The need for public involvement is one of the most fundamental and integral components of government agencies. Without this interaction, government leaders would have a difficult time understanding the needs and wants of the public. The traditional models of collecting public opinions create barriers, which can make it difficult for people to effectively participate in the decision-making process that affects their lives. Barriers can include a lack of information or simply getting information to the public, time and dates of public meetings, or the convoluted process to get your opinions known. As usual, government agencies are slow in responding to the growing innovations in the use of technology. But in recent years, web-based crowdsourcing such as social networking sites, blogs, wikis, and video sharing sites have fueled innovation and collaboration in research, business, society, and government alike. Wikipedia has especially shown us that collaborative content creation can dwarf the quantity and quality of traditional encyclopedia and other closed expert groups.
In the urban planning realm, web-based crowdsourcing can play a significant role in land-use planning and environmental design. Open house public meetings at the local community center or a few public notice postings at city hall and libraries aren’t going to cut it these days. Even the famed Charrette Planning has its limitations. Today, crowdsourcing on the web enables planners to create and increase civic engagement and harness the collective creativity, knowledge, and innovation from the community. However, it should be recognized that a web-based platform has its own public limitations for those without internet or computer access. Since these citizens cannot be excluded, a wider range of traditional models of public involvement can still reach them. One of the biggest limitation of e-government for planning is the same for any social networking model; it requires an audience to interact with, which means more community outreach to generate civic engagement regardless of the crowdsourcing platform.
People want to communicate about topics that are important to them. But this dialogue doesn’t always include the government agencies responsible for creating the desired changes. The way in which contemporary society has become reliant on online services influences the way in which people communicate with one another and share information. The challenge government agencies will face with open source communication with the community is how to monitor and analyze that information.
What form of web-based crowdsourcing have you seen your local government agencies utilizing or what forms have you implemented for urban planning?
Credits: Image and data linked to sources.