June 27, 2013 By Kim Lachance Shandrow
Local government agencies are tapping into alternative community co-working spaces, neighborhood tech meetups and civic hackathons to forge innovative tech partnerships, liberate municipal data and drive civic engagement.
“In the future, governments and companies won’t really care about massive operations and giant corporate headquarters,” said Derek Neighbors, co-founder of Gangplank, a nonprofit collaborative workspace group and startup incubator headquartered in a revitalized historic building directly across from the Chandler, Ariz., City Hall. “They’ll be far more interested in sourcing talented, innovative, local individuals who can get the work done.”
Many local governments already are, thanks to a new breed of municipal chief innovation and chief information officers, leading the charge alongside civic-minded techies who are eager to improve the communities where they live, work and play.
American municipalities — from San Francisco to New York City — are pivoting away from outsourcing their growing tech needs to large corporations and away from creating and maintaining their own often massive, complex municipal data systems. Instead, they’re turning to civic coders and private service providers who live in the community and work in alternative co-working environments for everything from app development to social media outreach and data storage. Meanwhile, these new relationships help local governments better understand and respond to citizens’ needs.
Neighbors, a veteran software engineer, launched Gangplank in 2008 with fellow tech entrepreneur Jade Meskill to foster an environment for local creatives, entrepreneurs and startups to “explore innovative ideas and create what they are passionate about in ways that enhance the community we live and work in.” Gangplank has since opened additional collaborative co-working spaces in the Phoenix area, Virginia and Canada.
All over the country, community leaders are looking to boost economic development through various initiatives. One key element in many of those initiatives is the use of information technology. When local governments build IT infrastructure, create e-government applications, assist high-tech startups or otherwise focus on technology, they create conditions that draw businesses to their communities and help retain skilled workers. This paper discusses and provides examples of these various ways local government can use technology to ultimately make a community more attractive to businesses, visitors and residents.