January 18, 2009 By Ulf Wolf
"Today we begin in earnest the work of making sure that the world we leave our children is just a little bit better than the one we inhabit today." President-elect Barack Obama
So reads the banner on Mr. Obama's Change.gov site and it is obvious at first glance that he is open to suggestions on how to make the world a little better.
At http://change.gov/page/s/yourvision, for example, each visiting citizen is asked to share his or her vision for the country. A nice wide-open digital door, if I ever saw one.
The key issue here, of course, is not that as many as possible make their voices heard to let the new President hear how they see the country and where it should be headed, but that this input is actually read and digested (for, let's face it, Mr. Obama is not personally going to read the thousands of daily responses he's likely to get) and then presented to the President as good and constructive ideas.
Citizen's Briefing Book
At http://citizensbriefingbook.change.gov/ you'll find an even more open door: the Citizen's Briefing Book, where we are asked to share our ideas on any issue facing the new administration, and then rate or comment on other ideas offered in the same forum.
The best-rated ideas will then be gathered into a Citizen's Briefing Book to be delivered to President Obama after he is sworn in. The idealist in me sees Mr. Obama leafing through these suggesting later in the afternoon on the 20th, or at the latest sometime this coming week. Then the cynic in me is very aware of the words "after he is sworn in," which, by definition, could be anywhere between 1/20/09 and, oh, say, October 2022. Let's hope the idealist is more right than the cynic is.
A Technical Note
The tool Mr. Obama's transition team is using to harvest our ideas is SaaS CRM software.
No stranger to harnessing technology and the strength the Internet, Obama's website is using this Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software to introduce a more collaborative approach to citizen feedback, and his technical staff has selected the aptly named CRM Ideas application from software-as-a-service (SaaS) vendor, Salesforce.com working with consulting partner Reside.
This application is now live.
Video Call to Action
In a video on the Change.gov website, Valerie Jarret, co-chair of the Obama-Biden Transition Team, urges us to "log onto Change.gov and give us your idea.
"You decide what is important to you. Other citizens will then be able to read your ideas and make comments and suggestions. You may even hear from the transition team," she says.
We can post our ideas in a variety of categories, such as the economy, education, energy and environment, healthcare, and homeland security; and can then also read ideas from other citizens and promote the ones we like the best.
Jarret adds, "The Citizen's Briefing Book will come directly from the American people. It is yet another way that we will ensure that this transition is the most open and transparent one in history."
I feel strangely hopeful.
Just out of curiosity I checked how many views, per subject, had we offered so far - and here's the tally as of Sunday 1/18:
The Economy - 11,701
Education - 4,862
Energy and the Environment - 5,543
Foreign Policy - 3,819
Health Care - 4,917
Homeland Security - 3,372
Service - 2,948
Technology - 3,739
Veterans - 1,689
Other Issues - 7,022
Digital Citizen Engagement - or how Government-IT empowers Citizen Participation and Input - is an important aspect of 21st century life given all the challenges communities face. This is a subject very dear to my heart and one I like to keep a constant finger on. This blog shares my findings and impressions with those interested.
This Digital Communities white paper highlights discussions with IT officials in four counties that have adopted shared services models. Our aim was to learn about the obstacles these governments have faced when it comes to shared services and what it takes to overcome those roadblocks. We also spoke with several members of the IT industry who have thought long and hard about these issues. The paper offers some best practices for shared government-to-government services, but also points out challenges that government and industry still must overcome before this model gains widespread adoption.