How does your local government collect feedback from citizens? If your government doesn’t know what citizens want, how can they address important issues? Various levels of government in a number of countries have found a way to collect feedback from citizens: crowdsourcing. Crowdsourcing has been used as a tool to gather information about infrastructure, budget, crime reporting, accident reporting and so much more. The information gathered through various types of crowdsourcing doesn’t just benefit the government, it benefits all citizens. For example, there are a number of websites and Twitter accounts that have been used to inform people about where the cheapest gas prices are, where traffic accidents have happened and more.
Working together as a team, citizens can make a difference and their voices will be heard.
According to the crowdSPRING article “Ten Crowdsourcing Trends for 2011,” one of the top crowdsourcing trends of 2011 is the increased use of crowdsourcing in government. The article states:
“We’re already seeing the U.S., Canada, Greenland, India and many other countries leverage crowdsourcing to solve public and complex private industry problems. We’ll continue to see more government projects (http://www.challenge.gov is a recent good example) and greater use of crowdsourcing marketplaces.”
Crowdsourcing allows governments to use simple sites where residents can sign up and login to get involved in projects. For example, government departments can post projects or problems they are trying to solve, and get the community to weigh in on the best plan of action. As I’ve talked about in earlier posts about civic engagement, getting input from citizens is critical. Their opinions need to be considered by government, as citizens are the ones impacted by the final decisions. Some people in the community may be experts in a particular area, so take the time to listen to them – before making a major financial decisions, you’d normally seek out advice from multiple professionals, right?
So, why do governments turn to crowdsourcing? One of the main reasons governments and municipalities have turned to crowdsourcing is problem solving. People care about the decisions made by the government at all levels, as these decisions shape the way we live. Today’s society doesn’t necessarily have the time to attend physical town hall meetings, so crowdsourcing is a great way to communicate with citizens and allow them to vote on ideas and offer their input. You can think of crowdsourcing as a virtual town hall type of thing. According to the Wikipedia article on crowdsourcing:
“Crowdsourcing also has the potential to be a problem-solving mechanism for government and nonprofit use. Urban and transit planning are prime areas for crowdsourcing. One project to test crowdsourcing’s public participation process for transit planning in Salt Lake City has been underway from 2008 to 2009, funded by a U.S. Federal Transit Administration grant. Another notable application of crowdsourcing to government problem solving is the Peer to Patent Community Patent Review project for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.”