May 24, 2011

17 State and Local Governments Honored for Web 2.0 and Social Media

SEVENTEEN STATE and municipal governments were recognized by the Public Technology Institute (PTI) on Monday, May 23, with Web 2.0 State and Local Government Awards for Excellence. The awards were given for innovative use of Web 2.0 applications and social media tools to engage citizens, improve efficiency and increase accountability.

The award winners, which included seven cities, five states, four counties and one city/county, showcased cross-coordination and functionality for items such as Facebook, Twitter, e-town halls, citizen service request portals, mobile apps, live webchats and multimedia sharing that are targeted to residents, visitors, businesses and employees.

“Fundamentally the awards are to raise awareness of the power of Web 2.0 and social media for governments and to encourage that use,” said Susan Cable, program manager of PTI’s Citizen-Engaged Communities and Web 2.0 programs. “By identifying best practices and sharing that information, other governments can get a vision of how they can be utilized.”

Read More and Take a Look at the Winners >

Pocket Radio to iPhone

I found this old Sony radio in the garage the other day and I couldn't help think about how much things have changed from the "pocket radio" days.

Professional Meeting Minutes from Your Tablet or Laptop with

GOVERNMENT FOLKS attend lots of meetings and as a result, there are lots of notes taken. Look around the conference room table and you'll see most people take notes with a pen on a standard writing tablet purchased at Office Depot. More advanced attendees prefer to take notes using a laptop computer loaded with Microsoft Word.

I'd like to share a simple and ever so elegant alternative. It's called ""

Meetings with colleagues can take place in person but they can also be held using technology with people scattered at remote locations. Regardless, one thing is for sure - there's still a need to keep an accurate record of what was discussed and what next actions are required. Those notes eventually need to be typed up, proofed and shared with colleagues.

To simplify the process,, a web app lets you take meeting minutes online and easily share them with others.

The app doesn't do anything more or less than you need it to. Its simple interface consists of a few text fields for pertinent meeting information like attendees, minute taker, location and agenda. Beneath is an area for adding minutes, categorizing them and giving them an owner and due date (who doesn't need this feature?). In the upper-left sit three buttons: one for emailing notes, one for printing notes and one that takes you back to a listing or previous meeting notes.

It's a breeze to take notes while conversing with others and send them right away. The app is free and you can use it in your browser without an Internet connection - and you don't need even need to sign up!

It's painless, easy and elegant. (And it looks so good on an iPad.)

Start using

3 Ways Government Could Save Time & Money if They Used Social Media

You hear it all the time: Facebook this, Twitter that, social media… blah, blah, blah.

But why should government care? Especially when many are in a pinch for resources and the costs for municipal goods aren’t helping them out so much.

Well for starters, two words: Time & money.

Now saving time and money are not the only reasons to use social media in government (for example, it can provide greater transparency, reach citizens where they are – online, and provide easier access to services and information for citizens). Citizens want to get answers quickly through the mediums that they’re most comfortable with – how often do you use Facebook to communicate with your friends/family? But saving time and money are definitely still of high importance when it comes to why governments could should become interested in using social media.

Read More >

May 23, 2011

Scratch Off Security Codes and Passwords for Maryland Internet Voting Experiment

TAKOMA PARK voters will be able to cast ballots online for the 2011 city election.

City voters will have the option of casting their ballots over the Internet for the November 2011 election, and a test of the system is going to be conducted June 9 at the Takoma Park Community Center.

Poorvi Vora, an associate professor at George Washington University made a presentation of the online voting system to Takoma Park’s Board of Elections (BOE) at the board’s meeting May 18.

The opportunity for voters to cast their ballots over the Internet begins with absentee ballots that will be mailed to voters, Vora said. The absentee ballots will arrive at voters’ homes in a 9.5 x 6.5 envelope.

Once opened, voters will immediately see that the big envelope contains two smaller envelopes, Vora said.

One will be a sealed envelope containing the ballot. It will not be reused after the voter has opened it. The second will be an unsealed outer envelope meant for returning the ballot to the city. It will contain a third unsealed inner envelope.

Read More >

40 Percent of IT Workers Could Hold Employer Networks Hostage

ROUGHLY 40 percent of IT workers believe they could hold an employer's network hostage - even after leaving the company - by withholding or hiding encryption keys, according to a recent survey of 500 IT security specialists.

The study, released today, May 23, also revealed that a third of survey respondents were confident that their knowledge and access to encryption keys and certificates could bring a company to a halt with little effort. Conducted in April 2011, the survey was sanctioned by Venafi, a network key and encryption provider.

“It’s a shame that so many people have been sold encryption but not the means or knowledge to manage it,” said Jeff Hudson, CEO of Venafi, in a statement. “IT departments must track where the keys are and monitor and manage who has access to them. ... It’s no longer rocket science. Yet recent, costly breaches at Sony, Epsilon and elsewhere reinforce the need for both more encryption and effective management.”

31% of respondents astonishingly said that they could still access organisational data because they could easily retain the encryption keys when they left and access the information remotely. Finally, 24% of respondents to the survey admitted that their fear of losing encryption keys is what is deterring them from investing in encryption key and certificate solutions to protect digital assets and secure sensitive system communications.

On the public side, the city/county of San Francisco knows the perils of employees holding passwords hostage all too well. Last year Terry Childs, a former city network engineer, was found guilty of felony computer tampering for withholding passwords to the city's main computer network in 2008. Last week a superior court judge ordered Childs to pay $1.5 million in restitution to San Francisco.

Childs refused to hand over the passwords to the FiberWAN network, which handles computer traffic for about 60 percent of the city's departments, to his supervisors and to police.

Road Map for the Digital City

NEW YORK City's Mayor Bloomberg has unveiled a series of tech-centric and social media initiatives, from more Wi-Fi access to government apps, a Facebook page and even live chat access with city employees as part of an effort to make the Big Apple the top-ranked city in the country.

New York City's government is already a leader in digital engagement, hosting, the 311 online help site and more than 200 social media channels, blogs, newsletters and mobile applications that reach over 25 million residents, businesses and visitors a year.

But the city is pushing forward to become even more connected, as outlined in a 60-page "Road Map for the Digital City" report released recently.

Good Cities

MARK YOUR calendar for Wednesday, June 1 and join the worldwide party where people in any city can get together and talk about their city. Just go to GOOD's Meetup Everywhere page to find a community near you.

There are more than 30 communities around the world, from San Francisco to Sydney, Boise to Brussels. Once you join a local community, you can go ahead and become the organizer of the GOOD Cities issue party so you can choose the location, set the time and refine exactly what the party will look like.

May 22, 2011

Newspapers and Government 2.0

H. L. MENCKEN once said, “A newspaper is a device for making the ignorant more ignorant, and the crazy crazier.” The “Sage of Baltimore” knew of what he spoke, having infuriated many over four decades’ writing for the Baltimore Sun. Since the invention of the printing press, communication from writer to reader has been essentially a one-way street. And while the advent of the Web has caused many to sound the death knell for newspapers, creative publishers are taking advantage of the Internet’s interactivity to develop civic engagement tools that both educate and solicit the informed “voice” of their readers. Because municipal governments have already undertaken similar efforts, relative strengths and weaknesses of government vs. newspaper-hosted online engagement are emerging.

As city governments from Santa Cruz, California to Wilmington, North Carolina, wrestle with every-tightening budgets, many are attempting to engage residents through a growing number of platforms online. some, like San Francisco-based UserVoice's Plan for Civic Engagement, are what I dub an "idea aggregation/prioritization tool," able to theme thousands of user-submitted ideas into a manageable number, while also allowing participants to evaluate options through up/down voting. Others, like Next 10's Budget Challenge, ask users a series of trade-off policy questions on issues from budgets to sustainability.

The increasing use of these tools by local and state governments has created a niche within the burgeoning Gov 2.o field, which now covers enterprises from participatory policy making to 311 systems. Although newspapers have been slower to employ these online engagement platforms, several interesting initiatives launched by newspapers from the San Francisco Chronicle and its water shortage game to the Washington Post's city budget balancing tool indicate that news organizations are beginning to take the lead in online public participation. This can be seen as both good and bad.

May 21, 2011

A Gorgeous Bluetooth Keyboard, Stand and iPad Case

Read a review on the new Adonit Writer.

Using Online Tools to Engage - and be Engaged by the Public

DECIDING HOW to best use online tools to engage the public may be the ultimate moving target for public managers. This is not just because of the rapid development of new tools, or "apps," for engagement. The main challenges now facing government managers are understanding:
  • The increasing complexity of how people organize themselves online
  • Citizens' evolving expectations of government
These challenges are faced by public officials in an environment of dramatically increasing social media activity, where the worldwide community of Facebook users now exceeds the population of the United States. In this changed environment, users are organizing themselves into networks and communities defined by shared-interests, relationships or geography.

May 20, 2011

Technology for the Mission of Government

WHAT IS Fose 2011?

FOSE 2011 is a top government IT conference & Expo, which will be held July 19-21 in the heart of Washington, DC. It serves the federal, state and local government technology market as well as the broader international and commercial technology community as a forum for bringing ideas and innovations between the public and private sector - and providing forward-looking view of upcoming federal IT initiatives that impact the private sector.

FOSE is D.C.'s largest and longest running government IT show and draws over 10,000 senior-level IT decision makers from local, state and the federal government.

This year's conference features advanced level sessions and keynotes across 4 tracks including: Enabling the Mobile Government Workforce; Cybersecurity, Network Defense and Information Assurance; Next Generation Infrastructure Strategies; and Information Management and Collaboration.

Did I mention that Apple founder, Steve Wozniak, is giving a keynote address?

Even better than hearing the "Woz," is the fact that the FOSE event is free for government employees, contractors and military personnel!

Learn more here.

May 17, 2011

Another Defeat for California Initiative Reform

RATIONAL ELECTION reform is sometimes tough to come by. Whether it's the pressure of lobbyists, party differences or ego, good ideas don't always carry the day.

That's the case with California Senate Bill 334.

The bill was born out of the efforts of Trent Lange and the California Clean Money Campaign. That organization found an author for their initiative reform proposal in Senator Mark DeSaulnier. The logic behind the bill was pretty solid - voters should know who paid for signature gathering on ballot initiatives that qualify for the ballot and get printed in the State Voter Pamphlet.

The legislation required that the Secretary of State include in the ballot pamphlet a list of the names of the five largest contributors of $50,000 or more to the petition circulation drive that qualified an initiative for the ballot.

The Walnut Creek Democrat carried the bill and it's first stop was the Senate Elections and Reapportionment Committee. The bill passed out of committee on a party vote - 3 to 2.

The next stop was the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee. The hearing was May 16.

At that hearing, Senators placed the bill in the appropriations "Suspense file."

With that move, another initiative reform idea got defeated. (When a legislative proposal gets placed in the "suspense file," it normally means the fight is over. The bill is dead.)

Why does a good government piece of legislation that is pretty straight forward and not at all costly get defeated?

Politics, I suppose.

You decide.

May 16, 2011

The New Money: How iPhone Credit Card Processing Could Transform Transactions

CASH IS declining in popularity as a form of payments in the U.S. Credit card use is growing at the expense of checks. Globally, when people pay with cards, they increasingly use a mobile device.

That's where Square comes in.

Square is an innovative payment system for businesses and individuals to accept credit cards. It eliminates all of the hassles of applying for, setting up and actually operating a credit card system for a small business. With Square there is no credit check, no hardware costs and no fixed costs. For any transaction, Square charges 2.75 percent per swipe (3.5 percent if you enter credit card numbers manually plus 15 cents per transaction) and there are no commitments and no contracts. Deposits are made daily to your bank account.

The system operates with a small, white or black plastic square that gets inserted into the audio jack of an iPhone. Launch the app, tap a number and then swipe the card. The transaction then gets transmitted through a global payment network and a second later, a simple screen appears and prompts the purchaser to sign a field with their finger. It asks whether you prefer a receipt by email or SMS. A final screen then tells you that the transaction is complete and seconds later the receipt appears in your inbox.

According to Michael T. Ashy, VP of Sales for Earth Channel, "If you're an iPhone or iPad user, then I can highly recommend using Square (https// - I've been using it for about 9 months and it couldn't have been easier to sign up and use. Compared to traditional payment gateways, this was a dream." (Square actually works on the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch).

The reader is free when you sign up or you can purchase it from the Apple Store for $9.95.

There are many applications for the use of Square in government. Also, think about the possibilities of using Square at a candidate fundraising event. No more chasing the check - swipe a credit card on the spot and get a campaign contribution immediately.

Government Could Target Constituents "On the Go"

QR CODES have been around for a while, and many big corporations use them. In the recent past, small companies have started using the technology. But how could local governments use the odd bar code with a maze of black boxes instead of the usual straight lines?

For those that don't know, a QR code is a 'Quick Response' code that takes advantage of the boom in smartphones. Think of it as a traditional bar code on steroids. A QR code basically leads the user to additional information on a product or service. In a recent Wall Street Journal article 32% of consumers said they've used a QR code; 70% plan to use a QR code again or for the first time; 52% say they use it to get more information; and, 53% say they use it to get a coupon, discount or deal. describes a simple example of how a QR code is used in the private sector. A small coffee company put codes in its train ads. When customers scan the little squares with their smartphone cameras, a coffee menu pops up on their screens. Then they can order a cup of coffee on the train and have it waiting when they arrive at the coffee shop. According to Chief Exec Lloyd Bernhardt, "business has doubled and we catch people who are on the go and don't have a lot of time."

How could local government use QR codes to better serve citizens? Here are some ideas:
  • Place a QR code on all planning notices, building permits and related forms
  • Place a QR code on all court notices, tickets, jury notices and related forms
  • Place a QR code on all property tax mailings including the actual tax bill
  • Place a QR code on trash bins linking to the recycling calendar, special pick ups and related information
  • Place a QR code on voting information so a voter could scan a code to get more information on candidates and issues, where to go vote and how to get a vote by mail ballot
  • Place a QR code at historic sites, points of interest and other tourist destinations so visitors could access audio information
There are certainly other ways local governments could use QR codes. With the prevalence of smartphones this technology could reach vast numbers of constituents and greatly improve information distribution and positively impact the bottom line.

In what other ways can government use QR codes?

Share your ideas - send us a comment.

(Here is a sample QR Code for this blog's URL)


May 15, 2011

GovGirl Stars on Gov 2.0 Radio

BY DAY, Kristy Fifelski is web services manager for the City of Reno, Nevada where she manages the award-winning website, social media programs and over 80 content authors in city departments. By night she is Gov Girl, a site that "shares what's hot in online government."

Just to prove that government tech people have a sense of humor, I wanted to share this video with you. In it, Kristy offers up 8 things government could do to make citizens seriously take a step back and re-think their government. This is a spoof video of sorts. According to Kristy, it's not exactly clear what she's spoofing, but it's still a good watch if you're looking for a lighthearted few minutes.

If you're around, catch Kristy tonight on Gov 2.0 Radio. She's be interviewed by Gov 2.0 thought leader, Adriel Hampton from Nation Builder.

May 14, 2011

Care About Redistricting

THE BRENNAN Center for Justice teamed up with the Center for Urban Pedagogy and the talented designers at We Have Photoshop to produce, Know Your Lines, an informative fold-out poster that explains with words and demonstrates with engaging graphics what the redistricting process is about and why it's important.

You can request a copy here.


iPad Cases with Keyboard

May 11, 2011

A Review of the 50 States Online Offerings

BUILDING THE Innovation Nation is an interactive tool of State and Local e-government performance measures, assessments and research complied by The Center for Digital Government.

iPads in the Classroom: Do They Strengthen Education?

AFTER A year on the market, the iPad is still the hottest tablet around. And students in Chicago Public Schools have been lucky enough to use them in the classroom for an entire school year.

"What we've found with the iPads as we've rolled this out is having kids with a device such as the iPad in the classroom - within curriculum - is very powerful," said Chicago Public Schools Technology Education Director John Connolly. "Our feedback from our teachers and students is that this is something they're using evey day. It's embedded in all of their subjects, even if they were originally targeting one subject, and w're seeing some really cool things happening with those students."

May 10, 2011

e-Signatures Have Their Day in Court

SAN FRANCISCO'S 1st District Court of Appeal was the scene for today's important hearing on electronic signatures. The case, Ni vs Slocum, is about whether electronic signatures (done on a smartphone, for instance) can be considered valid on California initiative petitions.

The 30 minute hearing saw the three-judge panel ask the lawyers representing each side questions about their pleadings. The court did not deal with technical matters but rather focused their attention on the points law - as it should be.

Overall, it was a fascinating experience sitting in the gallery (as the defendant) listening to the arguments and the conflicting points of view.

Here are some of the questions asked of the petitioner's lawyer by the panel:

- what is the legislative history that supports the petitioner on this matter?

- shouldn't this matter go through the legislative process?

- the governor previously vetoed a bill related to this matter and the Secretary of State says that digital signatures on petitions are not permitted under California law. Are we suppose to disregard all of this?

- aren't you asking the court to legislate this matter? Sure, if this were allowed it might bring more younger people into the process but we aren't arguing that point. We are asking if this is permitted under law?

The court, I am told, normally takes about ninety days to give their opinion in appeal cases. If that's true, we should expect the 1st District's opinion around August 10th. This case might eventually find its way to the California Supreme Court.

San Francisco Mayoral Vote Likely to be a Rank Mess

SAN FRANCISCO'S mayoral election is scheduled for November 9, 2011. But the winner might not be known for many days, maybe weeks after that because of ranked-choice voting.

Ranked-choice voting was enacted by a ballot measure passed in March 2002 and while it's been used before, this election will be a real test.


When Mayor Gavin Newsom (now
Lieutenant Governor) was re-elected in 2007, it was a ranked-choice election but the field of candidates included folks like George "The Naked Guy" Davis. Newsom received more than 73 percent of the first-choice votes and no second round was necessary.

This time around it will be different. There are lots of candidates to choose from and no clear front-runner. It could be a repeat of a recent Oakland election where after a few rounds a dark horse candidate actually won the mayor's office.

Ranked-choice voting is essentially a plurality system that is designed to pick the most popular candidate.

Read More >

If you're interested in learning how ranked-choice voting works in San Francisco - click here for a short demo. The New York Times ran an article in November 2010 (after the election in Oakland, California) whose headline read "The Winning Strategy in Oakland: Concentrate on Being 2nd or 3rd Choice. California Watch ran a story in October 2010 entitled "Ranked-Choice voting complicates elections." One of the national organizations behind ranked-choice voting is Fair Vote and you can visit them here.

No Live Blogging

TURNS OUT that the court doesn't allow live blogging in the courtroom. In fact, they don't allow cell phones, iPads, iPhones or laptops in the hearing room.

Sorry folks - more later in the day.

Court of Appeal: Live Blog

Are iPhone Signatures Legal in California?

THE 1st District Court of Appeal in San Francisco will hear the next debate in the running question, "are signatures written on a smartphone gathered for a California petition legal?" The plaintiffs say those signatures meet the requirements of California law while the County of San Mateo say they are illegal.

The court will decide the case of Michael Ni v. Warren Slocum as Chief Elections Officer of San Mateo County. But most likely not within the next few days. One thing is certain, however a decision will come and it will be significant either way it goes down.

The smartphone application for gathering signatures was developed by Verafirma.

We will be in the courtroom this morning, May 10, to live blog the proceedings (If the court allows such practices).

Stay tuned.

May 8, 2011

e-Signature Petition Case Goes Back to Court

A KEY hearing in the state Court of Appeal in San Francisco will be held Tuesday to determine whether Verafirma, a Silicon Valley startup, can gather initiative signatures on touchscreen devices such as iPads and smartphones.

Verafirma, which already has the blessing of Santa Clara County to register voters with electronic signatures, was founded last year by San Jose political strategist Jude Barry; Michael Marubio, an East Bay e-signature expert; and Michael Ni, a high-tech entrepreneur. Last year, Ni submitted an e-signature to the San Mateo County Elections Office to help qualify the legalized-marijuana initiative, but the office refused to accept it.

Warren Slocum, then the chief elections officer, argued that courts must determine whether the electronic signature meets California's election code standards requiring it to be "personally affixed" to a petition. A lower court ruled against Verafirma, but everyone knew the real battle would be fought on appeal.

A group of strange political bedfellows has encouraged the Court of Appeal to allow the e-signatures. They include the Humane Society of the United States, the Southwest Voter Education Registration Project, the Asian American Action Fund, conservative Steve Forbes'

Read More here >

May 5, 2011

Public Service Recognition Week

WHETHER AT the federal, state, county or local level, public employees throughout the national provide essential services, solve and prevent serious problems, help ensure our safety and advance the common good. During Public Services Recognition Week, the first week of May (May 1-7), we hope you will join our effort to honor public servants at all levels of government for the work they do to make our country a better place.

Fifty years ago, in his state of the union address, President John F. Kennedy declared, "Let the public service be a proud and lively career. And let every man and woman who works in any area of our national government, in any branch, at any level, be able to say with pride and with honor in future years: 'I served the United States Government in that hour of our nation's nee.'"

We believe public service is, as Kennedy envisioned, a noble calling and we are grateful to all those who serve.

What can you do to celebrate public servants in your community during this important week?

You could:

1. Send an email to public servants you know.

2. Prepare a short, vignette story about an outstanding employee and post it to the web.

3. Write a letter to the editor or op-ed piece for your local newspaper.

4. Ask a public servant to speak at your service club.

May 4, 2011

California Moves Closer to Online Voter Registration

CALIFORNIANS ARE a bit closer to being able to register to vote online, thanks to the leadership of State Senator Leland Yee, D-San Francisco. Several other states already offer online registration, while California has lagged behind - and the Senator wants that to change.

Senate Bill 397, authored by Senator Yee, received a key affirmative vote in the state Senate Elections and Constitutional Amendments Committee. The Senator said, "In the 21st century, especially here in California, it is long overdue to have online voter registration." "SB 397 will not only help protect the integrity of the vote, but will allow many more individuals the opportunity to register and participate in our democracy."

Under the bill, citizens would input their voter information online and the county elections office would use the voter's signature from the Department of Motor Vehicles to verify authenticity. That signature could be matched against the voter's signature at the polling place.

Arizona has implemented online voter registration and some counties saw their costs decrease from 83 cents per registration to 3 cents per registration.

If Mr. Yee's bill is approved by the full Legislature and signed into law, it would allow counties to begin using online voter registration for the 2012 Presidential Primary election.