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Description: Can government be run like the Internet, permissionless and open? Coder and activist Jennifer Pahlka believes it can — and that apps, built quickly and cheaply, are a powerful new way to connect citizens to their governments — and their neighbors.

Source: Ted .com

Date: March 25, 2012

Questions for discussion:

1.  Could government be improved if we treated it like we do the Internet>  Why or Why Not?

16 Responses to “Jennifer Pahlka: Coding a better government”

  1. LW

    Collective action what does it mean ? it means that people have the opportunity to share openly about their ideas and initiatives to fix a specified problem. It means that the government will need to share its decisions and projects openly and collectively. It means that by allowing other individuals to openly view projects commissioned by the government and oversea that they are being completed timely and fiscally. I do believe that by the government becoming a collective action and being treated like the internet that process will speed up, quicker, more efficient, and most of all more effective. As Moore’s law states that processing speed will double every 2 year so will the government’s ability to produce timely and efficient projects. Not only will the collective action pose as a technician as well as an analyst for certain projects it will allow communities to connect Citizen to Citizen (C2C). An example of this was the possum, by creating a government platform (app) a citizen was able to notice a neighbor in distress about a living or dead possum in the garbage. Instead of the neighbor calling pest control causing money and time issues to the government the neighbor came over and did the quick solution, kicking the trash can over. By allowing governments to be treated as a platform we enable to the use of less money and time and create a better communicated country.

  2. JC

    I am for anything that makes government more efficient and cheaper, and yes it does seem like getting anything done can take years longer (and millions more of taxpayers’ dollars) than it should when the government is involved; but these “bureaucratic” processes and restraints are set up in government for a reason. Without the rules that govern our government the laws could be passed, amended or disregarded on a whim which is not the kind of system anyone in their right mind would want to be a part of. On the other hand many of the points set forth by Jennifer Pahlka are valid and helpful and should be taken into consideration by local governments when dealing with smaller issues like the fire hydrant or the possum instances talked about in the presentation. However, I do believe that these applications should be limited to physical problems faced by government that can be easily solved by a citizen stepping up like the examples given in the presentation and not to change the processes of bureaucracy itself. Yes our economy has fallen on hard times for which the government is partially to blame but this does not mean that we should disregard the last two hundred years of democratic processes, turning government into some kind of internet like structure that is ‘permission less and open’ to the public.

  3. mike p

    In my opinion this can only be a good thing. To many times have i heard on the news or in the paper of a new law or bill being passed that may or may not effect my life. I’ve always wondered who’s making these decisions and if government is suppose to be a representation of the people/population then why do i have no voice in any of this. Increased communication between government and its people can only improve our situation. I believe that government needs to be held accountable for its actions and one way to do that is to have continuous communication. One example i can think of would be the distracted driving law. I feel like many people don’t take it very serious at all. I would be curious to see what the response would be like to a poll or survey of people actually in favour of this or against it. With the internet this would be very simple/cheap for the government to do. I also feel that the people who are against it might see this law as more important or creditable because of the observed response from the public. I think if the government is able to preform much more transparently it will bring about positive change and most likely an increased confidence in the government from the public.

  4. Sarah Lawson

    To an extent, I believe government can be run like the internet: freely for all to express their opinion but orderly for politicians to do their jobs without the distraction of others. I agree with the speaker in this video when she says that with the use of applications, we can bring people together for the good of the city, province, and even country. Whether it’s ensuring fire hydrants are clear of snow or producing efficient government projects, the internet can provide a connection between citizens and their governments. By making the apps fun to use, people will be more inclined to use them and at the same time, get things done for the good of the city, province, and/or country. Today’s society is so centered around quick communication and one of the only way for governments to keep up, is to follow the trend and expand communication to the internet. The Internet provides the fastest spread of information to this day. It’s time for governments to jump on the bandwagon.

  5. Jillian

    I believe the government could be improved if we treated it like we do the internet. When I think of government, I think old, outdated, boring, and traditional. Maybe that’s just me? I think the government needs to think of new ways of how to market itself and appeal to the younger generation. To me being a young adult of 23 years old, I have had no interest or involvement in the government. I had more knowledge of the government in grade 6 when we were introduce to politics. In a world of modernization and continuing development in technology, the internet seems to be the most efficient means of communication. Benefits of using the internet for government issues include, less expenses, information spread easier, information spread to the younger populations, and speed. Using apps for government issues will be more effective because this is a form of communication which is easily expressed to the new age. Apps may make for a type of game so citizens will feel enjoy specific tasks to accomplish and they will feel as though they have involvement. Overall, I believe that government treated as we do the internet will unify citizens and produce a better community.

  6. knwe

    Jennifer Pahlka makes an excellent case for how citizens can help each other through the use of technology to connect one another and solve each other’s problems. Government can benefit from this use of technology to ideally focus of bigger problems and local developments, instead of tying up their system with “customer” complaints. Viewing government as a “service” in which we are the customer, rather than a group in which we are a citizen gets nothing accomplished in the long run. It proves the apathetic attitudes of people in solving problems that are bigger than ones that only take place within their own scope.

    Connecting citizens with the use of apps is a great way to establish a neighbourly community, as I think people all too often get wrapped up in their own private lives. This type of technology is also beneficial to the community where it is implemented because your problem could potentially be solved faster than if you are waiting for a response from your local government. For a community system like this to work, people would have to adopt a “citizen mentality”, and see themselves as a contributing member of the community, instead of the prevalent “resident (customer) mentality” – you live there, you pay taxes, and you get out only what you put in. I was impressed to see these app initiatives working in other cities, because I believe there are strong expectations of what the government can do for us instead of what we can accomplish if we work together.

  7. rosemary

    I understand the passion and cry of Jennifer Pahlka over the government, the politics and the citizenship. Everybody has their own playing role and some are separate and some are intertwined. In my opinion, Government should not be run like internet. Government are people that are running for the interest of the citizen. Politics is a like hole in a wall, that needs to be filled, closed and if need be, it should be mend able. Government are to fix this hole. The holes could be, who will be the next alderman, commissioner, governor etc. All these are not games people people play on the internet, it is real. Internet is a place that secret is forbidden, identity theft is paramount, stealing and all sort. Internet is a place where thing we do or say is spread abroad and open to all whether good or bad. Government should be reserved and respected, not become so cheap like internet. All the pass information that government want people to know should of course be made known but not all. Jennifer said “Politics is not changing, Government is changing”. I disagree with that comment. The two are inseparable. Who runs the politics? Government run the politics. Government made the decision of how politics should be run.
    Like general saying, politics is a dirty game? My question is who made the politics dirty? That means politics on it is nothing. Another question is why do they call politics a game. To me, politics is an office that needs to be run with the voted or elected person. The elected person already has a laid down rules and procedure to be implemented. And of course, his or her own idea.
    We cant run government like tools (internet). It also means government can not run the citizen like tools. Citizen are people that needs to be handled with passion and care. This is where the live of people is at stake.

  8. Mike S

    On one hand, from a citizens perspective, government could be drastically improved if treated like the internet. The connection between government and citizens would be increased and could make the people feel like they have more of a say and effect on our country. I mean, im just 1 person, what can I do for our country? Anyone heard a line like that before? If I had apps that were government made that made me feel like I have an impact aside from making a vote and going along for the ride. The turning point between a citizens perspective and government is the transparency issue. The internet is so open and shares information freely around. I would love to see what is going on with my tax money and the projects the government is working on. I don’t know where most of my money goes and what bills are being proposed that affect me directly. Would a government want to be remotely transparent? Bill C-10 was passed before I even knew it existed. The government may have wanted to keep it on the down low for the reason that they might get opposition from the public…Why not make an app that lets the public know what bills and new laws are being proposed and get a public voicing. I think that government could be improved drastically if treated like the internet, but I think governments would have too much accountability and wouldn’t dream of a system like this.

  9. MJJ

    Can the government be run like the internet, permission-less and open? If by this Ms. Pahlka means better, easier communication then absolutely the government should be run that way. By turning gov’t and cities into essentially small towns more of the smaller, often overlooked tasks and problems can be handled quickly be people in the know. The example of the possum in the trashcan is a prime example of this. A neighbour simple went over and tipped the can. Had animal control been called, not only would it have taken longer but there would have been significant cost associated with having to send someone out. I think that everyone is interested in the welfare of their community and want to help, however people often don’t know how to. The idea of improving gov’t sounds overwhelming but when broken down into simpler tasks, like maintaining the areas around one fire hydrant or storm drain, it becomes achievable. If people feel that they are making a difference, they will continue to contribute. Gov’t is traditionally slow and seemingly resistant to change. There are so many levels of bureaucracy to wade through. However if small, simple changes can be implemented and proven through the use of technology, then hopefully bigger changes will follow.

  10. Scotty

    Can the government be run like the internet, with no boundaries , permission-less and open, without a doubt, i don’t believe that Ms Pahlka is suggesting that we should be able to see into the entire government issues and deal with everything, however more people will be interested in helping the government, like they were saying with the fire hydrant people adopted them almost emidiately and it turned into a game. Government has slowly been losing peoples interest due to their high costs and i mean that they take their time to do everything and use billions of tax payer dollers. This aggravates people and i believe that if it was more of an open system like the internet so we are more aware of the decisions that are being made and the ones that could possibly effect our daily lives. People will feel like they are contributing and making a difference and therefor i believe that they will continue to embrace these actions. It motivates them and makes them feel good about their community and cites. I however do not know if i would had the time to do this so i don’t know how effective this program could be but i do see a huge potential for something great.

  11. Sarah Fletcher

    I think this is a great idea to get the new generations more involved in government in general. This is a way to reach them that they understand and are already a part of. This is how our generation communicates is by spreading things virally through the internet and smart phone applications. Word of mouth is the best way to get publicity and this would increase the talk and connection to the public. I feel personally that I am very disconnected from the government and largely unaware of what is going on a daily basis. Government is in place to take care of the people and I think connecting to the people to find out what needs they need met is very important. I liked that she made the distinction between politics and government. Politics is only a piece of government and government does a wide range of things. If government was treated like the internet I think it would bring it up to speed and make it a lot more accessible to the public. It would also increase the flow of information between citizens and government which I can only see as an improvement to the system.

  12. neltum

    Centuries have passed and so many great thinkers have debated on how we can achieve workable government. Is it through the implementation of lesser bureaucracies or trying to knit everything closely together so there is no need for thorough channeling to make things fast? Jennifer is right in what she aims for because I believe every great leader would aspire that too. Moreover, putting it in comparison and seeing the possibility of trying to model how a government should be with that of the user friendliness of advanced information technology, poses a lot loopholes. Collective action is really a potent way to achieve a better government but such collectiveness can sometimes provoke callousness, inactiveness of some and provides a bigger venue for some to simply argue and not doing anything at all. This is simply by human tendencies.

  13. JX

    “Coding a better government “means that finding the best effective approach to government from now on. One thing that we should believe is the government could be improved if we treated it like we do the internet. The little story that Jennifer Pahlka provided in her speech was app. could bring convenient to the citizens, and this action reminds all citizens to consider we can helps government to do better. As a citizen, I have the right to ask government to fix the social problem in the sociality and also could have the responsibility to share our ideas openly. These initiatives’ actions could assist government to get more suggestion in order to improve situation. For the governments, they need to collect actions from citizens which are an useful way to increasing communication with people and also improve the situation. I think governments are able to integrate external power (citizen and media) and internal power to solve problems better. Furthermore, technology is changing every area in the world, governments have to realize this. I think it is win-win relationship for both of government and citizens. Internet offers quick information to everyone, but some of them are fake, so we should consider the security issue.

  14. Claudia

    I dont think the government could benefit from being treated like the internet. I do however think the government can be transformed and upgraded through social media and certain channels on the internet. I think that a government institution cannot be as free and liberal as the internet can be but their are some definite advantages mentioned. For example, the fire hydrant story is a perfect case of social media working to keep cities safe and remove an obligation from the municipal government; which if was made into a job would only cost infinitely more than the five minutes it would take someone to get some fresh air and shovel snow. Or in the case of the help forum, again a huge money saver that the possum story was able to go public and and answer was provided without having to waste someones time. This is a proper use of the social networking resource and brings new hope to how it will develop and influence our businesses and government programs.

  15. Jarrett

    I think that it can in fact work, and that people will like it. With people these days becoming more and more internet savvy, and wanting to do things online, the governments should respond and come up with ways to make it possible. This i think would work great as it can be worked into smart phones. Smartphones are the way of the future. I think that with a 250, 000,000 smart phones being sold every year, then there will be tons of more people who will get involved. Also, more young people today are buying smartphones, with these people getting to the age of voting, they will become a valuable resource for the future. I feel like people want to become more engaged in their government, and with apps that are government related, then i feel like they would take the necessary steps to become informed and to get involved. I also agree with sarah that i think it was good she made the contrast between politics and government. I think that is an important distinction because they are two separate things

  16. Carly

    If the government were treated like the internet, our planet would be an outright gong show. The government provides our planet with all kinds of rules and regulations that ensure all entities function in a fair environment. The world is filled with people of all shapes and sizes, all with vastly different thought processes and opinions. It is basically impossible to make everybody happy and agree on the same things. Our government does its best to compromise between what everybody wants in order to create regulations that will be fair to all. If people had the freedom to do whatever pleased them when it came to the government, there would be a never ending argument. People would take advantage of low regulation and would do all kinds of things that would otherwise be prohibited. Employment, which is a major part of almost everybody’s life would be a mess. Peoples finances would be disastrous. Our economy would prove to be a failure. There is just no way you can deregulate a system that basically controls our entire population. All hell would break loose and for all we know, life as we know it could come to a crashing halt.

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