CityCamp Chicago: An exciting mashup of geeks and wonks

Michele McLellan

CityCamp in Chicago this past weekend brought together a fascinating mix of techies and local government officials who are part of the Gov 2.0 movement that seeks to use new digital tools to engage and empower citizens while making government more effective and transparent.

Many of the government folks were newsbies trying to find out more about what’s going on (as I was). Others, such as San Francisco’s CIO Chris Vein, are aggressively pushing Gov 2.0 in their communities: “We want to empower citizens to do things that we just can’t get done.” More about San Francisco efforts here.

Much of the Chicago discussion centered on two emerging trends:

1. Data. Data. Data. Governments are taking steps to put more data on the Internet and encouraging developers to find interesting, useful ways to package it and enable the public to use it.

2. 311. This enables citizens to report problems — pot holes, grafitti, etc. — to government via Web or texting. It promises to give officials access to more information and to make them more responsive without the need for more inspectors. Plenty of problems though: Spiffy new digital protocols don’t necessary play nice with often-cumbersome, paper-based, old fashioned municipal systems for recording and responding to complaints.

I found the session very encouraging. I was surprised that I didn’t meet any journalists there (the guy I met from the Chicago Tribune was a Web developer). I think news organizations should be looking at how Government 2.0 may affect their journalism and how it can benefit their users and readers.


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