Sessions at SXSW Interactive 2011 about Government in Austin Convention Center

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Friday 11th March 2011

  • Rebooting Iceland: Crowdsourcing Innovation in Uncertain Times

    by Derek Lackaff, Gunnar Holmsteinn, Dilja Amundadottir, Heida Helgadottir and Guojon Mar Guojonsson

    In the US, social media innovators are changing the way people work and play. In Iceland, these innovators may offer the best hope of rescuing an entire nation.

    Iceland emerged in the 1990s as a financial powerhouse after a thousand years on the sidelines of global history. Icelanders became one of the world’s wealthiest and happiest nations. In 2008, three of its banks collapsed, sending the national economy into a tailspin and shattering the people’s trust in government and industry. The government was quickly replaced by one promising transparency and reforms, while a protest party headed by a comedian took control of the Reykjavik city council.

    This new cast of politicians is not alone in their efforts to move Iceland out from under the economic cloud. Members of the country's tech and entrepreneurial sector, which saw explosive growth in the lead-up to the collapse, have emerged as leaders in grassroots efforts to set Iceland on a sustainable path. Last year a loosely-organized group calling themselves the Anthill convened a “national assembly” of 1,500 citizens. The day-long event, based on Agile methods and crowdsourcing theory, resulted in a coherent set of values, vision and ideas.

    Now the government is planning a similar meeting in preparation for rewriting the constitution. Inspired by open-source processes and leaning heavily on social media technologies, these citizens are rapidly prototyping new forms of democracy utilizing the web and open innovation.

    LEVEL: Beginner

    At 2:00pm to 3:00pm, Friday 11th March

    In Room 9ABC, Austin Convention Center

    Coverage video

Saturday 12th March 2011

  • Why Visualizing Government Data Makes Taxpayers Happy

    by Michael Castellon and Jeremiah Akin

    The expectation of transparency is creating demand for government agencies to develop new ways to communicate complex data and trends to the public in easy-to-access and easy-to-understand formats.

    Some agencies are turning to Google Maps and KML data to visualize raw information online and on mobile devices. Delivering data in more easily understandable formats not only boosts trust and confidence between government agencies and their publics, but also streamlines workloads among Data, Web, Editorial, and Customer Service teams.

    The Texas Comptroller is the state’s chief revenue officer, tax collector, and treasurer. The agency uses public-facing maps to communicate data and economic trends across the state, editorial coverage, and to promote initiatives such as its Unclaimed Property initiative, which works to reunite taxpayers with about $2 billion in unclaimed money and property.

    This discussion will focus on how agencies and other organizations can use free or inexpensive tools to deliver data to the public in both traditional online formats and mobile platforms, and how workflows can be arranged so that data visualization can be managed and administered by non-technical staff. We will also discuss how maps can be used internally to enhance strategic efforts.

    LEVEL: Intermediate

    At 11:00am to 12:00pm, Saturday 12th March

    In Room 9ABC, Austin Convention Center

  • What The Government Can Learn From Amazon

    by Adria Richards

    Have you ever bought something on Amazon and wondered, "Why isn't buying a passport as easy as this?"

    With over 300 million people in the United States, there is certainly room for improvement how their lives are recorded, updated and exchanged. If the Arpanet was created to provide a centralized, communications network, why are we not taking advantage of this access to lower costs and reduce data errors? Amazon processes, ships, and delivers packages all over the world and can now predict delivery within 12 hours of ordering. Why does your driver’s license take two weeks?

    We will explore what advances in digital data records and key benefits including: savings on redundant data entry and mistakes, less identity theft and fraud, rewarding efficiency and creating social benchmarks. The other side of this data coin includes managing expectations, privacy, security and opt-out from such programs.

    RFID’s in passports, pets and popcorn seem like the stuff of science fiction. GPS location tracking in cell phones are common place and you can throw a device into your kid’s backpack for peace of mind they made it to school. With over 170 million smartphones sold in 2009, there is clear evidence people are eager to manage their lives on the go and personal records maintained by the government is a great starting point.

    LEVEL: Beginner

    At 11:30am to 11:45am, Saturday 12th March

    In Ballroom E, Austin Convention Center

  • Open Government through Participation: Designing Successful Online Consultations

    by Tim Bonnemann

    Public participation—the process of engaging citizens and stakeholders in collaborative problem solving and decision making—has been around for a few decades. Whether urban planning, participatory budgeting or environmental conflict resolution, the basic principles of designing and running effective consultations to gather citizen input or co-create policy solutions are, for the most part, well understood.

    The use of technology to support and enhance these participatory efforts, on the other hand, is still a fairly young and emerging discipline. While there have been many advancements in this area in recent years, the lessons learned still aren’t always readily available for practitioners.

    This fast-paced and interactive panel will explore what it takes to deliver successful online consultations. We’ll go over the basic processes involved, look at some of the typical challenges and how they can be addressed, and highlight innovative tools and projects from around the world.

    Technology, if applied properly, can greatly increase the opportunity for citizens to participate in the decisions that shape their future. With this session, we want to give anyone involved in delivering on this promise a solid head start.

    LEVEL: Intermediate

    At 12:00pm to 12:15pm, Saturday 12th March

    In Ballroom E, Austin Convention Center

    Coverage slide deck

  • How to Fix Government

    by Jennifer Pahlka

    Citizens of the Internet have suddenly realized that they are also citizens of something that costs a great deal more than a monthly broadband bill: their government. And that government has a lot to learn from the Internet if it wants to provide the value in citizens’ lives that it should. A movement has sprung up to make government more efficient, open, and responsive to the needs of citizens, and what once seemed like an intractable problem now appears as a giant possibility space, with enormous obstacles but potentially enormous gains.

    This session provides an overview of some of the individuals and organizations attacking this problem, their various approaches, and how the SXSW community can contribute to the effort. There are commercial and entrepreneurial opportunities, fellowships, volunteer efforts, and activism. What’s working? What’s not? Can we affect change from outside? What are the problems YOU want solved? Where is the voice of the tech community in government at the local, state and federal level?

    LEVEL: Beginner

    At 12:30pm to 12:45pm, Saturday 12th March

    In Ballroom E, Austin Convention Center

  • Can Government Teams Make Government Services More User Friendly

    by Drew Scherz

    Increasingly, Web Teams and developers are finding themselves closer to customers than ever before as websites become the primary, public-facing entities of most organizations. Keeping the customer at the front of the line can be a challenge for teams not specifically trained or oriented for such considerations. The growth of mobile platforms is also driving more solution-based customer interactions online, forcing web teams to become more customer solution-oriented as the demand for immediate, real-time solutions increases.

    The Texas Comptroller’s website serves about 25 million page views each month from taxpayers seeking information, conducting business, and completing task-based forms and other tasks, putting our web team on the frontline of user advocacy.

    This panel will explore how web teams can adapt as user advocates with a focus toward customer service needs, while also managing the structural and technical integrity of web sites and databases.

    LEVEL: Intermediate

    At 12:45pm to 1:00pm, Saturday 12th March

    In Ballroom E, Austin Convention Center

  • Startup.gov: Reworking Government Through Technical Innovation

    by Sarah Granger

    Open government initiatives over the past two years have shown that Washington can innovate and achieve results at the pace of startups when given the opportunity. We'll engage in a collaborative discussion on the merits and pitfalls of taking entrepreneurial ideals and translating them into big government infrastructure, breaking barriers and opening up new opportunities for public engagement.

    LEVEL: Intermediate

    At 1:00pm to 1:15pm, Saturday 12th March

    In Ballroom E, Austin Convention Center

    Coverage slide deck

  • Public Transit Data, APIs and City Governments

    by Michael Uffer, Julie Blitzer and Jerry Jariyasunant

    The centerpiece of the urban lifestyle is an extensive, reliable public transportation system. Transit riders are embracing smartphones, 3G, 4G and even tablets. These tools can help us get better information, faster. Learn what changes are giving information in real-time and for trip planning. The New York City Office of Emergency Management (OEM) created NotifyNYC in 2009 "to enhance NYC's emergency public communications to the public." NotifyNYC allows NYC residents to sign up for transit notifications in a format of their choice, SMS, email, voice recording, Twitter or RSS for any or all boroughs. Numerous third-party applications exist in New York, including Exit Strategy NYC, which tells the user where to wait for the train so as to minimize station exit time upon arrival. San Francisco's Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) website offers developers a huge amount of resources including a comprehensive API with schedules, station information and real-time service updates. The BART site features third-party applications developed using the API for iPhone, Android, Windows, Mac and more. This panel will examine creative new projects that enhance our lives as city residents on the go, including how these websites and applications could reduce costs, bureaucracy and response time in public transit.

    LEVEL: Intermediate

    At 3:30pm to 4:30pm, Saturday 12th March

    In Room 9ABC, Austin Convention Center

    Coverage slide deck

Sunday 13th March 2011

  • Data-Driven Government: Improving the Citizen Experience [Cancelled]

    by Julie Germany, Aneesh Chopra and Matt Lira

    Over the past several years, there have been many discussions regarding how interactive technology can drive change in our nation’s politics – but of perhaps greater importance is how technology can improve the daily functioning of our nation’s government.

    The discussion should not be a partisan one – this panel will bring together leading innovators from both parties to engage in a post-partisan discussion about how technology can improve the public’s interactions with their government.

    This discussion should be about specifics – we can all agree on the broad principles that technology drives change – but we have all heard that conversation before. This panel will focus on the specific progress that has been made, the specific opportunities that exist in the near future, and the specific challenges that need to be addressed.

    As citizens increasingly become on-demand consumers in their daily lives, it is clear that government needs to better utilize interactive technology or it will only be more radically disconnected from the public.

    This is not a political conference, which is precisely why it should be where this conversation takes place – how can the innovations from the creative, marketing and interactive communities be applied to improving our nation?

    Our government needs to modernize. We need to move forward and debate new ideas, focusing on how we can collectively make our government work smarter, faster and better for all citizens.

    LEVEL: Intermediate

    At 9:30am to 10:30am, Sunday 13th March

    In Room 9ABC, Austin Convention Center

Monday 14th March 2011

  • DIY Diplomacy: Designing Collaborative Gov

    by Raina Kumra, Tiffany Smith, Chris Bronk, Noel Dickover and Richard Boly

    The Department of State is applying open government principles to move from an information hoarding environment to an information sharing culture. This panel will discuss the behavior change desired and the approach taken, which involves the use of social media, crowdsourcing and reverse mentorship initiatives as a method of culture change. The development of an information sharing culture in the Federal Government cannot be mandated. In an environment where “Need to Know” is the operating mindset, the challenge is changing minds.

    Projects discussed include:

    •Virtual Student Foreign Service: Allows students to work with foreign embassies to perform micro-tasking type functions.
    •Communities@State: an initiative to enable people with common professional needs and interests to form self-managing online communities of practice
    •Sounding Board: Crowdsourced method to share ideas with a Bureau or the Secretary
    •Virtual Presence Post: Allows State Department engagement with communities where no physical diplomatic facilities exist.
    •Civil Society 2.0: Cultivates citizen leaders and NGOs to take ownership of significant world problems.
    •Diplopedia: Wiki-based online encyclopedia of foreign affairs information written by State Department employees.

    LEVEL: Intermediate

    At 5:00pm to 6:00pm, Monday 14th March

    In Room 6AB, Austin Convention Center

Tuesday 15th March 2011

  • Innovation Dot Gov: Designing Democracy for the Age of Networks

    by Beth Simone Noveck

    Former White House Deputy CTO and Open Government leader addresses how to use technology to design smaller and smarter government for the 21st century. Bringing innovation to the public sector doesn’t require new legislation or new budgets. It requires changing the default way of working from closed to open.

    At 9:30am to 10:30am, Tuesday 15th March

    In Room 9ABC, Austin Convention Center

  • Can Design and Technology Fix America's Education Problem?

    by Dennis Littky, Jon Kolko and Steven Tomilson

    In the US, 75% of students graduate high school. Our national college graduation rate is even lower at approximately 54%. And those students who aspire to go to college are faced with a rising tuition cost, which has increased more than any other major good or service for the last twenty years. Looking ahead to the next 20 years, students will pay $221,722 to drop out of a state school, and close to $450,000 to try their luck at a private school in hopes of getting a higher education. These unfortunate statistics don't even begin to describe the current university system's neglect to harness experiential and digital approaches to open-source educational models.

    We are facing an education crisis in the United States. This panel will explore the future of education, examining the roles of design, technology, and human beings in reshaping the way we teach and learn. While the panel is diverse, the speakers all share unconventional views of learning, a passion for design and creativity, and an entrepreneurial commitment to driving change through both action and technology.

    LEVEL: Intermediate

    At 11:00am to 12:00pm, Tuesday 15th March

    In Ballroom B, Austin Convention Center

    Coverage audio clip

  • How Governments are Changing Where Big Ideas Happen

    by Sean Kane, Tony Schum and Ian Kelso

    More than ever, governments across the world, at both national and local levels, are working hard to attract the "creative/digital industries". When you're looking for a job, you may not know how much your city, state or even national government often play a role in what companies are hiring in your community.

    While traditional economic development has typically meant a scenario like bringing a factory to a rural area, a newer practice involves growing so-called industries of the mind. Canada has led the way, but now many states across America are offering incentives to game developers and other tech-related companies (to say nothing of the massive internal investments by certain countries, such as Russia). The benefits can be tax breaks, loans, grants, tax credits and even free rent to get you and your brain trust to make the move.

    This discussion will look at why these sorts of incentives are thought to bring benefit to not just the companies, but to their communities and taxpayers, too.

    LEVEL: Beginner

    At 12:30pm to 1:30pm, Tuesday 15th March

    In Room 10AB, Austin Convention Center