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Technology Gives People as Much Power as States, Newsom Says

Calif. Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom feels that technology has changed the game when it comes to citizens' ability to engage in their democracy.

California’s lieutenant governor says that taxpayers have more power to become leaders and mobilize others than he does in his current position.

Last month, California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom visited the University of California, Berkeley campus as a keynote speaker for the event, Can Open Data Improve Democratic Governance?, hosted by the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society and the Institute of Governmental Studies.

The key topic of his speech was how modern technology enhances citizens’ ability to engage in  democracy, start their own movements and advance their own agendas more easily than they could have before. He spoke on the topic briefly with Government Technology in the final episode of our video series with him.

“Individuals have the capacities of states. They have the capacities of big corporations now. The power is being decentralized to the individual,” he said. “This idea of leadership, it’s not about a leader; it’s about leaders.”

The growing power of the individual taxpayer is a subject in his book Citizenville, where Newsom argues that technology enables people to take action more easily than they could before. For example, open data allows them to view and analyze information, and they can use common social media tools to broadcast and crowdsource ideas and mobilize supporters.

This could help change the traditional ways that governments and businesses operate--methods that aren’t always conducive to progress.

“It is a cartel. It’s a monopoly of sorts. Everyone’s sort of carved up their piece. We’re iterating old systems, old models, and frankly, the taxpayers are being fleeced,” Newsom said.

He feels that this new paradigm gives them more influence than he has as lieutenant governor.

“I don’t have the levers as lieutenant governor that frankly, the public has as citizens that can be more proactive and participatory in demanding something radically different,” he said.

Noelle Knell has been the editor of Government Technology magazine for e.Republic since 2015. She has more than two decades of writing and editing experience, covering public projects, transportation, business and technology. A California native, she has worked in both state and local government, and is a graduate of the University of California, Davis, with majors in political science and American history. She can be reached via email and on Twitter.
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