BusinessWeek reports there is an emerging field that some entrepreneurs call Government 2.0.
With the White House urging federal agencies to make statistical data and other information available to the public, the Internet’s next big opportunity may be tapping that information to boost government transparency, efficiency, and responsiveness.
Much as blogs and YouTube democratized media and eBay let anyone become a retailer, these entrepreneurs want to help citizens participate more directly in governing.
One way governments encourage innovation from entrepreneurs is through apps contests. These offer prize money to developers who build software applications using public data. New York, Washington, and Portland, Ore., have all started competitions.
Federal agencies have sponsored efforts aimed at expanding broadband access and reducing childhood obesity. Even the Pentagon has gotten on board with an “Apps for the Army” challenge for soldiers. All told, more than 350 apps that tap into public data have been submitted to such contests, some of which are ongoing.
Some entrepreneurs aren’t waiting for government to open up. Instead, they’re creating Web apps that help push officials and agencies to be more transparent and responsive.
Ben Berkowitz and three co-founders created SeeClickFix as a way to report problems such as potholes and graffiti to the city government in New Haven, where Berkowitz lives. The site uses Google Maps to let people flag issues in their neighborhood and send notices to their local officials.
The company has licensed the tool to newspapers, TV stations, and other local news Web sites. So far, more than 400 have signed up.
New Haven, Tucson, Washington, and other cities also pay to plug SeeClickFix into their own response systems, so complaints get routed directly to the appropriate agency. A total of more than 36,000 problems from cities and towns nationwide have been reported on the site, and 40 percent have been resolved, Berkowitz says.
He calls Gov 2.0 a way of “redistributing governance to the hands of citizens.”
Photo by NYTimes.