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Crowdsourcing or Democracy?

Crowdsourcing or Democracy?

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Published by: Crowdsourcing.org on Sep 06, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Crowdsourcing or Democracy?
By Robyn Cobb,September 02,2011
Earlier this week we introduced you toSeeClickFix and their model of social business. We talked briefly about how they are using social technologies andprocess to improve how governments operate and engage their constituents.Today we thought it would be interesting toshare with you some of the intricacies and winswe learned discovered in our interview withBen Berkowitz, CEO of SeeClickFIx.We wanted to know where SeeClickFix is having the most success? What storiescould Ben share to cast the vision and help us to see how things are working?
Ben: “The biggest success with the application, is in terms of geography. Some of 
the bigger cities are Richmond, Raleigh and Washington, D.C. The functionality of our app is really neat because not only can people report they can also see whatissues are recorded nearby. So maybe someone without an app reported a bigpothole and you walk by and you have the app and you see the issue, you can takea photo of 
the pothole, and add it to their issue. So it‟s kind of an interim (iterate)
of the reporting process where people with the mobile application can help thosewithout. I also think there is a place for city inspectors and others with theapplication where they can go out because all the issues are mapped they can
follow those issues around and easily close out work orders right from the phone.”
It‟s interesting that the inspectors can check projects and issues and close the issues
right from the phone allowing the citizens to see in real-time and track how andwhen their issues are closed.One interesting story was how a town in Connecticut used the application torespond to an algae bloom in their water system but also how the communityhelped spread the word and prevent panic.
Ben: “Here in Connecticut, in a town near by, there was a late algae bloom, which
is a non-
life threatening thing that can happen to a water system, but it‟s something
that can be concerning. Hundreds of people voted on 20 or 30 issues in differentlocations as to the spread of this algae bloom and the city was able to respond back to just
of the issues letting people know that an algae bloom is safe, that they
don‟t have to worry, the water may taste funny, but it‟s safe and they
are workingto resolve it. So not only could you see the spread of the algae bloom through thereports of the citizens but you could see the citizens could communicate with each
other and let them know not to panic.”
 Finally we brought up the question of crowdsourcing:Does it work? Are citizens taking advantage of it?
Ben‟s response was interesting:
“This is government helping to spread the word through citizens. I like the term„crowdsourcing‟ when it comes to business and I do think that governments can
 learn a lot from a businesses that are focused on customer service, but the
interesting thing is that it‟s really not crowdsourcing when it‟s government, right?It‟s just basic democracy. In the US, to a lot of people, democracy happens once
every four ye
ars when you go to vote then you walk away and you don‟t get to
shift the opinions of the people you elected. At a very local level, SeeClickFixallows citizens to help governments make decisions that better improve the
citizens‟ lives. We are just enablin
g a core feature of democracy in a real time and
very dynamic way about very specific issues that affect everybody.”

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