Many advocates in both government and private enterprise seek to bring about a transformation to the relationship between government and citizenry. Recently, one of the highest profile figures in state government has led a charge to create the next generation of government-public interaction through technology.
Gavin Newsom, Lieutenant Governor of California and former San Francisco mayor, released the book Citizenville: How to Take the Town Square Digital and Reinvent Government earlier this year. The main points of Citizenville can be broken down as follows:
The cities of Austin, Fresno, Oakland, Philadelphia, and San Francisco have accepted the “Citizenville Challenge,” which is an initiative to actively adopt these recommendations.
It is not a coincidence that Newsom’s proximity to Silicon Valley as former mayor of San Francisco influences much of this model. Newsom is a business owner as well as a collaborator with the tech sector, who has even unveiled a plan for a “California government app store” at an event hosted by the Silicon Valley Leadership group. Newsom has pointed to Steve Jobs and the case of iPhone applications as a model of success: create an effective and robust platform (such as the Apple App Store) and count on the efforts and creativity of countless collaborators to drive innovation.
Newsom has also pointed to a seemingly innocuous but massively popular website as a model for the future of government success – Yelp. Though it may seem like a stretch to tie restaurant reviews to invigorated democracy, it is worth pointing out that Yelp was disruptive: it moved an entire industry away from the realm of elites and experts and opened it to the transparent influence of the citizen critic.