GovTwit is a guide to Twitter and the US government. GovTwit started as a directory of all facets of government on Twitter and has expanded to include a leaderboard, guides, and resources .
In 2008, GovTwit founder Steve Lunceford was frustrated at how hard it was to find other public services professionals using Twitter. While some basic resources existed in various wikis or blog posts, there was no comprehensive listing of all facets of the US government using Twitter.
GovTwit v2.0 launched in the summer of 2009, and introduced a new look and feel for the directory, as well as new features.
Last month (November 2012) GovLoop, the largest online community for US public servants, teamed up with GovTwit to create GovTwit 3.0. This new version of the site focuses on providing knowledge resources like guides, articles, and leaderboards to help government employees and citizens to learn about and engage with government organisations and Twitter.
I recently attended two Open Data Events in Dublin, one in the morning arranged by Dublinked: ‘Using Public Data to Drive Innovation‘ , this event took Place in the Paccar Theatre of the Science Gallery.
the second, an evening Open Data Ireland Community Meetup (the second such meetup in Dublin) was generously hosted by the guys at Engineyard.
The speakers at the Dublinked Event were:
Martin Troy and John Foley : Martin Troy is with the eGovernment Policy Unity and John is with the Training Policy Unit of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. Martin & John presented ‘Towards an Open Data Policy for the Irish Public Service’
Dominic Byrne : Dominic Byrne is Assistant Head of Information Technology with Fingal County Council and has 20 years of experience in IT. He is responsible for managing the provision of IT services in Fingal and his current interests include Open Data, Open Government, Social Media, and Knowledge Management. He is responsible for Fingal Open Data which was the first Open Government Data website in Ireland and is also a member of the Dublinked management team.
Joan Mulvihill (Irish Internet Association) : With 8 years of retail experience within the Kingfisher Group (retail) in London and Amsterdam, returned to Dublin in 2002 and joined Becton Dickinson’s global sourcing team with procurement responsibilities for car leasing and marketing across Europe and the US. Exactly three years later, moved to senior consulting role within leading international professional services firm, BDO International, as Head of Family Business consulting services. Joan was appointed CEO of the Irish Internet Association in November 2009 and is privileged to work with the best and brightest of technology start-ups as well as supporting more traditional businesses in the adoption of web-based technologies. Over the past three years, the IIA has led new initiatives such as Digitise the Nation to bridge the digital divide, as well a policy papers addressing the Digital Skills Shortage and Open-Data and driving business growth through Digital Marketing, eCommerce and Cloud Computing.
Jason Roe is an entrepreneur with a flare for developing innovative products and solutions. Since 2011, his team has been working on ParkYa, a product that helps drivers to find on street parking & make payments. The development of this product has been driven by of the Open Data movement supported by Dublinked. With support from Enterprise Ireland and Local Government, Parkya have opened registration for the private trail of their parking app. ParkYa, its Parking Made Easier!
Eoin Bailey is a computer science researcher in Trinity College Dublin working with cultural data collections and is also involved in Hit The Road a multi-modal public transport journey planner for Dublin. Eoin worked with open data to build the Irish Property Price map, a tool that allows simple interactions with the released Property Price Register information. A key part of Eoin’s research is to broaden the access to data sets, both visual and textual, enabling explorative research and interaction by users of all skill levels.
Deirdre Ni Raghallaigh heads up the Studio – Dublin City Council’s in-house innovation unit. The studio works on redesigning public services; developing new forms of public engagement; testing ideas new to the council as well as co-founding Dublinked . Deirdre has worked previously for the City as a business librarian, press officer, communications manager and in area management in the North Inner City.
Ton Zijlstra (1970) is a self-employed change management consultant from the Netherlands, with a preference for complex change issues. He has a background in technology and philosophy. With 15+ years experience in knowledge management and change management issues he has a keen interest in creating new affordances for professionals in the context of their communities and groups.
Since 2008 he has been active on open (government) data which he sees as a next wave of digital disruption provoking new challenges for public sector bodies, citizens and corporations alike. He worked and works for various local, national and international government bodies to help ‘do’ open data, and also as an activist. In 2009 he wrote a first exploration of open data for the Dutch government, and in 2010 the first plans for a Dutch national data portal (). In 2008 he was one of the co-initiators of the Dutch open data activist group ‘Hack de Overheid’ (Hack the government). In his home town Enschede he started a local open data group, and is volunteering his time to the city government using the motto “you can pay me by publishing data sets”. As project lead and community steward of the ePSIplatform () he is an active connector and enabler of open data across the EU, under a contract with the European Commission. He is a regular speaker across Europe.
Ton is also a board member of the 6000+ community Ambtenaar 2.0 (Civil Servant 2.0) in the Netherlands which focusses on changing the work routines of the public sector under influence of social media, co-creation and open data.
Later in the evening, the proceedings moved across townto the Offices of the Engine Yard, and the second meetup of the Open Data Ireland community.
Open Data Ireland was set up with the purpose of helping citizens access high value, machine readable datasets generated by the Irish Government.
the speakers on the evening were:
Jason Hare: Open Data Program Manager, City of Raleigh
Ton Zijlstra: ePSIplatform.eu
Things kicked of at 7pm and the conversation didn’t finish until 11pm, it probably would have gone on much longer if Denis hadnt called things to a halt…. a very interesting evening with lots of very engaged conversation between techies, community activists, journalists and government employees… open data advocates all..
Having heard about the seeclickfix platform via an article in the WSJ last month written by Steven Berlin Johnson a member of the Maryland local Chamber of Commerce, John K. Phoebus, reached out to seeclickfix to ask for help with the software to enable volunteers to get involved in the cleanup effort. In a thank you letter to Mr Johnson, Crisfield writes of the impact of the social web on their community.
I want to thank you for an article you wrote back in September. You wrote about SeeClickFix, a startup that lets people report potholes to their town government.
Monday, Crisfield, Maryland was hit harder than any other community in Maryland by Hurricane Sandy. Swift boat rescue teams had to go by boat house to house to rescue people from flooding worse than I’ve ever seen in my lifetime. As word of the devastation spread, we were fortunate that, through social media, so many people learned of the devastation that the hurricane brought to our town and offered to help.
As offers to help came pouring in, I realized that our municipal and county governments wouldn’t be able to harness the energy of volunteers because they were so busy providing basic services to their citizens. The chamber of commerce, in cooperation with the City of Crisfield, took on the task of organizing these volunteers. I offered to lead the effort as a chamber member and, as I did, I remembered the article you wrote about SeeClickFix.
On a whim, in the middle of the night/early morning on Wednesday, I emailed the CEO, after a quick online search and told him about our town. I will forward to you the email I sent when I can find it. The same day, I heard back and they offered to set us up with a free service to let us use this app to identify and report damage from Hurricane Sandy that our volunteers can help fix.
Today at 1 p.m. we had the first meeting of volunteers, who downloaded the app, and spread out through town. In a few hours, we had made it through half of the town, identifying 85 issues. Tomorrow, we delve into the hardest hit area of town and will probably triple that number.
I’m thanking you because, if it hadn’t been for your article, I wouldn’t have heard of SeeClickFix and we wouldn’t have had such success in using their generous offer to organize the volunteers in our town. If you’re interested, you can read about our efforts at this websitehttps://sites.google.com/site/crisfieldcleanupproject/home, which we put together to organize the effort or look for the Crisfield, Maryland facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/crisfieldmd
If we didn’t have this app, we wouldn’t have been able to harness this energy so effectively. Instead of a bunch of people in the back office organizing things, everyone is out on the street clearing debris out of homes and getting trees off of cars and homes.
The open-source world has learned to deal with a flood of new, oftentimes divergent, ideas using hosting services like GitHub — so why can’t governments? In this rousing talk Clay Shirky shows how democracies can take a lesson from the Internet, to be not just transparent but also to draw on the knowledge of all their citizens.
Clay Shirky argues that the history of the modern world could be rendered as the history of ways of arguing, where changes in media change what sort of arguments are possible — with deep social and political implications.
See also an early (2008) ’version controlled civic collaboration’ site from Kilkenny, Ireland
The Citizens Handbook is meant to encourage the emergence of more active citizens – people motivated by an interest in public issues, and a desire to make a difference beyond their own private lives. Active citizens are a great untapped resource, and citizenship is a quality to be nurtured.
A way of tackling large public issues
In British Columbia, no less than eight recent task force reports have identified more active citizens as the key to responding more effectively to large scale public issues. The reports include When the Bough Breaks (on child protection); the Ready Or Not! Final Report (on aging); Making Changes (on family services); Closer to Home (on health care); Greenways/Publicways (on the urban landscape); Clouds of Change (on climate change); Report of the Round-table on the Environment and the Economy; and the Safer City Task Force Report.
A way of solving local problems
When people become involved in their neighbourhoods they can become a potent force for dealing with local problems. Through co-ordinated planning, research and action, they can accomplish what individuals working alone could not.
When people decide they are going to be part of the solution, local problems start getting solved. When they actually begin to work with other individuals, schools, associations, businesses, and government service providers, there is no limit to what they can accomplish.
A way of improving liveability
Citizens can make cities work better because they understand their own neighbourhoods better than anyone else. Giving them some responsibility for looking after their part of town is a way of effectively addressing local preferences and priorities. Understandably, boosting citizen participation improves liveability. It is no coincidence that Portland, Oregon – a city with a tradition of working in partnership with neighbourhoods – regularly receives the highest score for liveability of any U.S. city.
Cities are sources of potential conflict, between government and citizens, between different citizens groups, and between citizens and special interests such as real estate developers. have shown that greater citizen participation in civic affairs can reduce all of these sources of conflict. In particular it can prevent the firestorms associated with changes brought about by growth and renewal.
A bridge to strong democracy
When citizens get together at the neighbourhood level, they generate a number of remarkable side effects. One of these is strengthened democracy. In simple terms, democracy means that the people decide. Political scientists describe our system of voting every few years but otherwise leaving everything up to government as weak democracy. In weak democracy, citizens have no role, no real part in decision-making between elections. Experts assume responsibility for deciding how to deal with important public issues.
The great movement of the last decades of the twentieth century has been a drive toward stronger democracy in corporations, institutions and governments. In many cities this has resulted in the formal recognition of neighbourhood groups as a link between people and municipal government, and a venue for citizen participation in decision-making between elections.
A little recognized route to better health
In the late 1980s, following Canada’s lead, the World Health Organization broadened its definition of health to account for the fact that health is much more than the absence of disease. The new definition recognizes that only 25% of our health status comes from health care, the rest comes from the effects of an adequate education and income, a clean environment, secure housing and employment, the ability to control stress, and a social support network.
Understandably, public health professionals have become some of the strongest advocates for more active citizens. Health Canada has provided many resources to nurture the grassroots including the recent Community Action Pack, a full crate of material on community organizing.
A way of rekindling community
Active citizens can help to create a sense of community connected to place. We all live somewhere. As such we share a unique collection of problems and prospects in common with our neighbours. Participation in neighbourhood affairs builds on a recognition of here-we-are-together, and a yearning to recapture something of the tight-knit communities of the past. Neighbourhood groups can act as vehicles for making connections between people, forums for resolving local differences, and a means of looking after one another. Most important, they can create a positive social environment that can become one of the best features of a place.
“As we tossed the operations of government around, we concluded that, for the most part, the nature of government is bureaucratization, thickening of friction and fat, and that this “nature” drives out the potential in government operations–potential for human growth, innovation, and enhancements, and overall transparency.
Not wanting to leave the discussion on a negative, we tossed around the concepts of what might be a better government, if we can ever overcome this organizational “nature.”
Here’s our list of 7 Better Government characteristics:
1. Sustainable means of increasing employee engagement, concentration, awareness, and discretion to make enhancements.
2. Easily accessible and adaptive strategic analytics to optimize individuals’ and organizations’ performance throughout the chain of work transitions.
3. Testable phases of emergent capabilities to lower risks and costs while extending out to meet emergent customer needs.
4. Accurate and visible attribution of performance leaders and partners so as to reward courage, commitment, and creativity.
5. Robust forecasting of alternative actions in operations, with readily accessible analyses of potential returns on investments.
6. Periodic facilitation and coaching of teams to take on enhancements while on the job, and collaborating with shared knowledge of operations.
7. Technology fitting to employee productivity, including flexibility in accessing remote computing and communication across dispersed personnel.
This may be the same list that affects any large organization. Given that government is one of the largest and most complicated to manage, maybe our list of 7 should be the subject of political debates. Who can lead Better Government?”
By Ian Hardy BBC News, New York
Millions of people own phones with excellent GPS capabilities, accelerometers and high resolution camera lenses.
Filing reports from an app is almost a pleasure, compared with writing or phoning in.
Potholes, abandoned vehicles and graffiti are all favourites.
And it is claimed that people who download government apps generally use them more than just once, perhaps seeing themselves as protectors of their community, rather than serial complainers….
…The goal is to fix the little things quickly and let communities know that standards exist.
For example, children are more likely to tag on a wall in an area full of graffiti, while a burnt out car seems to attract those who dump their fridges and computers.
The idea is decades old.
But instead of relying on environmental inspectors, cities aim to reach people with self-empowering messages that are faster and cheaper.
Take Boston’s pot-hole finding app, Street Bump, designed to be used in a car.
When a mobile with a built in accelerometer is running the app, every judder and jolt is recorded, along with its GPS co-ordinates, which are sent to a central server.
If a bump triggers three separate reports within four days it is officially declared an issue and somebody will fix it.
The hardest part was developing an algorithm that could distinguish between potholes and manhole covers or rain drains, says Nigel Jacob of the Boston Mayor’s office.
It is also possible for citizens to submit photographs of holes as they appear, allowing them to be repaired early.
The more data collected electronically, the easier to pinpoint and predict where potholes form every year.
From Steve Towns at www.govtech.com
Speaking at a Southern California media conference earlier this year, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo predicted that 2012 will be a “Twitter election” — and he may well be right. The 6-year-old microblogging platform, once dismissed as frivolous, has become a vital tool for political candidates to reach voters and react to events in real time.
Similarly, Facebook — with its 900 million users — is a key platform for engaging and organizing political supporters, not to mention a gold mine of data that savvy campaigns are using to create highly specific profiles of potential voters. Throw in the exploding use of mobility — along with complementary tools like geolocation — and the popularity of YouTube, and you can make the argument that 2012 is the year that social media becomes an integral part of the election process….
…Along with creating closer ties between leaders and citizens, political professionals predict (or maybe hope) that social media will become a counterbalance to big-money political donors — in essence, injecting more democracy into the democratic process. For instance, George W. Bush’s campaign adviser Mark McKinnon, writing for The Daily Beast, said “Technology and social media have brought power back to the people. ‘We the people’ can now compete against the near-deafening influence of unlimited campaign contributions.”
Have a clear idea of your objectives in using social media, learn the rules of each social media space before engaging, and don’t open a channel of communication you can’t maintain. These are some of the top tips outlined in the government’s newly released social media guidance for civil servants.
Authored by the Government Digital Service (GDS) and the Home Office, the guidelines come just over a year after the Cabinet Office first pledged in its ICT strategy to produce “practical guidelines on departmental access to the internet and social media channels”.
Talking about the six principles that make up the guidance, Emer Coleman, deputy director of digital engagement at the GDS and one of the authors of the advice, says in a blog post on the service’s website that when using social media the government should:
• Communicate with citizens in the places they already are.
• Use social media to consult and engage.
• Use social media to be more transparent and accountable.
• Be part of the conversation with all the benefits that brings.
• Understand that government cannot do everything alone, or in isolation.
• Expect civil servants to adhere to the civil service code (online as well as offline).
In part one of the guidance, the GDS stresses the importance of using social media to add a further level of transparency and accountability to the public.
“It allows citizens to input into decisions, to question them and for replies to be broadcast to many instead of one-to-one. So the government can hear direct from those affected by its decisions – the positive and negative – and explain and/or defend its decisions in response to questions or concerns,” says the document.
The guidance adds that using social media doesn’t mean that the government should answer all the queries and questions directed to it through social media channels, and says that common sense should be applied.
You can also download the Social_Media_Guidance (2mb .pdf)