Reprinted from Opinno. Original article here.
By Jorge Soto, an Endeavor Entrepreneur since 2011
Interaction between governments and citizens through digital media and tools like mobiles and social networks create opportunities for transparency, accountability, participation and collaboration. With these, people are understanding democracy beyond voting every once in a while and are becoming citizens involved in their communities in a local and global way.
Just as Facebook and Twitter create ecosystems, each government has the opportunity to become a platform that encourages citizens to connect and engage to its community, collaborate and find innovative solutions.
The impact these kinds of initiatives have is not yet understood by governments, nor by citizens. In a broad view, a government that embraces and encourages transparency and accountability will involve citizens in the governance process, building the foundation for innovation. New technologies provides a space where these interactions can happen and a real time dialogue is established. The data obtained will be current and will reflect real needs. In this way, governments can make more effective and efficient decisions.
Data by itself and without context does not tell a complete story and provides little actionable insight. The more data a city or a decision maker has does not necessarily lead to more knowledge nor an accurate vision of real needs. In order to separate noise from signal, information must be meaningful. We should not focus on just aggregating data, but in curating it so it can be useful.
That is why data becomes information when put into context, which, when acted upon, brings the identification of patterns that will tell us what, where and when problems occur. Once this happens, it will lead to predictions to better allocate resources in a more efficient way, execute effectively and result in the satisfaction of real needs. Report and information management, two-way communication, real-time visual and relative analysis, transparency and open data makes governments more effective and efficient.
The true power of these types of initiatives may be its effect on the public imagination. With the combination of the wisdom of the crowds, data visualization and real-time information, every citizen becomes a sensor and governments are capable of evolving while making accurate and informed decisions thus providing citizens with what they really need.
For technology to be used by citizens, simplicity is key. Most don’t feel the need or have incentives to participate with their government and engage with their community; but if the correct tools are available, and citizens feel there is someone on the other side of the line, it will encourage them to participate.
The internet has a democratizing effect. New tools and media have made the expression of individuals and their interaction with their governments easier, as well as allowing governments to use that information to address real needs. It is no longer a technology problem, but an anthropological one.
Jorge Soto is the founder of Citivox, an Internet platform dedicated to linking citizens with their governments to solve common problems. A graduate of Columbia’s University’s Columbia Business School, Jorge is passionate about eliminating the divide between people and their governments. He is also a winner of 2012’s TR35 Mexico competition. Twitter: @smjorge22.
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