Tag Archives: citizen engagement
No one cares about a neighborhood more than the people who live there. People spend their days and evenings along the street, raise children, foster connections with neighbors, build businesses, grow gardens, bike, walk, and live. A few choose to engage with their civil organizations, advocating for positive change, or against negative impacts; they participate in civic meetings, and some even run for office in order to have a professional responsibility to their community. Our fundamental goal of democracy is to expand the engagement and active participation to every person.
Contemporaneously, the internet has provided a platform for immediate and global access to information and people. An increasing majority of people carry a web integrated, sensor laden, geolocated mobile computer that makes this access ubiquitous and pervasive. Whether merely reading or actively publishing information, we have an unprecedented ability to interact with both our physical and digital worlds in coordination – essentially integrating our neighborhoods with realtime and historical data about us and our communities.
One of the primary roles of government historically has been to gather resources in order to build physical infrastructure such as roads, parks, and buildings such that communities and commerce can grow and flourish. Increasingly, a new role is for government to provide a digital public infrastructure, one which supports access to information, in order to improve the efficiency of government operations as well as enable more meaningful decisions by constituents. More than just websites, new digital services are more responsive, scalable, and optimistically more effective in serving people’s needs. Combined with open data, information analysis tools, and online forums.
Dilapidated and vacant buildings in a city are a blight that not only distresses the urban landscape but causes health problems, decreases property values, and attracts criminal elements. Before managing urban blight, cities need to know where it is. Understanding a problem is half way to solving it. New Orleans is asking its community to participate in an urban blight data collection process by simply using an app that shows building photos and asks a few survey questions about the condition of the property.
New Orleans is using the app to collect data about the status of the city’s 150,000 properties. To get started, staff drove every street of the city capturing photos of each building with two consumer grade cameras with wide angle lenses, which they bought from the local tech store. They also had an integrated GPS that tagged the location to each photo taken. They then uploaded the pictures to a data layer and joined them to corresponding parcel location data.
The city did not have the resources to actually complete the survey for these properties, so it asked Esri to build a crowd sourcing solution. Esri created the Photo Survey app, which any local government can use to publish street-level photo collections. Now citizens can become involved in the community project by accessing the app, answering the questions, and clicking send to add the information to the Photo Survey data layer on the server.
In just one month people had joined in the project and completed 16,000 surveys. The simple 10 second survey is easy. Answer these six questions: 1) Is there a structure on the property? 2) Is the lot overgrown? 3) Is there apparent damage to the siding or walls? 4) is there apparent damage to the windows or doors? 5) Is there damage to the roof? 6) What’s the foundation type?
In the US, drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death, with opioid addiction driving the epidemic. Opioids include both legal drugs, used for pain relief, and illegal drugs like heroin. These drugs are highly addictive, and anyone from any walk of life can become dependent on them. In 2014, more than 29,000 opioid related deaths occurred in the US.
Monday, August 29 marks the 11 year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the costliest disaster in American history. And while the category five storm caused unprecedented damage, the community has rebuilt the destroyed infrastructure, and has also taken new steps forward technologically.
The city of New Orleans now uses GIS extensively, and incorporates Esri’s ArcGIS platform into a series of enterprise applications. These help the public stay informed as well as enabling them to participate in making their city a better, safer place to live.
For instance, a new website called Where Y’at, is allowing citizens to access public data as easily as any common search engine. By typing in their address, people can find up-to-date information about property boundaries, garbage, and recycling pick-up days, polling locations, district representation, and more.
This year the City of New Orleans showcased their great work at the Esri User Conference Plenary. A major theme of their presentation was citizen engagement and creating a real two-way engagement enabling citizens to take in civic responsibility. New Orleans is doing outstanding work, and all of the solutions are configurations that can be repeated for any local government.
The first demonstration was the Property Survey solution in which we have enlisted User Conference attendees to help survey their properties for blight at https://propertysurvey.nola.gov/photosurvey/ This solution can be useful for a variety of applications such as code enforcement, emergency management assessment or tax appraisers. The Photo Survey Solution from the Esri Solutions gallery will allow you to process geo-tagged photos and an application to set up randomized surveys as New Orleans has done. Since 16,000 UC attendees were enlisted to help assess properties and shared on social media, Esri Managed Services was used to make sure the underlying infrastructure was ready for reliability and scalability.
Restoring trust in government
The growing distrust and poor image associated with government continue. As a result, I see citizens asking more and more questions of their government and wanting leaders to hear their voices. The citizens I hear are speaking loudly and growing in number. They want to know how their tax dollars are being allocated. They want to find out if corruption in a neighboring jurisdiction is also happening in their backyards. In the absence of effective government forums, disruptive apps are providing a place for these citizens to communicate with each other. Continue reading
Born out of the Gov 2.0 movement, the terms transparency and accountability have become part of the daily vernacular of governments and the citizens they serve. One might even suggest these words have become a new expectation of governing. Transparency and accountability began with a simple concept of openly communicating public policy to the taxpayer. Today, these concepts are thriving within a growing emphasis on developing an interactive dialog between governments and the people.
Ever since Tim O’Reilly captured our imagination with the term “Government 2.0,” the world has scrambled to understand its true meaning. Some dismissed the idea as a passing fad. But much like Al Gore’s “Reinventing Government” initiative, it moved us toward an ideal. Early Gov 2.0 efforts sought to define this concept and understand how it could alter the reinvention of government. Since Gov 2.0 is grounded in Web 2.0 technology, startups and traditional companies explored how they could fit into the grand scheme of things. The concept was given a boost when politicians as high ranking as President Obama challenged governments to enhance civic engagement. Could we turn even large cities like Singapore, Boston, or Seattle into communities whose citizens have a strong role in shaping the future? Continue reading
If you build it, will they come?
If one questioned the general public about redistricting, as a Pew survey did in 2006, one would find only modest awareness of the topic and generally negative opinions of the current process. This comes as no surprise to those who observed the 2010 elections and follow trends in open government and transparency. Citizens are less inclined to trust their elected officials than ever before, and the redistricting exercises this spring may provide further grounds for discontent. Continue reading
Restoring Trust in Government
A considerable amount of my workday is devoted to studying and strategizing around the Gov 2.0 trends. I have come to recognize that there are two distinct communities that approach the topic from completely different worlds. Continue reading