Last week, I was able to attend the 2013 Personal Democracy Forum in New York City. This conference and community is about the present and future impact of digital technologies on our democracy. While listening to many of the thought-provoking and passionate presentations, there were a few different ideas that really spoke to me. Here are three that I wanted to share with you:
1) Yelp reviews will drive massive improvements in government customer service.
Luther Lowe, Director of Government Affairs & Business Outreach at Yelp, says that 85% of reviews on Yelp are positive. Yelp is already being used in a widespread manner to review consumer-facing government services. Reviews on your local library, your state’s Driver & Motor Vehicle (DMV) department, Social Security office, libraries, and parks at all levels already exist. This trend should be nurtured. When you visit a local newspaper website or blog, the comments are more than 75% negative or even rancid. On Yelp, users focus on government services rather than policy or politics and are often impressed with the competence and quality of the service providers. By calling attention to the positive and constructive comments, public sector managers can nurture the customer service mindset of citizen-facing staff and help connect staff to the impact of their work.
Check out these awesome Yelp reviews of the DMV (called Driver and Vehicle Services here in Minnesota) near my house.
What your organization can do: Start posting “Find and review us on Yelp” stickers at customer service counters, as many restaurants are doing. Encourage staff to monitor Yelp reviews to learn how users perceive service and to help identify ways to improve service.
Extra tip: Look at the LIVES approach on Yelp as a way to incorporate data government creates on restaurants into online reviews.
Digital outreach: Reflect and respond. You can write short blog entries and send out messages to the public promoting your Yelp reviews, how you’ve reacted to them and encourage residents to provide feedback either directly to your organization or through Yelp.
2) Waze (soon to be acquired by Google) and other travel efficiency services will reduce traffic, saving billions in lost productivity, lowering green house gases, and reducing road construction costs.
Waze provides a mobile app that allows users to “Outsmart traffic, together.” It’s an amazing system that combines route optimization, user reports of traffic and obstacles, location-based analysis of traffic flow, along with many other sources of data to suggest the most efficient way to move from Point A to Point B. Imagine if every user improves commuting efficiency by just 5%. This is a potentially stunning impact.
What your organization can do: Make sure traffic and road construction data is easily accessible to third party services like Waze, either through open data or application programming interfaces (APIs), and encourage the public to embrace these new technologies.
Digital outreach: Consider ways to connect email and SMS alerts to these third party services so that your customers can get alerts directly or within these applications. In addition, consider certifying and promoting traffic services that use government data effectively.
3) Kickstarter will launch thousands of new business ideas yearly.
As someone who has had to run through hundreds of meetings under the old school funding model for new ideas, I truly appreciate Kickstarter. I have watched friends raise money to help launch a new restaurant and a new children’s toy using Kickstarter. Not only does Kickstarter provide much-needed funding, it also provides a direct connection to potential customers rather than the previous models of having a bank or investor make guesses at whether an entrepreneur’s business plan has potential to attract paying customers.
What your organization can do: Add training about crowdfunding to small business courses at the public library and career center to ensure more people know about and can access these opportunities. Consider using crowdfunding to support government projects using government-focused services such as Citizinvestor (see this awesome presentation from founder, Jordan Raynor here).
Digital outreach: Use existing outreach channels such as email, SMS, and social media to promote any nonprofit or government-sponsored crowdfunding projects and look for ways to support and promote local entrepreneurs and artists running Kickstarter projects without picking favorites.
Andrew Rasiej, Founder, and Micah Sifry, co-Founder, of Personal Democracy Forum (PDF) along with many others at PDF, do a brilliant job of bringing together some of the biggest thinkers on these issues, and I’m thankful to have been able to attend the conference. Look for more posts by me on some of the insights gained from this conference. In the meantime, find all PDF videos here, including this awesome presentation on Powered by Us: Architecting Policy for a Connected from Nick Grossman.
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