Crowdsourcing. We talk about it. We educate people how to use it. But it is also an overused and underappreciated word, according to Forbes. Its influence is now spawning to government affairs thanks to the Internet. In 2013, President Obama called out to the federal agencies to use Citizen Science and Crowdsourcing to tap the wisdom of the crowds—the citizens—to help solve scientific and societal problems.
In November 2014, the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) started developing the crowdsourcing Toolkit to get things done using a “human-centered design workshop.” This is just of the many stories and initiatives where the government is proactive in harnessing collective wisdom and emerging technologies.
But how can governments use crowdsourcing and citizen science for effective citizen empowerment? The former is the practice of engaging a crowd or group for a common goal, while the latter, (according to the White House), is “a form of open collaboration in which members of the public participate in the scientific process, including identifying research questions, collecting and analyzing data, interpreting results, and solving problems.”
Governments can explore these two concepts by:
Partner with crowdsourcing third-party organizations and experts
The two concepts are easy to understand but require a significant amount of planning, strategies, and new mindsets before implementation. Governments are bureaucratic and centralized by nature; adopting crowdsourcing techniques and citizen science with the help of third-party organizations will help them facilitate the transition.
Take a look on how the government of Rio de Janeiro collaborated with Crowdicity, a leader in innovation software based in the UK, where the open innovation forum, The Agora Rio was created for the Rio citizens “to put forward their views and ideas of what the city needed to ensure the long-term benefits of hosting the Olympic Games.”
Incentivize local competitions
This is another way to encourage participation and also cultivate innovation among the citizens. A good framework that can serve as an inspiration is Peter Diamandis’ XPRIZE competitions; they empower innovators around the globe in creating out-of-this-world exponential technologies to solve scientific and societal issues. Local governments can also use this method, too. Check out these 5 Crazy Good Government Contests as references.
You may never know the wealth of knowledge and ideas you could squeeze from the minds of the youth, students, MBAs, experts and professionals in your local community. This will also build strong channels to citizens, empowering them to voice their ideas and thoughts especially they know the culture, what works and does not work for the community and what needs to be done.
A change agent like Aerospace engineer Jenn Gustetic, who’s into open innovation and prize competitions, launched their Longitude Prize to the public on how to combat antibiotic resistance, which was featured on NatGeo.
Other crowdsourcing and DIY (Do-it-yourself) approaches
New Zealand’s government also used crowdsourcing for the new design of the national flag; Indonesian government’s KSP (Office of the Presidential Staff) hosted a nationwide hackathon for IT professionals to empower them to create digital solutions for good governance; Qatar launched a crowdsourcing initiative for its National Museum’s visual identity.
I could go on in listing examples both from developed and emerging countries, but the bottom line is this: there are plenty of ways to apply crowdsourcing, whether in partnerships with third-party organizations, experts or even DIY approaches to spark innovation and citizen empowerment. In Singapore, aside from the government’s ambition to become a smart nation, it has several online platforms and apps to engage with the citizens. You can check E-gov.com for more details.
In 2014, a crowdsourcing initiative in the UK called Open Government Manifesto led by Tim Hughes was created for “specific commitments to improve transparency, participation, and accountability. Bringing contractors under the Freedom of Information Act, supporting and developing the UK’s Anti-Corruption Action Plan, and giving the public a say in the future of the UK through a citizen-led Constitutional Convention are a few ideas we’ve already collected.”
It’s high time that governments take initial steps to converge new technologies, the crowd’s wisdom and new ways of thinking to embrace these new approaches. The transition may be quite intimidating at first, but let’s also think of the legacy we can give to the next generation in creating a more decentralized, open and transparent systems for good governance — together, let us make the world, starting from our community, a better place to live.
Can you think of other ways where crowdsourcing can be used for common good?