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    Kate Walser in Fairfax, VA writes:

    Open government efforts focus right on open data APIs and technology. That's one piece to the equation, but it won't engage citizens. The tech-savvy and early adopters will get involved, but we'll create a larger digital divide than we have now. GO TO NON-TRADITIONAL VENUES----------- What if we took the idea of open government TO citizens in different places? Get them where they already need to go - Department of Motor Vehicles, grocery stores, doctor's offices, gas stations, etc. A kiosk or two with ideas about how citizens can get involved and share their suggestions at any of these venues would open the discussion up to a much larger audience. At any of these venues, you would have 5-15 minutes of a citizen's time and an opportunity to gather insight and ideas from them, as well as share updates on what's happening and get them involved. There are challenges in moving outside government walls and networks, but these are places with captive audiences, frequented by ALL citizens, not just those who are connected to the Internet or comfortable using social media tools. SET UP M-GOVERNMENT OPTIONS (Mobile)--------- Because mobile phone has a lower entry cost than going online - just need a phone and a plan vs. a computer, Internet service provider, etc. - it's becoming more widely available to ALL citizens. Why not set up mobile government options like you find in the Phillippines, Singapore, and other parts of the world. The Phillippines has created different options like TXT CSC, which citizens can use to voice concerns and get reactions from government. Here in the US, Oklahoma just announced an OK.gov iphone application that offers different service options for citizens, such as agency lookup. (24 Feb 2010) Libraries like the NY Public Library, Harvard, and Yale use services like TextALibrarian to offer mobile access to citizens - a great idea, especially for reaching citizens who cannot easily get to urban centers or have limited transportation options. USE PLAIN LANGUAGE------ Plain language initiatives have been building in steam. Overheard in a cafe in Georgia - "I don't know what the heck is going on in DC. I can't understand a word of what those politicians say. It takes them 10 pages to say what they could in 2 pages. Just use plain language we can understand." Simplify language. Avoid legalese / government-ese. Think before using all the acronyms that are understood by only a few beyond the DC metro area. Make it easy for people to understand what's happening and how to voice their opinions. We'd build trust, make government seem less elitist to those who don't understand and care right now. With more people understanding what's happening, we could even wind up with fewer Freedom of Information Act requests and get government agencies back focused on their missions, rather than slogging through FOIA requests. Ask usability experts and plain language specialists for help. The Center for Plain Language is eager and ready. DESIGN GOV2.0 TO BE A CONVERSATION-------- For open government efforts to succeed, agencies must design government 2.0 initiatives to be a conversation. Conversations engage people, get them interested, make them care, inspire them to offer ideas and get involved. Facebook Fan pages, Twitter pushes, and other social media efforts are a start, but could fizzle quickly if noone's asking citizens for ideas and listening to what they have to say. A talk I gave at the Interaction Designers Association (IXDA) Interaction10 conference in early February 2010 had many designers excited and thinking of ways to make government more accessible to all citizens. [Slides at http://www.slideshare.net/kwalser/designing-gov-20-thats-inclusive]

    Posted on Wed Feb 24, 2010 | Reply
     
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