25 Ideas To Improve Government - From Citizens - InformationWeek
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25 Ideas To Improve Government From Citizens

Finalists in an event by Code For America and MindMixer offer ideas on how technology could help local communities.

Imagine a more efficient government that allows police officers to accept mobile payments for traffic violations on the spot. Instant payment of fines for speeding and other offenses could reduce the delinquency rate for traffic penalties and make it easier to collect unpaid violations.

(Source: MindMixer.com)
(Source: MindMixer.com)

This is just one of the top 25 ideas selected as part of Ideation Nation, a five-week civic engagement project headed by the nonprofit group Code for America and the web-based platform MindMixer. During the open submission period, which ended Oct. 31, the project backers received 356 proposals on how technology could improve local governments and communities.

Ideation Nation's goals are to promote collaboration among citizens and governments and to give public leaders fresh insight from the public. The effort brought about a flurry of ideas.

The list of 25 finalists includes:

  • Software that allows people to sign up for yard waste collection and find the most efficient route for pickup
  • A zoning app that lets residents apply for permits and get other information related to zoning
  • On-demand lighting that adjusts itself based on the presence of pedestrians or vehicles to reduce energy consumption
  • A social networking platform for volunteers looking for opportunities posted by nonprofits and government agencies
  • Electricity monitoring devices that cities can rent out at public libraries and government offices -- for free or for a small monthly fee -- to help decrease overall energy consumption
  • An integrated discovery website for camping, hiking, and outdoor recreation
  • A website where balances remaining on gift cards can be pooled together and donated to charities

The best idea will be chosen based on community feedback, which is currently being accepted on the contest site. The winner will be awarded $5,000, a free MindMixer online engagement site (to involve communities virtually), and consultation sessions with experts from MindMixer and Code for America to develop and implement the idea in 2014.

[Read how "Code For America Made Me A Better IT Leader"]

Code for America has a long history of helping the government put technology to use. Abhi Nemani, the nonprofit's chief of staff, told us in an email that, by calling on the public, Ideation Nation aims to change feelings of frustration and indifference toward the government.

"What we are seeing in the 21st century is that institutions are most innovative when they are open to innovation from the outside," Nemani said. "It's this kind of 'open innovation' that Ideation Nation hopes to support for local governments across the country: citizens working hand-in-hand with their local officials to make their communities better."

Editor's Note: MindMixer and Code for America announced Dec. 4 that San Francisco’s Alyssa Ravasio was selected as this year's winner for her idea to create a national discovery website for outdoor recreation resources.  She is to awarded $5,000 from both companies along with mentorship and coaching to develop and implement her idea in 2014.


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Moving email to the cloud has lowered IT costs and improved efficiency. Find out what federal agencies can learn from early adopters. Also in the The Great Email Migration issue of InformationWeek Government: Lessons from a successful government data site (free registration required).

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BT1975
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BT1975,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/24/2017 | 9:02:37 AM
Homeless
According to The National Alliance to End Homelessness, in January of 2015 there were roughly 564,708 people who were homeless on any given night. Of that number 206,286 were people in families. The Federal Government has a stated mission to end homelessness in the United States. In the same year the Federal government spent nearly 2 billion dollars on the issues of homelessness. Despite having thrown all of that money at this problem they have barely made a dent, and hardly come one step closer to a solution. Take in to consideration, these figures are for just one years worth of monies spent. Year after year the Federal government has spent roughly the same amount on the issue of homelessness, for decades, yet we are no closer to seeing an end to homelessness. Should you take a hypothetical situation of each of the families being represented in the number stated above equaled to 3 per family, and the average cost to build a home in the United States is $200,000, the federal government could have spent 1.4 billion dollars in that one year and instantly taken all of those family's off the street and placed them in their own brand new homes, nearly cutting in half the number of people affected by homelessness. In this hypothetical scenario, this supposes that you would be building single family homes for each of theses families. If instead, you were to take the money and build multi family units to accommodate these families you could cut that 1.4 billion dollar figure by nearly a third. In cities all around the country, as unfortunate as it is, there are derelict, abandoned single and multi family homes, tenement building and former industrial mill buildings that could be rehabbed and turned into affordable or even free housing for the homeless. This is tragically convenient, in that the greater concentration of people most likely to be affected by homelessness and in the most need of a program like this, are generally in these same sorts of areas. While it can be argued that these projects are often cost prohibitive, the bulk of the costs would come through the labor required to embark on the rehabs. If a program were implemented, similar to Habitat for Humanity, the labor costs could be significantly be reduced by requiring those who would occupy these new housing units to volunteer sweat equity hours into the projects of building their own living quarters, as well as those of their neighbors. One of the many upsides of requiring those taking advantage of this program would be the measure of pride that they would likely get from being connected to building their own home, it would be more likely they would be invested in maintaining the properties to keep them in livable condition. In addition, these people would be learning valuable skills that could aid them in finding gainful employment. Not all of the "sweat equity" hours would necessarily have to be in providing manual labor. There is a huge range of services that would be necessary throughout these projects. Some of those involved could be utilized in child care services to allow for others to work without worry of what they will do with their children while they are working. There would also be a need for food services to organize feeding all of the people associated with the project. The clerical need to accomplish the logistics of ordering and accepting deliveries of materials and other supplies necessary to bring a project to completion. All of the newly learned skills could be adapted to real world employment. For those who would balk at "giving" these people their homes for free, associated with these projects there could be established extremely lenient, interest free term loans payed back over a determined period of time. These payments would likely be less than rent would in any given area of the country, with the added benefit of having ownership of their own unit at the end of the term of the loan, which would be similar to owning a condo. To afford for future maintenance of larger properties there could also be an a small monthly association fee to pay for large scale repairs like roofs, repaving of parking areas and upkeep of commons areas. The money collect through repayment of the loans could provide for funding for future projects of the same type. For many people who classify as homeless, their biggest obstacle for gaining employment is that fact that they are homeless. In the end people who take advantage of this program would receive the additional benefit of having that obstacle removed. If this program were adopted, in the course of 3 to 4 years our nations problem of homelessness could be nearly eradicated. The people involved in the program would benefit in many ways and the drain on resources for providing for those who find themselves in this predicament could be better served elsewhere. The costs for areas of the project requiring professional supervision could be offset by offering tax incentives for professionals who volunteer their time to provide their services as well as the valuable training opportunities they could offer. It would also offer these professional a valuable resource of man power. If you were to ask any number of trades people who are in business for themselves, one of their biggest obstacles for taking on bigger projects is the lack of qualified people to draw on for employment. Through their time training people in their craft they will be able to identify people who they think might be worth further training and consider hiring on a permanent basis. Similarly the costs could be further reduced, by likewise offering tax incentives to manufacturers and building supply distributors, for offering free or reduced cost building materials. While this program might be aimed at reducing the number of homeless people in the United States, it could very easily, like Habitat for Humanity, be adapted and left open to people of lower incomes who would also like to improve their situations by embarking on the adventure of home ownership. An additional added benefit to providing homes and taking homeless folks off of the street would b e for blighted areas of cities to be cleaned up. The bonus of an increase in public safety and community awareness would be immeasurable. Cleaning up neighborhoods and rehabbing derelict properties would also help in raising property values in cities across America increasing potential tax revenues for the municipalities where these programs are adopted.
MarkS3119390
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MarkS3119390,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/14/2017 | 3:22:33 PM
Bigger ideas
I would have expected bigger ideas.  

1. How about make Congress and Senate use the same health insurance we have to use.  This would motivate them to makesure it is good and affordable.

2. To prevent wasteful spending on frivilous issues, politicians should have to pay something to start an investigation.  Then we might not WASTE so much TAX dollars on frivilous investigations.

3. To stop the partisan bickering have congressional police who fine politicians if they refuse to negotiate.

just a few but these would help ALL taxpayers.
PeteJW
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PeteJW,
User Rank: Strategist
11/19/2013 | 7:05:21 PM
Great post
Some great examples of what can be acheived quickly throigh citizen-centric innovation.
Ariella
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Ariella,
User Rank: Author
11/19/2013 | 5:15:07 PM
Re: Nice
@Thomas ha, that would improve quite a lot of things in one shot. 

My favorite suggestion is
  • A social networking platform for volunteers looking for opportunities posted by nonprofits and government agencies

The way to pool gift certificates is a close second.
WKash
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WKash,
User Rank: Author
11/19/2013 | 4:57:52 PM
Re: Any of it
Code for America has done a great job buidling bridges between innovators/entrepreneurs and local governments which otherwise wouldn't have the means to develop many of these ideas on their own.  But the question of how do we address the gap between the digital haves and have-nots is an important one that needs attention -- and some of Code for America's creative energy.

 
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
11/19/2013 | 1:32:59 PM
Re: Nice
I didn't see an option for getting rid of everyone in Congress.
dblake950
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dblake950,
User Rank: Strategist
11/19/2013 | 12:13:46 PM
Re: Any of it
It strikes me that many of these applications are informational in nature and relate to things that used to be discoverable through local newspapers -- which have sadly gone the way of the dodo for the most part. And even if you do use or have access to current technology, the virtual sources that have developed in their stead -- yelp, patch.com, etc. -- simply aren't yet filling the need for truly local, "physical" community news and information.
Whoopty
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Whoopty,
User Rank: Ninja
11/19/2013 | 11:23:01 AM
Gift Cards
Love the gift card idea. So many times I've thrown away a few £ after birthdays and Christmas. Be good to actualyl do something with them instead. 
Alex Kane Rudansky
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Alex Kane Rudansky,
User Rank: Author
11/19/2013 | 11:11:46 AM
on-demand lighting
My only concern is with the on-demand lighting that adjusts based on vehicle or pedestrian presence. That system would have to work incredibly well and be maintained incredibly well, otherwise dangerous situations could arise. 

 
David F. Carr
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David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
11/19/2013 | 10:07:09 AM
Re: Nice
Re: "I love the pay-on-the-spot ticket idea, as long as it doeesn't turn police officers into merchants."

Unfortunately, the only unbreakable law in the universe is the law of unexpected consequences.
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