Government is Collective Action
During the past days of the master course, I have noticed that a question became more and more present in our daily activities.
What can the role of Government be in the public service? Or even simpler: How can government work better in the era of technology?
Government is very often associated with the concept of politics. But politics is just the very last layer of the vast ocean of government. Under this layer there’s what it’s called bureaucracy; and that’s where the real work of government happens.
The good news is that technology is making possible to fundamentally reframe the function of government, in a way that can actually be scaled: by straighten civil society. The thing is that it will not be possible to fix government until citizenship is fixed.
And how can technology help to straighten civil society?
After a bug online surfing, I came across a program in US, called “CODE for America“. Dubbed a “Peace Corps for geeks” the nonprofit’s mission is to send talented coders, web developers, designers to work on civic projects during breaks from their normal jobs. What they do is working with city stuff and representatives, they are actually showing what’s possible with technology today. They create apps that can be used by citizens.
Here are a couple of those apps that I found interesting:
ADOPT-A-HYDRANT is map-based web app, created for the city of Boston, that makes you adopt a fire hydrant, so you agree to dig it out when it snows, and if you don’t do it, anyone can steal it from you. So it has also like a game dynamics on it.
This small app is spreading virally: there is a person in the IT Department of the city of Honolulu that realized he could use this app to get citizens to adopt tsunami sirens and take care of them.
STREETMIX is an interactive street section builder that helps community members mockup the streets they’d like to live on and offer these mockups as future plans for city officials and planners.
Young people that now start entering government institutions are all grown up taking their voices for granted; they all can express their opinion at any channel, anytime, and they do that. So when they are faced with the problem of government, they don’t care as much of using their voices. They are using their hands, like the coders of Code for America.
They do not see government as an ossified institution, but as a problem of collective action. That’s how technology can help straighten civil society. The key is considering Government as platform, not in the technological meaning of platform, but more like a platform for people to help themselves and help others.
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