California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom is full of big ideas about technology’s effect on citizen engagement. He addressed a small audience at the University of California, Berkeley about the topic earlier this month as a keynote speaker for an event, Can Open Data Improve Democratic Governance?, hosted by a partnership between the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society and the Institute of Governmental Studies.
 
Newsom set aside some time before his speech to discuss many of the same issues with Government Technology.
 
Our coverage last week featured his thoughts on open data and privacy in government and society, and in this latest edition of our series, Newsom claimed that cities are the leaders in technological innovation compared to other levels of government.
 
“That innovative spirit is localized,” he said. “So there’s a willingness to take some more risks and an entrepreneurial energy that exists disproportionately in cities large and small than in large states.”
 
The innovation and change grows within the public sector, spreading from cities all the way up to the federal government. Local officials have an easier time engaging citizens with new ways of operating than their state and federal counterparts whose connection to the public is less direct.
 
Consequently, innovative technology’s adoption still faces reticence from many government leaders, who find it difficult to embrace transformative technology, Newsom said. The solution to this bottleneck, in his opinion, will come about when government sees this as a cultural problem as opposed to a technology problem.
 
“The cultural mindset of shifting from a top-down bureaucracy to a bottom-up collaborative system of engagement — more platform thinking versus machine thinking — that’s when we will dramatically change our relationship with citizens,” Newsom said.
 

Hilton Collins, Staff Writer
Hilton Collins  |  GT Staff Writer

By day, Hilton Collins is a staff writer for Government Technology and Emergency Management magazines who covers sustainability, cybersecurity and disaster management issues. By night, he’s a sci-fi/fantasy fanatic, and if he had to choose between comic books, movies, TV shows and novels, he’d have a brain aneurysm. He can be reached at hcollins@govtech.com and on @hiltoncollins on Twitter.