New Report by Alissa Black and Rachel Burstein, New America Foundation: “In April 2013 the California Civic Innovation Project released a report, The Case for Strengthening Personal Networks in California Local Governments, highlighting the important role of knowledge sharing in the diffusion of innovations from one city or county to another, and identifying personal connections as a significant source of information when it comes to learning about and implementing innovations.
Based on findings from CCIP’s previous study, Creating Networked Cities makes recommendations on how local government leaders, professional associations, and foundation professionals might promote and improve knowledge sharing through developing, strengthening and leveraging their networks. Strong local government networks support the continual sharing and advancement of projects, emerging practices, and civic innovation…Download CCIP’s recommendations for strengthening local government networks and diffusing innovation here.”
Phys.org: “What does your Twitter profile reveal about you? More than you know, according to Chris Weidemann. The GIST master’s student has developed an application that follows geospatial footprints.
You start your day at your favorite breakfast spot. When your order of strawberry waffles with extra whipped cream arrives, it’s too delectable not to share with your Twitter followers. You snap a photo with your smartphone and hit send. Then, it’s time to hit the books.
You tweet your friends that you’ll be at the library on campus. Later that day, palm trees silhouette a neon-pink sunset. You can’t resist. You tweet a picture with the hashtag #ILoveLA.
You may not realize that when you tweet those breezy updates and photos of food, you are sharing information about your location.
Chris Weidemann, a graduate student in the Geographic Information Science and Technology (GIST) online master’s program at USC Dornsife, investigated just how much public geospatial data was generated by Twitter users and how their information—available through Twitter’s application programming interface (API)—could potentially be used by third parties. His study was published June 2013 in the International Journal of Geoinformatics…
Twitter has approximately 500 million active users, and reports show that 6 percent of users opt-in to allow the platform to broadcast their location using global positioning technology with each tweet they post. That’s about 30 million people sending geo-tagged data out into the Twitterverse. In their tweets, people can choose whether their information is displayed as a city and state, an address or pinpoint their precise latitude and longitude.
That’s only part of their geospatial footprint. Information contained in a post may reveal a user’s location. Depending upon how the account is set up, profiles may include details about their hometown, time zone and language.”
Some thoughts from Panthea Lee from Reboot: “In recent years, civic innovation fellowships have shown great promise to improve the relationships between citizens and government. In the United States, Code for America and the Presidential Innovation Fellows have demonstrated the positive impact a small group of technologists can have working hand-in-hand with government. With the launch of Code for All, Code for Europe, Code4Kenya, and Code4Africa, among others, the model is going global.
But despite the increasing popularity of civic innovation fellowships, there are few templates for how a “Code for” program can be adapted to a different context. In the US, the success of Code for America has drawn from a wealth of tech talent eager to volunteer skills, public and private support, and the active participation of municipal governments. Elsewhere, new “Code for” programs are surely going to have to operate within a different set of capacities and constraints.”
Jane Wakefield from BBC News: “In the future everything in a city, from the electricity grid, to the sewer pipes to roads, buildings and cars will be connected to the network. Buildings will turn off the lights for you, self-driving cars will find you that sought-after parking space, even the rubbish bins will be smart. But how do we get to this smarter future. Who will be monitoring and controlling the sensors that will increasingly be on every building, lamp-post and pipe in the city?…
There is another chapter in the smart city story – and this one is being written by citizens, who are using apps, DIY sensors, smartphones and the web to solve the city problems that matter to them.
Don’t Flush Me is a neat little DIY sensor and app which is single-handedly helping to solve one of New York’s biggest water issues.
Every time there is heavy rain in the city, raw sewage is pumped into the harbour, at a rate of 27 billion gallons each year.
Using an Arduino processor, a sensor which measures water levels in the sewer overflows and a smart phone app, Don’t Flush Me lets people know when it is ‘safe to flush’.
Meanwhile Egg, a community-led sensor network, is alerting people to an often hidden problem in our cities.
Researchers estimate that two million people die each year as a result of air pollution and as cities get more over-crowded, the problem is likely to get worse.
Egg is compiling data about air quality by selling cheap sensor which people put outside their homes where they collect readings of green gases, nitrogen oxide (NO2) and carbon monoxide (CO)….
The reality is that most smart city projects are currently pretty small scale – creating tech hubs or green areas of the city, experimenting with smart electricity grids or introducing electric buses or bike-sharing schemes.”
Thesis by Hollie Russon Gilman: “Participatory Budgeting (PB) has expanded to over 1,500 municipalities worldwide since its inception in Porto Alege, Brazil in 1989 by the leftist Partido dos Trabalhadores (Workers’ Party). While PB has been adopted throughout the world, it has yet to take hold in the United States. This dissertation examines the introduction of PB to the United States with the first project in Chicago in 2009, and proceeds with an in-depth case study of the largest implementation of PB in the United States: Participatory Budgeting in New York City. I assess the outputs of PB in the United States including deliberations, governance, and participation. I argue that PB produces better outcomes than the status quo budget process in New York City, while also transforming how those who participate understand themselves as citizens, constituents, Council members, civil society leaders and community stakeholders. However, there are serious challenges to participation, including high costs of engagement, process exhaustion, and perils of scalability. I devise a framework for assessment called “citizenly politics,” focusing on: 1) designing participation 2) deliberation 3) participation and 4) potential for institutionalization. I argue that while the material results PB produces are relatively modest, including more innovative projects, PB delivers more substantial non-material or existential results. Existential citizenly rewards include: greater civic knowledge, strengthened relationships with elected officials, and greater community inclusion. Overall, PB provides a viable and informative democratic innovation for strengthening civic engagement within the United States that can be streamlined and adopted to scale.”
Code for America: “OpenCounter’s mission is to empower entrepreneurs and foster local economic development by simplifying the process of registering a business.
Economic development happens in many forms, from projects like the revitalization of the Brooklyn Navy Yard or Hudson Rail Yards in New York City, to campaigns to encourage residents to shop at local merchants. While the majority of headlines will focus on a City’s effort to secure a major new employer (think Apple’s 1,000,000 square foot expansion in Austin, Texas), most economic development and job creation happens on a much smaller scale, as individuals stake their financial futures on creating a new product, store, service or firm.
But these new businesses aren’t in a position to accept tax breaks on capital equipment or enter into complex development and disposition agreements to build new offices or stores. Many new businesses can’t even meet the underwriting criteria of SBA backed revolving-loan programs. Competition for local grants for facade improvements or signage assistance can be fierce….
Despite many cities’ genuine efforts to be “business-friendly,” their default user interface consists of florescent-lit formica, waiting lines, and stacks of forms. Online resources often remind one of a phone book, with little interactivity or specialization based on either the businesses’ function or location within a jurisdiction.
That’s why we built OpenCounter….See what we’re up to at opencounter.us or visit a live version of our software at http://opencounter.cityofsantacruz.com.”
Wall Street Journal: “Cash-strapped cities are turning to an unusual source to improve their online services on the cheap: helpful hackers, who use city data to create tools tracking everything from real-time subway delays to where to get a free flu shot near your home and information about a contentious school-closing plan.
Hackers have been popularly portrayed as giving fits to national-security officials and credit-card companies, but the term also refers to people who like to write their own computer programs and help solve a variety of problems. Recently, hackers have begun working with cities to find ways of building applications, or apps, that make use of data—which gets stripped of personally identifiable information—that municipalities are collecting anyway in the regular course of governance….Last year, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel signed an executive order mandating the city make available all data not protected by privacy laws. Today, the city has nearly 950 data sets publicly available, the most of any U.S. city, according to Code for America, a nonprofit that promotes openness in government.”
New Paper by Susan P. Crawford and Dana Walters (Berkman Center Research Publication No. 17): “Over the last three years, the Boston Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics, the innovative, collaborative ethos within City Hall fostered by Mayor Menino and his current chief of staff, Mitchell Weiss, and Boston’s launch of a CRM system and its associated Citizens Connect smartphone app have all attracted substantial media attention. In particular, the City of Boston’s strategy to put citizen engagement and participation at the center of its efforts, implemented by Chris Osgood and Nigel Jacob as co-chairs of the Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics, has drawn attention to the potential power of collaboration and technology to transform citizens’ connections to their government and to each other. Several global developments have combined to make Boston’s collaborative efforts interesting: First, city managers around the world confront shrinking budgets and diminishing trust in the role of government; second, civic entrepreneurs and technology innovators are pressuring local governments to adopt new forms of engagement with citizens; and third, new digital tools are emerging that can help make city services both more visible and more effective. Boston’s experience in pursuing partnerships that facilitate opportunities for engaging citizens may provide scalable (and disruptive) lessons for other cities.
During the summer of 2013, in anticipation of Mayor Menino’s retirement in January 2014, Prof. Susan Crawford and Project Assistant Dana Walters carried out a case study examining the ongoing evolution of the Boston Mayor’s Hotline into a platform for civic engagement. We chose this CRM focus because the initial development of the system provides a concrete example of how leaders in government can connect to local partners and citizens. In the course of this research, we interviewed 21 city employees and several of their partners outside government, and gathered data about the use of the system.
We found a traditional technology story—selection and integration of CRM software, initial performance management using that software, development of ancillary channels of communication, initial patterns of adoption and use—that reflects the commitment of Mayor Menino to personalized constituent service. We also found that that commitment, his long tenure, and the particular personalities of the people on the New Urban Mechanics team make this both a cultural story as well as a technology story. Here are the highlights…”
Motherboard: “The city of San Francisco is set to be hacked tonight. Legally, of course. It’s all part of the Operation Decode San Francisco effort, which will unwrap and simplify the city’s dense, labyrinthine laws and re-package them in a fresh, easy-to-use and searchable format.
The crew behind this, OpenGov, originally cut its teeth on KeepTheWebOpen.org. Founded by Rep. Darrell Issa and others to combat SOPA/PIPA, and running on a $5,000 piece of software called the Madison Project, the site also offered up an alternative bill: Issa’s Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade Act (OPEN). Characterized as the first technological crowd-sourcing of legislation, the bill is still stuck in committee, but the site was certainly one of the many tentacles that helped suffocate SOPA/PIPA.
…The immediate hope with these beta Decoded sites is that they will appeal to individuals and organizations that regularly interact with the law. Lawyers and public interest groups are prime targets. However, the developers would like to make the sites attractive to all sorts of individuals who want to better understand city laws, and involve themselves in the debate process. The Decoded sites will first educate constituents, whereupon the Madison technology will takeover, allowing citizens to critique bills line-by-line with track changes. ”