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How to Engage with Gov – 101 – with Gavin Newsom

“Government is the air we breathe the water we drink. So it is incumbent among all of us who celebrate it and those who hate it to try to make it better and more relevant. Don’t give up on government. Don’t sit back and passively complain. Let’s have a two-way conversation,” said Gavin Newsom.

Newsom is the author of the book Citizenville. He is also the Lt. Governor of California.

He told Chris Dorobek on the DorobekINSIDER program that the government needs to be reinvented.

“The government is broken because it is in a 20th century model of delivery. Technologically speaking it is on the cutting edge for 1973. I’m not exaggerating because that is precisely when the DMV built out there tech systems in the state of California. And outside of a few fancy websites and being able to download a license here and there the plumbing is still 40 years old. We’ve got to modernize not just the technology but our thinking, our culture and our approach to engaging with citizens,” siad Newsom.

“Where we are not doing things TO citizens but doing things WITH them,” said Newsom.

Getting Caught in the Clay Layer

“I admire the civil service system. It plays an important role in dealing with class and corruption. But with respect to the clay layer that now exists, the bureaucracy, the impenetrable nature, the inflexibility of a system that now exists in a world where you need to be adaptive and flexible. It is incumbent upon us to release the entrepreneurial spirit that I believe is inside everybody,” said Newsom.

Rules and Regulation

“I believe everyones wants to participate. The problems is that the government’s SOP, work rules prohibit that kind of imagination and entrepreneurial spirit and that has to be unleashed. It is a structural issue not just a people issue. We have great people stuck in a terrible system. It has to be re-imagined not just reformed,” said Newsom. “We are on a collision course with the future in government and it is going to be incumbent upon us to wake up and recognize the world around us.”

A Cog in the System – Terry Childs

“When I was Mayor of San Francisco we had these old IT systems and departments. The folks that were building the systems retired and there was only one person left that understood the payroll system. It was especially complex and difficult to navigate. Eventually the only person that was left that knew how to run the system was this man named Terry Childs. He decided he was frustrated because his boss wanted to re-assign him and put him on probation. So he decided that if that was the case he would take the password home with him and deny access to the entire payroll system in a city government with 30,000 employees,” said Newsom.

Get Rid of Hierarchical Tech Systems

“It’s a cultural minset. We are still building top down hierarchical information tech systems. We are still connected to old legacy systems that are just wrought with peril. For example, the California DMV had $280 million contract to upgrade. But it fired it’s contractor a few months ago. So now we are back to the 1973 program and out millions. No one but the private contractor was fired because it has become the norm not the exception to complete a project on budget and on time. We have to culturally shift that,” said Newsom.

Future of Tech

“In a world of apps, a world that is going mobile, social, with ubiquitous access to the cloud, it is time to move away from building systems to getting that on-demand resource in the world around us,”said Newsom.

The Power of the Many

“I profoundly believe in government. I do not want to eliminate it, but I do believe in empowering people outside of government. I believer there is remarkable talent of people around us – citizens – who want to participate but just don’t know how. Now with the tools and technology we can engage people. We can democratize their voices and give them more choice in the process and make government more relevant and real and beneficial,” said Newsom.

Code for America Example

“Code for America founder Jennifer Pahlka provides a great model that I embraced early on as Mayor. It works by providing data sets up so 3rd party developers can start developing apps for city services. These apps costs nothing to the tax payer and create real benefits,”said Newsom. “They’ve unleashed whole generations of civic activists volunteering that have profound meaning in improving the quality of all our lives for engaging the government.”

Default Open Data

“Our default in government needs to be openness, not secrecy. Even the President falls into this trap for example with the drone issue. We have to move away from that mindset because the world is hyper open. Wikileaks is one example of that. Openness allows for a 2-way conversation with citizens. Citizens can then be active participants not passive or inert,” said Newsom.

Gov. as a Platform

“Government doesn’t need to do everything for everybody all the time. As a government we need to be on the WHAT and small on the HOW. We have to unleash the opportunity for other people to solve problems themselves. Create real citizen engagement,” said Newsom.

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