In the 1960’s, the phrase “power to the people” became a popular slogan for citizens who wanted their voices to be heard by the government. It took a few decades, but the open data initiatives being undertaken in communities across the United States have finally made that slogan into a reality.
Solutions like NuCivic Data help agencies meet open data mandates and goals, while allowing citizens to gain insight and provide input into those agencies. They are the tools that will help create a new form of government – one that is extremely open, highly collaborative, and powered by the people.
In particular, I think there are three alternative infrastructures that point to the future of peacebuilding at the local level. First, digital media tools provide new, creative ways for local peacebuilders to foster alternative discourses and challenge prevailing conflict narratives. These new visions can often compete with existing visions by being bolder and engaging more closely with their audience. Second, networking platforms provide new opportunities for local peacebuilders to foster positive contact between conflict groups, building digital trust networks. Third, online and mobile tools give power to local peacebuilders to counteract calls for violence and make peace viral.
As part of its regular social media routine, the District of Columbia Council’s official Twitter feed periodically links to obscure or odd provisions of the D.C. Code, likerules governing jostling rights: “Jostle away, but only if a breach of the peace may NOT be occasioned,” the Council’s Twitter feed informed its followers in June.
It may not seem like a big milestone, but the fact that D.C. Council staffers — or anyone for that matter — can simply link to a specific section of the D.C. Code is cause for celebration in digital circles.
Until relatively recently, permalinking, which has been a routine Internet function for years, had been out of reach for those working with the D.C. Code.
This is a special issue that assess the state of our field, celebrates our successes, and calls for future innovative work. The authors are scholars and practitioners who represent the diversity of our field and provide a wide range of perspectives on deliberation, dialogue, participation, and civic life. The ideas from this issue will be discussed at the upcoming Frontiers of Democracy conference, after which the editors will write an “afterword” reflecting on lessons learned.
Something seems to have gone wrong in the relationship between the governors and the governed. Recent elections at all levels display not only low turnouts but also a shift towards more extreme populist parties that offer a general message of anti-politics and a mantra of ‘If only we could get rid of all the terrible politicians then everything would be fine!’ The problem is that you cannot have democracy without politics and you cannot have politics without politicians.
Until recently, Abhi Nemani was the acting co-executive director of the San Francisco-based non-profit Code for America, a high-profile participant in the field of civic tech. At the moment, Nemani is relocating to an East Coast city to-be-determined and along the way is spending a few weeks back home in Centralia, a rural town of 13,000 in south central Illinois. The time in his hometown, Nemani says, has opened his eyes to the fact that the digital engagement tools he has been helping to construct, hone and promote from coast to coast for the last four years while at Code for America — from open crime data to transportation apps to 311 — haven’t made much of an impact on daily life in a places like Centralia.