GL Chat: City 2.0 - Building the Future of Cities with Code for America


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GL Chat: City 2.0 - Building the Future of Cities with Code for America

  1. 1. GovLoop Chat: City 2.0 - Building the future of cities with Code for America" 3/6/2012GovLoop: Welcome to this month’s GovLoop live chat. For those that have never been to a Govloop live chat, let metake a minute to explain the format.GovLoop: Our live chats are fun, interactive discussions – it’s a mix of your old school AIM days combined with thelearnings of a webinar.GovLoop: They are 30 minutes long. Short & sweet. We’ll spend about 5 minutes getting to know our speakers todayand then jump right into your questions.GovLoop: Ground rules for today: if you have a question you’d like to ask the speakers, please message me directly inthe chat. Then I’ll ask the speakers. We’ll try to keep the main section focused on the guests for today.GovLoop: Speaking of guests today we have two of the top local government innovators in the field with us today.GovLoop: Jay Nath, Chief Innovation Officer, City and County of San Francisco and Abhi Nemani, Director of Strategy andCommunication for Code for America.GovLoop: Both are wicked smart guys who are passionate about public service and have lots of great ideas on improvinggovernment. So Jay and Abhi, let’s get a rocking. First question is for Abhi:GovLoop: Abhi – The title of today’s chat is City 2.0 – what does city 2.0 mean to you?Abhi Nemani: A city 2.0 to me is a city thats like the internet: Open, permission-less, collaborative, and thats both atechnological thing and a cultural one. So actually Jay here is a good example of the kind of change Im talking about. Thecity of San Francisco has institutionalized innovation into city hall (hes got a rad title, Chief Innovation Officer), whichsignals, I think, a stronger commitment to openness and engagement thats the kind of change were hoping to achievethrough our work at Code For America.GovLoop: Awesome Abhi, and I agree, Jay, coolest title in government. Can you tell folks what it means to be head ofinnovation and where you focus your energy in driving innovation in the city?Jay Nath: Sure. My role as the Chief Innovation Officer is to introduce new ideas and approaches to solving long-standing municipal challenges. This is not just about tech; it’s about looking at innovation across an organization from anexecutive level.GovLoop: Exactly, and as u might imagine, many Govloopers here are passionate about innovation in government. Howdo you look at it at the executive level? How do you create capacity for change and innovation?Jay Nath: Having our mayor recognize the importance of innovation by creating this role is a strong signal as Abhi said.Having his support to redesign the status quo is very importantJay Nath: Often its not the tech, but how to get people onboard.Abhi Nemani: Ill jump in an add that sometimes creating a mechanism to aggregate risk innovation departments can dothat and were seeing that through our fellowship, we can assume some of the risk too.Abhi Nemani: "You can blame us."Jay Nath: Completely agree. [Type the company address] Page 1
  2. 2. GovLoop Chat: City 2.0 - Building the future of cities with Code for America" 3/6/2012GovLoop: I just got the first question from audience (please direct message me if you have a question): “What advicewould you have for people who are passionate about government innovation, but are in organizations that are clearlynot ready to hear it (yet)?”Jay Nath: Bostons new Urban Mechanics have done a great job with that. Ask for forgiveness later. You have to takerisks to make real change happen. Sometimes thats scary, but if you know youre right you have to go for it. Also,working with peers in other cities can help.Abhi Nemani: So heres one story: In Boston we were running into trouble getting some data about real time busses forstudents. They werent going to give it to us to make an app, but then we went ahead and made the app. They were like,"Wow -- ok, heres the data."Jay Nath: You can point to what NYC is doing to get buying.GovLoop: Another question from the audience (send em my way): “I’d like to ask Abhi about how CFA generalizesspecific city applications to make sure they are applicable to other local governments. Are there plans to ever buildsomething of a platform that everyone could tap into?”Abhi Nemani: Were already starting to: A City 2.0 is networked too so our fellows do the hardwork of identifying opportunities for applications with their city partners, and we make sure they know that reuse is acore value of ours.Abhi Nemani: But this is where I think civic commons is so important.Abhi Nemani: You have to know whats out there so you dont reinvent the wheel. But also Ill add that the unexpectedis sometimes the most interesting. We built this little app last year just for Boston: “Adopt-a-hydrant.”Abhi Nemani: Turns out Honolulu is using it for storm sirens and Chicago for sidewalks, all thanks to an openmarketplace and open dialogue.Abhi Nemani: Question from the audience about talent: “I Work for the NYC government and Ive been trying to hire a full-time developer for the past few months. I tried recruiting at area computer science departments with no luck. Anyideas?”Abhi Nemani: Hire a CFA fellow :)GovLoop: Any ideas, Jay or Abhi on recruiting talent into local government?Jay Nath: I think its about framing the opportunity. If you go along with the standard job description and dont "sell" it,youre going to get a typical response.Jay Nath: Also leverage networks like Govloop and your social media network.Abhi Nemani: I would market it like "Well give you the (API) keys to the city."GovLoop: Another question from audience: “Why is civic innovation needed? Why is this important?”Jay Nath: We need it more than ever due to all the constraints that we face. [Type the company address] Page 2
  3. 3. GovLoop Chat: City 2.0 - Building the future of cities with Code for America" 3/6/2012Jay Nath: Budget, resources, etc.Jay Nath: So the need for government has never been greater, but our capacity to do good has been diminished.Jay Nath: So working with our community, Code for America and others is the answer. We need to deepen ourengagement through hackathons, unhackathons, etc.Abhi Nemani: At a broader level, I think innovation is needed because governments are too often falling behind.Abhi Nemani: Were seeing dramatic, profound change in the way technology is affecting our private lives. Its just notfollowing through into the public sector. We need to get government back on the innovation curve.GovLoop: Jay - I know you worked on the citys first open source policy. Question from the audience: When willgovernment IT shops start hiring developers to start contributing to open source project full time?”Jay Nath: Good question. That goes back to culture change. When IT managers recognize the value of open source,theyll start pushing in that direction.Jay Nath: You see it in the private sector and I think the opportunity is even greater in government due to the longprocurement cycles.Abhi Nemani: One thing to remember is that you have to do open source from the start:ttp:// Question for Abhi: “Would CFA ever work with a state government if the conditions were right? And perhapsgenerally how do people get involved with CFA?”Abhi Nemani: Thats a really good question. I see Alissa is in here, maybe she should take that, but Ill say that we see areally high leverage opportunity with cities: their proximity, their range in functions and the connections.Abhi Nemani: So were focusing there, but figuring out a way to work with states is something we are always thinkingabout. By the way, I should mention that were currently recruiting cities for the 2013 program.Abhi Nemani: That’s awesome. Perhaps both you and Jay can take this one. “I know you both are part of the new civicaccelerator in San Francisco. Can you talk a little about it? What do you see as opportunities for real disruption in thecivic space?”Abhi Nemani: Theres a lot of great stuff going on in this space (just look at the number of apps in civic commons), butfor those opportunities to get to scale and to find sustainability, they need to have real businesses behind them.Abhi Nemani: Theres currently, I think, a lack of entrepreneurism in the civic space, and we want to change that.Abhi Nemani: So were launching this national civic startup accelerator to find the best ideas and then support them tobecome real businesses.GovLoop: Jay - you must see a lot of opportunity for entrepreneurship in your jobGovLoop: Processes to improve and ways tech can help. Any problems you would encourage folks to solve? [Type the company address] Page 3
  4. 4. GovLoop Chat: City 2.0 - Building the future of cities with Code for America" 3/6/2012Jay Nath: For San Francisco its an opportunity to move from civic hobbyists (created from open data, hackathons, etc.)to real businesses solving civic challenges. Its also an opportunity for San Francisco to be transparent about our painpoints and find ways to generalize them with other cities.GovLoop: Should gov 2.0 focus more on connecting citizens to improve governance than connecting citizens to lobbygovernment?Abhi Nemani: And we should be clear that were looking for companies and for cities from across the country.Jay Nath: I think the onus is on government to share our challenges very deeply.GovLoop: Oops...jumped the gun on that oneAbhi Nemani: No problem...GovLoop: 100% agreeAbhi Nemani: Thats a great question for today, Steve: Super Tuesday.GovLoop p: Indeed.Abhi Nemani: I think we should be focusing more on engagement and collaboration, and less on lobbying.Abhi Nemani: And thats why were launching the CFA Brigade to mobilize community groups: Nath: We need people engaged on issues that they care about. We need to create opportunities for our citizens tocollaborate with government, non-profits, etc.GovLoop: Great...well we got about 5 minutes.GovLoop: Keep the questions coming. I’ve got another good one: “Good afternoon: I serve a municipality with a highlyconservative, non-tech, older constituency (One that described me as "clearly young" because I knew how to set up aFacebook page). What are some similar locations that have successfully engaged traditionally non-tech constituents andhow did they do this?”Abhi Nemani: So in one of the smaller cities this year, we are running into a similar problem.Kevin Curry: Manor & DeLeon, TX.Jay Nath: I think its not focusing on the tech but the value your solution brings to your audience.Abhi Nemani: Instead of focusing on building tech there, were working on education/training.Abhi Nemani: We showed them Google docs.Abhi Nemani: MINDS BLOWN.GovLoop: Ha...Abhi Nemani: Just showing people whats possible is a good start. [Type the company address] Page 4
  5. 5. GovLoop Chat: City 2.0 - Building the future of cities with Code for America" 3/6/2012GovLoop: How about another from audience: “Citizen 2.0 as the focus for Cities 2.0: How do you engage and educate anew constituency to shape the future of government.”GovLoop: Any thoughts on the question?Abhi Nemani: Kevin should talk about that.Kevin Curry: Yep, Brigade.Abhi Nemani: But I think we need people to start to realize that they have broader responsibilities as citizens beyondmerely voting.Abhi Nemani: Adopt a hydrant, keep up a park.Abhi Nemani: Stand up an app. Its not hard, and in fact its fun. We had #Codeacrossamerica events last week.Abhi Nemani: 16 cities, 16 events.GovLoop: Very cool - quick follow-up for Kevin.GovLoop: How will Brigade bring in people with non-technical skills?Abhi Nemani: Hundreds of people came out to stand up apps, work on projects, etc.Jay Nath: Exactly Abhi. We want to invite our citizens to help redesign government. We just did an unhackathon aroundimproving taxi service in San Francisco. Over 100 people attended, paying to be there.Kevin Curry: Anyone can code for America and many want to. So were setting up the infrastructure to connect peoplewith projects in places and get it done. I get that question all the time, Steve.GovLoop: Very cool…GovLoop: Well Jay & Abhi, I want to honor your time. Those 30 minutes flew by.GovLoop: But I want to give you a final comment.Jay Nath: Thank you for the opportunity. Great questions.GovLoop: Any resources or tips you want to give folks to check out?Kevin Curry: There are roles for organizers, designers, product managers and policy people. Connect to find out more.Abhi Nemani: Check out Civic Commons ( & consider applying for the 2012 program( ). Wed love to work with more of the GovLoop community!Jay Nath: Last plug - check out our innovation portfolio: You can find them both on twitter at @jay_nath and @abhinemani.GovLoop: Thanks everyone for joining us and tune in next month for our next Govloop live chat and make sure to keepup with these rockstars and sign your city up. [Type the company address] Page 5