting process beginning next week.
    • Resolve disputes – The Morris K. Udall Foundation, a government agency, work with citizens to engage in environmental dispute resolution.
    • Distribute grants and funds - allows entrepreneurs in industry and academia a way to get innovative solutions funded.
    • Engage in collective action to address a problem – The Department of Transportation is funding an online bus stop design competition.
Share with us your ideas, examples and stories for the best innovations that could connect government and the public over at the OSTP blog as usual.
Vivek Kundra is Chief Information Officer, Katie Stanton is Director of Citizen Participation