The New America Foundation has released the first comprehensive report about how they see California’s local governments using Gov 2.0 technology to connect with the public and improve services. You can read the full report here.

At Reset we agree with the New America Foundation – emerging Gov 2.0 tools can make governments more effective and responsive. The challenge is that the core of Gov 2.0 is a dramatic democratization that many (maybe not even most) politicians are loath to embrace. So what is often sold as Gov 2.0 is really just more of the same old spin delivered through digital channels.

So we tend to be a little less breathless than the great folks at the New America Foundation about successes – we think a whole lot of what is passing as Gov 2.0 is more accurately described as Gov 2.Faux.  But they are doing a great service with this report, and we will definitely be there when the findings and recommendations are presented at an Oct. 26 event at Stanford University with Zocalo Public Square and the Bill Lane Center for the American West.

Local Governments Embrace Gov 2.0 Tools

The report found that most of California’s 5,000 local governments are experimenting with some form of technology to engage citizens and improve services. The benefits of the Gov 2.0 tools adopted are wide-ranging. All but one California county has a web portal for their agency. The report found that even the most basic Gov 1.0 local government websites listed agency departments and phone numbers and provide links to other entities and services. According to the League of California Cities, 124 California cities have a presence on Facebook and 140 utilize Twitter.

Many cities allow citizens to report issues like potholes and graffiti online or with smartphone apps. Technology, when used correctly, can actually provide better civic engagement, information and government. While many of these Gov 2.0 features come at a price, the report highlights the strong civic return on investment they provide.

Gov 2.0 Technology For Safer Cities

Many counties are using the technology for emergency service enhancements, such as location monitoring bracelets and crowdsourced CPR. The San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District has created an app that allows anyone with CPR certification the option to be notified if someone nearby is having a cardiac issue. So far, 40,000 users in the district have downloaded the app.

Crowdsourcing California Community

Many California governments have also turned to crowdsourcing to help with budget deficits and to find creative ways to make cities and communities better.

When Santa Cruz was faced with a $9 million budget deficit, it didn’t rely on government officials to debate solutions. Instead the city created a website with all the relevant budget documents for the public to look at. Citizens found numerous ways to lower costs and raise revenue — with over 200 solutions offered. Community members then voted on the top 10 proposed solutions, which were then used to help balance the budget. This effort highlighted not only open government, but also participatory democracy.

San Francisco Gov 2.0 Should be As Innovative as San Franciscans

In all the report highlights 40 examples of Gov 2.0 success throughout the state. San Francisco, and all California governments would be wise to examine models of success in other cities.

We know San Francisco government can be as creative and innovative as San Franciscans. That’s what our campaign to Reset San Francisco is all about.