Public health, disaster recovery and social media


Janice Jacobs:  “Increasingly, social media is playing a key role in helping to ease the heavy burden of these tragedies by connecting individuals and communities with each other and with critical resources…
Social media, in its simplest form, can notify the masses in real-time about situations that are happening or are about to happen.

  • In August 2011, several New Yorkers learned of an earthquake on Twitter prior to feeling it. From the D.C. area, tweets began popping up in droves almost 30 seconds before anyone felt the tremors in New York City, and ahead of any media reports about it. Twitter said that more than 40,000 earthquake-related tweets were sent within a minute of the earthquake’s manifestation…...

Social media can be used to identify trouble spots and to react quickly during emergencies.

Social media can be used to foster communication among various healthcare, aid, government agencies and individuals.

  • Cory Booker, Mayor of Newark, NJ, a prolific Twitter user, consistently tweeted helpful information for the Newark community following Hurricane Sandy in late October 2012.”

 

Digital engagement: time to shift attention toward use and usefulness


Geoff Mulgan: “The last few years have brought a cornucopia of innovation around data, with millions of data sets opened up, and big campaigns around transparency, all interacting with the results of a glut of hackathons, appathons and the like. Linked to this has been the explosion of creativity around digital tools for civic engagement and local government….
There are also big questions to ask about digital technologies and public services – and in particular why so few public services have been radically redesigned. This has been talked about for as long as I can remember – and it’s not hard to map out how a transformed health, welfare or transport system could work if you started afresh. But with a few exceptions (like tax) this isn’t happening in any of the big public services anywhere. I’ll be writing some blogs soon about how we might accelerate this kind of systemic change.
In the meantime there are some more pragmatic questions to ask about what is and isn’t working.  A pattern is becoming clear which poses a challenge to the enthusiasts, and to funders like us.  In essence it’s this: there has been brilliant progress on the supply side – opening up data, and multiplying tools and apps of all kinds. But there has been far less progress on the demand and use side. The result is that thousands of promising data sets, apps and sites remain unused; and a great deal of creativity and energy has gone to waste.
The reasons are fairly obvious when you think about it. This is a movement driven by enthusiasts who have tended to assume that supply will create its own demand (sometimes it does – but not often).  Most of the practitioners are interested in the technical challenges of design, and a measure of their success is that for most applications there are readily accessible tools now available. Yet the much bigger challenges lie around use: how to develop attractive brands; how to promote and market; how to shape design to fit how people will actually use the services; how to build living communities.”

Should Local Government Be Run Like Silicon Valley?


The April issue of Governing magazine features Jen Pahlka of Code for America: “One of the things I love about Silicon Valley is the experimentation and willingness to play around,” says Pahlka. “That is wonderful, but sometimes becomes trivialization. As a society we can’t afford to have some of our brightest minds working on trivial things like, you know, Facebook apps.”…Pahlka’s vision for the group was essentially that by taking start-up values to government, “this thing that works” (Silicon Valley) would “fix this thing that doesn’t” (government). She quickly concluded that idea was wrong….What was broken, though, was the relationship between government and the citizenry. “That’s a problem on both sides,” Pahlka says.

Citizen Engagement and City Budgets


Governing Magazine: “Inviting public comment early in the budget process, and doing so in multiple ways, is closely associated with better performance outcomes, according to a new study in The American Review of Public Administration.

State and local government meetings, from a state agency to a county board, are notoriously low in attendance. Some governments have reacted with experiments to spur better public involvement, especially in drafting budgets. … Despite this patchwork of efforts to involve citizens, public administrators still don’t know exactly when to seek public input and how it might affect the day-to-day work of governing. So Hai Guo and Milena Neshkova, both assistant professors in the Department of Public Administration at Florida International University, set out to study the relationship between citizen participation in budgeting and measurable performance outcomes. Their analysis relied on 2005 survey data on state transportation agencies and their civic engagement strategies (focus groups, for example) across four stages in the budget process.
Because their research focused solely on transportation agencies, they looked at transportation-related outcomes that governments value: fewer road-related fatalities and fewer poor-quality roads. They took into account external factors, such as level of funding, that might account for differences in fatality rates or road conditions. They found that not only is there an inverse relationship (more attempts at civic engagement mean fewer fatalities and low-quality roads), but that the relationship is statistically significant. In other words, the result isn’t due to chance.
More importantly, the association was strongest at the earliest stage in the process. “You need to engage them early. I think that’s the point we’re trying to make,” Prof. Guo said. Since the analysis was specific to state transportation departments, Prof. Guo says he’d like to see if the same pattern would emerge at other levels of government.”