Making Government Work

The Leaders of California’s Most Tech-Friendly Cities Say Governments Need to Do These Three Things

September 24, 2014
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The Leaders of California’s Most Tech-Friendly Cities Say Governments Need to Do These Three Things
Big data can often make people feel small, but it doesn't have to be that way. Joel Saget/AFP/Getty Images
Local innovators share their top strategies for implementing change at the California Leadership Forum.

It takes more than just technology to join the government 2.0 movement that’s swept the country over the past few years. Beyond big data, it takes vision and leadership to create governmental strategies that will better serve communities through a multitude of tech-driven solutions.

Discussing those tools and policies at the California Leadership Forum last week were a panel of some of the state’s public-sector innovation leaders. Highlighting some of their discussion, here are three strategies to keep in mind as more municipalities take on the task of creating a more transparent and efficient government:

Foster a cultural change in the workplace.
Encouraging employees to experiment with new ideas while at work is essential in shifting government out of antiquated practices, according to Lea Deesing, chief innovation officer of Riverside, Calif. That task is a job belonging to the new mainstay in local governments: chief innovation officers.

Jeremy Goldberg, deputy chief of staff for San Jose, Calif. Mayor Chuck Reed and head of the city’s civic innovation efforts, agrees, adding that recognizing “internal champions” who can coordinate projects with third parties in short periods of time also helps.

Engage citizens to help spur ideas.
Rather than simply highlighting success stories, officials need to focus on what changes need to happen to continue fostering a more innovative environment, according to Robert White, chief innovation officer of Davis, Calif.

“I would love to see at the state level, some kind of recognition or awarding of folks who in their daily jobs, are just changing the way we think about delivering government services,” he says. “That would be a very meaningful way to get others to be engaged and see these best practices and opportunities.”

Emphasizing an open environment and inviting residents to share ideas on a technical level is another strategy to generate more local participation, Deesing adds. One example? Riverside’s transparency portal, Engage Riverside, links to the community share tool MindMixer, which prompted a program for free computer training for low-income families.

Keep a focus on cybersecurity. 
With more transparency and big data comes the concern about privacy. As governments continue to utilize data and develop online community tools, protecting it is paramount.

“It’s fun to talk about all the great things we’re about to do with technology, but if we’re not protecting our current assets, our department of justice data, our police data, our fire data, if we’re not doing that, I think we’re doing a disservice,” Deesing says.

MORE: 5 Ways to Strengthen Ties Between Cops and Citizens

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