Revolution Now – Gov 2.0 for the Local Sphere (from

I’ve been intrigued by the possibilities of communications technologies since reading the Isaac Asimov Robot and Foundation books as a young teen. Asimov was a futurist without equal. His vision of the far future included the imagining of the Spacers, a first-wave of extraterrestrial settlers who had grown sedentary in reliance on robot servants. In one memorable sequence, he described how they would meet and communicate almost entirely through holographic projections. … That somewhat dark projection is intriguing but unlikely without a huge evolution in the human psyche. We crave contact – and in the modern life, we can accentuate the physical with so much more. A couple years back, I clipped a newspaper article about a company that hoped to capitalize on the nuclear family by providing video networking solutions for families to have dinner with their far-flung aged relatives. … The future is now, although I’m now sure how much of the population yet realizes it. Current technologies in the next five-10 years will revolutionize how we communicate and come together, from family relationships, religious affiliations, work, politics and just about every sphere of our lives. … A new Pew study, “Networked families,” (pdf), discusses how technology actually has created the ability to be closer in our human relationships (for a while social scientists were projecting the opposite). I can say that text messaging and video calling service such as Skype and Tokbox are changing my life for the better. Who stops calling or meeting with their families because of e-mail, phone and texting? These technologies in fact accentuate family and friend relationships, as found in the Pew study. …
As a Government 2.0 enthusiast, I am very interested in how these technologies will revolutionize grassroots Democracy and citizen participation. Also noted in the Pew study is the clear-as-the-nose-on-our-face fact that modern life is incredibly busy. As a longtime observer and participant in local government – the agencies in so many ways responsible for our immediate surroundings, from school performance to play fields to built environment – I have noticed something sad that I believe is nearly universal in capitalist democracy. Even though so many local government decisions impact the citizenry as a whole, there are generally only three groups who are intimately involved in petitioning that government: retirees with plenty of free time, those with vested financial interests of one kind or another, and single-issue/attention cranks. … “Just folks” are so busy that if an issue fails to DIRECTLY impact them (and even then they might need an activist to alert them to that impact), that they barely vote, let alone participate in local democratic decision-making. … But what if government changed? What if after the soccer game, religious gathering, family dinner, late meeting, etc., you could check your local network and know exactly what was going on with your local government? What if you could meet and discuss issues easily and quickly online with your neighbors? What if you could participate in interactive polls during a lull at work, or from your cell phone, to tell your local government what was most important to you? What if consultants and city staff asked your opinion on various design components for a new commercial or recreational development, complete with a slides you could pull up quickly and look over? What if you then got a chance to discuss and vote on options before the city council, and even to weigh in with a comment to the council by video, either live or recorded? The tools are here. The question for the moment is whether our local governments are ready. …

Leave a Comment


Leave a Reply

Paulette Neal-Allen

Adriel, as a programmer (as in, I write computer code) for a municipality, and as someone who has been deeply involved in web technology since before I got into the IT industry, I can say that local governments are really trying to move in that direction. For anyone who is reading this who works for a local government (county or municipal) in the web communications area, I highly recommend checking out the National Association of Government Webmasters . There’s a NAGW Group here on GovLoop, too.
Most of the NAGW folks I have had the privilege of meeting, either online via our email loop or directly at the national conference (next year’s will be held in Galveston, Texas – keep checking the web site for updates) are deeply involved in the kind of techologies you discuss above.

Right now, you can view almost any municipal or county government’s governing body’s meetings online, including (at least for our ‘burb, pop ~120k) any slides that have been discussed. We don’t have the capability of adding live feedback, but you can certainly make your voice heard by sending an email to your councilmember! We’ve seen here on GovLoop examples of communities who have set up a FaceBook presence, Twitter feeds, blogs… the list is impressive and getting longer.

I think that what we need the most is feedback from citizens – not just IT folks, but the people who would actually *consume* these services – that the use of technology is needed. If councilmembers, alder(wo)men, city managers, and county commissioners started getting messages from their constituants suggesting greater technological access, then it WOULD happen. Like everyone else, we have to put our limited resources where the demand and the need is greatest – and I don’t just mean money. Well, directly. It still costs money to have people monitor blog comments, update FaceBook pages, send out another twitter message (I’m betraying my age here – would that be called a “twit”?). Yes, you and I and most folks in IT realize that in the long run it will SAVE time and effort and money when citizens are happier, but if the folks who control the purse strings don’t understand, don’t see the advantage… the purse strings don’t open.

So call or email your local representatives today! That’s the only way we are going to see a large-scale adoption of the technologies you are so rightly promoting.

Adriel Hampton

I’m with you. I’m a communications person, can’t code at all. I do know that none of my non-political junkies, and even most of them – and me! – won’t watch the council on TV or the Web. But the would participate in networks that influenced local development, schools, parks, etc. So I’m strategizing how to bring IT, electeds and the everyman together. Thanks for your feedback!

Paulette Neal-Allen

You’re a citizen – what do *YOU* want? What would you use? What could your city, your county, do to help you better participate?
Dare I say it – what can we learn from the Obama campaign?

Walter Neary

>So call or email your local representatives today! That’s the only way we are going to see a large-scale >adoption of the technologies you are so rightly promoting.
As a city councilman, I’d heartily agree. I get a lot of folks who thank me for having a blog, but we’ve never had anyone show up at a meeting and ask us to ‘twit’ or whatever it’s called … and yet people would benefit hugely. It seems like the adoption of social media by both government and the public is just moving in little tiny baby steps; I wonder what might push it foward?