The internet has changed the way information is relayed and how people use it. We have gone from an era of broadcast dominated by passive reception to an era of digital natives, where communication is interactive and instantaneous. This new generation has grown up with the Internet and expects continuous participation.
This evolution towards new communication patterns provided governments with an opportunity to function in a more innovative, engaging and cost-effective manner. In recent years, many businesses have integrated tools such as Facebook and Twitter in their marketing efforts to reach customers more directly. In a government context, such tools can be similarly used to engage with citizens with the goals of collecting their feedback and ideas, making them aware of public services at their disposal and reaching out to broader audiences through non-traditional channels.
Social media have also returned power to citizens. By providing inexpensive and widely-available tools that make it easier to organize and voice challenge, new technologies have contributed to empower citizens while improving governments’ responsiveness and accountability. A new citizen is emerging.
The City of Boston, for instance, recently launched a series of initiatives to engage with its citizens, such as the Citizens Connect App.
The convergence of these trends has generated a number of innovations, from ideation to agenda setting, from branding to crowdsourcing. There are any number of examples.
Switzerland-based RedCut has released Citizen 2.0, a white paper of case studies that include 17 examples of social media and government innovation. Here is an interview with the CEO Hadi Barkat to share his methodology and what he learned.
Excerpted from Citizen 2.0, a paper by Swissnex and Red Cut.
What was the impetus for Citizen 2.0 and process for selecting companies featured?
“The story of this paper is about connecting the dots. Firstly, there is RedCut and swissnex Boston collaborating to conduct research and write a paper about innovation, technology, and citizenship. These are areas of great interest for us. Secondly, at RedCut, we are heavy users of crowdsourcing platforms for creating our citizenship games, and through this effort, we came to appreciate what connected crowds with a purpose can achieve. Thirdly, in our regular interactions with mayors and other government officials, we learned about their strong interest in the topic and their lack of time to properly explore and embrace it. Therefore, we decided to provide a source of inspiration to our stakeholders and open it to all citizens of the world.
Our selection is the result of conversations with field experts and innovators combined with online research. The list features innovation in crisis mapping, ideation, public diplomacy, nation branding, and agenda setting, to name a few areas covered. It is global with cases originating in Canada, Kenya, Brazil,Australia, and the US. Given that US eGovernment initiatives have been more oriented toward outreach to citizens as opposed to internal business-process efficiency, you will find more cases originating in the US.
All that said, the selection is not comprehensive, nor is it a ranking of the best projects.
What common thread/theme do you see in the companies featured?
I don’t know whether there is a common thread per se. This domain is not about technological breakthroughs, but about putting the same tools and technologies to work for different objectives. The fact that we put this list together and almost had to limit ourselves shows that the field is solid. Among the interesting trends we came across, it appears that city initiatives like app or coding competitions are creating demand and pushing entrepreneurs to innovate. Also, it is always fascinating to see how some often-mentioned projects like ManorLabs, SeeClickFix or Govloop were started by a citizen or a government employee with more motivation than dollars.
What should government leaders keep in mind while reviewing Citizen 2.0?
This selection is intended to be a source of inspiration. It is not a template. When it comes to tech-driven innovation, we strongly believe that it is not about the tools but about why and how we put them to work. We have been impressed by how people around the world are implementing innovation with limited resources and deriving value from the process. There is great food for thought and inspiration”.