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.

Elena Malykhina, Technology Journalist

November 19, 2013

3 Min Read
(Source: MindMixer.com)

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.

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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.


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).

About the Author(s)

Elena Malykhina

Technology Journalist

Elena Malykhina began her career at The Wall Street Journal, and her writing has appeared in various news media outlets, including Scientific American, Newsday, and the Associated Press. For several years, she was the online editor at Brandweek and later Adweek, where she followed the world of advertising. Having earned the nickname of "gadget girl," she is excited to be writing about technology again for InformationWeek, where she worked in the past as an associate editor covering the mobile and wireless space. She now writes about the federal government and NASA’s space missions on occasion.

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