United States Workshop Videos

San Francisco. What’s Next for Civic Tech?

How do we maintain the place that is San Francisco in an increasingly digital world?

In this conversation, recorded at the American Bookbinders’ Museum in SoMa, Adriel Hampton discusses digital futures with two digital savvy community activists, Jenny Feinberg and Shaun Haines. The conversation touches on how community groups, and government itself, need to adapt as citizens change how the city is constituted.


Citizen Engagement United States Workshop Speakers

SF311 and Citizen2020

Andy Maimoni

Andy Maimoni is Deputy Director of SF311 the official site for obtaining information, reporting problems or submitting service requests to the City and County of San Francisco.

Andy is a native Californian who calls the Bay Area home. He was born in Castro Valley and has been a Bay Area resident most of his life.

He joined 311 in March 2008 from the private sector with many years of customer support and technology experience. As Deputy Director, Andy manages the 311 Website and other applications used to serve the people of San Francisco. His team ensures the 311 staff has the correct information for callers and focuses on business process improvement analysis. His team is also responsible for ensuring 311 stays available for SF citizens in the event of a major earthquake or other event.

We’ll be recording an interview with Andy at our upcoming ‘Conversations Workshop’ on November 17 – the interview will be featured here on Citizen2020 shortly after. Our workshop series is producing a fascinating catalog of video presentations and chats that are only available to registered users of this site. Registration is completely free and verified users get to see all the video content – and get periodic updates about the Citizen2020 project.

If you would like to attend our San Francisco workshop as a speaker or guest you can register your interest via the event page.

Citizen Engagement Citizen Experience Smart Cities United States

The Digital City-State? A Workshop. San Francisco.

“Today, numerous cities have substantially more economic weight, international connectivity, and diplomatic influence on the world stage than dozens of nations. The rise of cities as transnational actors is thus driven not only by urbanization and globalization, but also a third nearly irreversible phenomenon: devolution.”

Michele Acuto and Parag Khanna: The Return of the City State, Quartz

Our second Citizen2020 workshop will take place in the wonderful global city that is San Francisco. It will be held on the morning of November 17, 2016 at a fabulous venue in the SoMa district of San Francisco. We’ll kick off at 10am with coffee and cookies.

At the heart of our discussion will be how the cities of the future might emerge as they clamor for more power and self-determination; the challenges that will arise as devolution advances and cities become more dependent on technology to be able to function.

We will look at how cities are building better means of engaging with citizens, better analytics and more community focused channels.

Speakers include:

Including presentations from city-thinkers, policy analysts, technologists, futurists and planners, all of the presentations and discussions will be video-recorded and featured here on Citizen2020.

If you would like to participate, please complete the form below. (Please note we’re no longer accepting speaking submissions).  


United Kingdom United States Workshop Speakers

Announcing our ‘Conversations’ Workshops

Over the next few months we plan to run a series of workshops in the United Kingdom and North America. These workshops will explore how government is (or should be) transforming itself to better engage with the citizens it serves. Our first two workshops will focus on future cities.  

Newcastle Upon Tyne Workshop
San Francisco Workshop

We’re calling these Conversations Workshops because we plan to provide the opportunity for people engaged in or interested in government at city, regional or national level – who have interesting opinions or experiences – to converse and make their views known to a much wider audience. We plan to record the conversations on video and to feature the videos here on Citizen2020.

Our primary focus is on engagement. In short how should government provide services to citizens in new, more efficient, ways in the light of ever-tightening budgets and the need for greater taxpayer accountability?

For example, if you have trail-blazed a new initiative where you make public previously hidden data (to improve public information provision) we’d like to hear about it. If you are pursuing an initiative that results in more sharing of public data – or sharing of public resources – please tell us more. If you rolled out a new ‘crowd-sourced’ platform that allows citizens to share information to avoid the need for call center resources, please contact us. Or if you are from a think tank that has interesting perspectives on how to transform city services through open data (or open services) please get involved.

We want to hear about how to provide better services with less resources. We want to know about novel uses for social media. We want to hear about new ways for citizens to do things more easily, more seamlessly, enabled by digital technology, or analytics, or social sharing, or knowledge derived from the community. And we’d also like to stimulate debate by debating new ways to do things to provide better citizen engagement.

Our first two Conversations Workshops will be held in September and November, 2016 with further workshops planned for early 2017 in Washington DC and London.

If you would like to register your interest to attend these events please complete the forms on the relevant event page (see links above). Please note that we expect the events to be highly participatory – so most attendees will take part in the conversations that we’ll record.

So please do get in touch and join the conversations!

Citizen Engagement United Kingdom United States

Tax and Accountability

Two interesting stories have been doing the rounds on either side of the Atlantic over the last few days.

Both relate to tax. Both relate to the policies adopted by the tax collection authorities.

The UK story is that HMRC (the UK’s revenue and customs service) has been rapped over the knuckles by the Public Accounts Committee for poor levels of customer care. In particular, the Committee takes a dim view of HMRC’s apparent inability to handle calls from tax-payers:

“HMRC is still failing to provide an acceptable service to customers and could not tell us when it would be able to do so. In March 2013, the previous Committee concluded that HMRC had “an abysmal record on customer service”, having only answered 74% of telephone calls received by its contact centres during 2011-12. In 2014-15, HMRC responded to just 72.5% of calls and over the first half of 2015 this had fallen to 50%. The previous Committee considered that HMRC’s target of answering 80% of telephone calls within five minutes was “woefully inadequate and unambitious” and recommended that HMRC should set a more challenging short-term target for call-waiting times and a long-term target that is much closer to industry standards. HMRC has consistently refused to set more demanding targets,however, and in 2014-15 it answered only 39% of calls within five minutes. HMRC did not provide us with any indication of when or by how much its customer service would improve, beyond a vague aim to improve year on year. It acknowledged that people are more likely to pay the right tax when they find HMRC easy to deal with, but, in the words of its own Chief Executive and Permanent Secretary, “we are still struggling”. We are concerned that customer service levels are so bad that they are having an adverse impact on the collection of tax revenues.”

The States-side story is different but related. Apparently a record number of Americans are giving up their citizenship. The main reason for this relates to aggressive tax collection policies adopted by the IRS and aimed at US citizens that live abroad.  Such citizens are getting so fed-up with being hounded for tax – when they derive no services from Uncle Sam – and they are renouncing citizenship as a result.

One of the issues we discuss in our soon-to-be-published paper is that the nature of the ‘contract’ between citizens and government is changing. Part of the reason for this is that there is an expectation on the part of citizens that government needs to know its place in society. It’s no longer more important that any of the other actors in citizens’ lives. Therefore it needs to behave accordingly – adopting a more humble attitude, perhaps.

But there’s clearly a transition period. Government will inevitably shrink as governments continue to grapple with huge debt burdens. But the means of dealing with annoyed citizens who are being squeezed for tax is neither to provide appalling service nor hound people for tax when there’s no reason for them to pay.

Register here to ensure you get our latest paper when it’s published

Big Data and Government Open Data United States

Americans and Open Government Data

In April of this year, the Pew Research Center published a report titled Americans’ View on Open Government Data. This very interesting study provides a measure of how the public views federal, state and local governments’ efforts to become more open and transparent through the dissemination of their data. The report is based on a late 2014 survey of 3,200+ individuals. The study examined:

  1. how aware the public is of governments’ data-sharing initiatives,
  2. if these initiatives are actually resulting in people using the data to monitor government performance,
  3. public’s view of whether these efforts have been – or have the potential to be – successful in making government perform better or become more accountable, and
  4. how the public is using this data.

Some of the study’s key findings:

  • PewFig1
    Figure 1

    While most (65%) of the individuals surveyed are using the internet to find government information/data; they are using it to perform simple tasks such as finding out public library hours or paying a traffic ticket (Figure 1)

  • Just a minority of respondents indicated they paid much attention to how governments share data – and only a relative handful said they were aware of instances where government had done a good or bad job of sharing data.
  • Less than one-quarter of those surveyed use government-generated data to track the performance of services such as hospitals, healthcare providers, school systems, etc.
  • PewFif2
    Figure 2

    People were divided on whether the sharing of data has the potential to improve government transparency, accountability and performance – it’s also not clear to them that this will even happen (Figure 2).

  • Only 23% of respondents indicated that they trusted the government to do the right thing – at least most of the time. Of this group – the “Trusting Minority” – roughly three quarters believe open government data is beneficial and contributes to better government (Figure 3)
  • PewFig1
    Figure 3

    The study found that smartphone users (68% of the individuals surveyed) have embraced apps that are based on government-generated data or capabilities, such as weather and GPS – what I call government-enabled applications:

    • 84% have used weather apps
    • 81% have used map apps
    • 66% have used apps that provide information about nearby stores, bars or restaurants
    • 31% have used apps to get public transit information
    • 14% have used apps to hire transportation such as Über or Lyft

Interestingly enough – but not surprising, I suppose – only 9% of all survey respondents believed that government-provided data helped the private sector “a lot” to develop new products and services (41% felt it helped “somewhat”).

I found the results of this study to be consistent with the findings of Dr. Donald Norris and Dr. Christopher Reddick: Citizens will use government data when it fulfills a need and won’t when it doesn’t.

Note: all figures Copyright 2012, Pew Research Center. All rights reserved.

Citizen Engagement Digital Policy United States

DTMO: The Director’s Interview in Full

A few weeks ago we featured a short segment of our recent interview with Harvey Johnson, Director of the Defense Travel Management Office (DTMO) of the US Department of Defense.

However, the full interview gives a unique insight into the challenges that are faced by organizations that provide services across all of federal government. In the case of the DTMO the budgets are vast and the number of customers is simply immense. In addition, understanding the service (and how to use it) is a great challenge to users given the accumulated administrative and legal red-tape that has gathered over many years.

As Harvey outlines in this interview with Larry Larkin, reforming such administrative processes is about getting congressional approval and then iterating change. Technology is only one part of the change process – it’s also about knowing and understanding the processes and improving upon them.

It’s clear from this interview that Harvey has ambitions to utilize technology to make things much, much easier for his users. He is an avid advocate of understanding user need and experience. He’s an observer of how things are done in the commercial world and by the ‘Millennial’ generation.

The interview provides a great insight into complexity – but, also, the pursuit of better ways of doing things against apparently insurmountable odds.

Citizen Engagement Digital Policy United States

Web to Transaction: Next Big Challenge

There has been a lot of chatter since Mike Bracken announced his decision to leave GDS – and today Jennifer Pahlka, founder of Code for America, has added her voice to the many who are questioning what might happen to IT in the UK government in a post-Bracken era.

Some mystery still surrounds the Bracken departure. Some titles have been questioning whether the new Conservative government – or the civil service status-quo – can be bothered with GDS any longer.

Even some of the most vocal advocates of GDS – and Bracken – acknowledge that incumbent “big IT” is still pretty incumbent. And new systems have been rolled-out, post-GDS, that have failed to deliver.

That might not be the fault of GDS, but there is a widely held perception that GDS tends to get involved more in information delivery projects (like .GOV.UK) rather than operational systems that need overhauled. Government as a Platform (much favored by Bracken) may be the means of achieving that.

In part 2 of my interview with Noah Kunin of 18F I ask him about this very issue (the question comes about 3 minutes or so into the video).  Noah also outlines how 18F is ensuring the new systems are more rapidly procured, and made fit for purpose for the citizen who might use the systems.  Part 1 of the interview is here.  

Smart Cities United Kingdom United States

What Makes Cities Great?

Smart cities. Innovative cities. Cities fit for the future. There’s a lot of discussion, these days, about cities and how they need to evolve in order to be able to accommodate demand.

But not all cities are growing. Not all cities are successful.

Consider Detroit. In 1701 it was a mere village. It was over 100 years before it became a city. By 1860 it had over 45,000 inhabitants – with growth driven, largely, by the railroad. But Detroit’s main growth spurt came as a result of the road and the automobile. Assembly line manufacturing by motor manufacturers like Ford made it Motor City. After the Second World War, Detroit had a second economic boom.  Massive increases in motor manufacturing caused urban sprawl and a myriad of suburbs.

With the decline of the US automotive sector and questionable planning policies, Detroit fell from grace. Between 1960 and 2012 Detroit’s population declined by more than 50% (from around 1.5 million to a little over 700,000).

Other cities have suffered similar fates. Since 1950 some 59 American cities have shrunk in population size, 27 in Britain, 26 in Germany and 23 in Italy.  Meanwhile, a whole new raft of cities is emerging like Beihai in China or Ghaziabad in India.

Not all growth is good growth, of course.

Future Cities Catapult, in conjunction with NESTA and Accenture, has published a new guide called CITIE.

According to authors, “The guide provides a means of benchmarking the way in which cities encourage innovation, assessing them on criteria such as investment, regulation and willingness to adopt new technologies and processes. The approach was developed through consultation with city government leaders, policy experts, venture capitalists, and entrepreneurs, ultimately identifying 36 policy levers that enable innovation and entrepreneurship.”

Such policy levers, presumably, are the reasons why cities grow and thrive rather than shrink and stagnate – or grow in all the wrong ways.

CITIE’s 215 analysis puts New York at #1 spot in the league table of World’s Top Performing Cities. London was pushed to number 2 slot – because of London’s “lack of CTO and Innovation Team”. Whether such titles/teams are that important to city success is subject to debate. But it’s good to see Future Cities Catapult and its partners encouraging that debate.

Digital Government Digital Policy United Kingdom United States

18F: Where next?

We have done our fair share of speculating, on this site, about the similarities between 18F, GDS and USDS.

But where do the similarities start and end? What is 18F and how is its role evolving now that its honeymoon period is over and it’s now into its second year of operations?

The Citizen 2015 team had the chance to meet with 18F just over a week ago in Washington DC. We interviewed Noah Kunin, Director of Delivery Architecture and Infrastructure Services at 18F.

We asked him about the relationship between the UK Government Digital Service (GDS) and 18F (and the similarities between the two). We also asked him to outline the government services most likely to be focus areas for 18F in the coming year.

We’ll feature more from the interview with Noah in the coming weeks.