Monday on Future Majority I wrote about some of the next steps the youth movement should take now that the election has passed. One of those steps is to work to bring government and campaigns into the 21st century. While the buzzword for this vision has been Government 2.0, I see it more as User-Generated Government.
The Obama transition appears to be moving in the right direction with the creation of change.gov, which allows visitors to submit their ideas about the direction our country should take. Though this is a step in the right direction, it is only that: a step.
I believe that technology’s role in the next generation of governance should increase transparency, allow for broader feedback, and make data easily accessible for user-generated mash-ups.
There have been some great examples of this idea at work, mostly in local communities. There was an article on Mashable earlier this week about the Apps for Democracy contest, which awards prizes to developers creating applications in this spirit from the District of Columbia’s Data Catalog.
I want to come back to the DC Data Catalog for a moment, because this is pretty much what I have in mind at the Federal level. The data is easily available in a searchable database in a variety of formats, making it a perfect source for creators of mash-ups or just interested parties that want to view current data. While at the Federal level each department could have their own data catalog, I think there should be a centralized usdata.gov that provides all of the data in a single location. The site should also highlight and share the best mash-ups and applications created from the data.
The internet has been instrumental in decreasing informational assymmetry, and such an effort by the government to open up their data and make it accessible would further that equality.
Moving towards a User-Generated Government will bring more people into the process as participants, as well as allow the cognitive surplus of the American public to address our challenges in new ways. Often the solutions to problems come after looking at them in a completely different light, and opening up the data lets Americans with varied expertises and perspectives take a crack at them.
What are your thoughts about a User-Generated Government? Share them in the comments.