Citizenville: How to Take the Town Square Digital and Reinvent Government

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Overview

Citizenville offers both an impassioned plea for more tech-enabled government and a tour d'horizon of the ways some governments have begun using technology to good effect… a fast-paced and engaging read” —San Francisco Chronicle

A rallying cry for revolutionizing democracy in the digital age, Citizenville reveals how ordinary Americans can reshape their government for the better. Gavin Newsom, the lieutenant governor of California, argues that today’s government is stuck in the...

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Citizenville: How to Take the Town Square Digital and Reinvent Government

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Overview

Citizenville offers both an impassioned plea for more tech-enabled government and a tour d'horizon of the ways some governments have begun using technology to good effect… a fast-paced and engaging read” —San Francisco Chronicle

A rallying cry for revolutionizing democracy in the digital age, Citizenville reveals how ordinary Americans can reshape their government for the better. Gavin Newsom, the lieutenant governor of California, argues that today’s government is stuck in the last century while—in both the private sector and our personal lives—absolutely everything else has changed. The explosion of social media, the evolution of Internet commerce, the ubiquity of smart phones that can access all the world’s information; in the face of these extraordinary advances, our government appears increasingly irrelevant and out of touch.

Drawing on wide-ranging interviews with thinkers and politicians, Newsom’s Citizenville shows how Americans can transform their government, taking matters into their own hands to dissolve political gridlock even as they produce tangible changes in the real world. When local Web designers wanted to prevent muggings in Chicago and Oakland, they created innovative crime-mapping tools using public police data. When congressional representatives wanted citizens’ input on new legislation, they used interactive blogging tools to invite public comments and changes. When a town in Texas needed to drum up civic engagement, officials invented a local digital “currency” to reward citizens for participating in government—making small-town politics suddenly as fun and addictive as online games such as Farmville. Surveying the countless small advances made by ordinary Americans in reinventing government for the twenty-first century, Newsom unveils a path for American prosperity and democratic vitality.

Newsom explains how twenty-first-century problems are too big and too expensive for the government simply to buy solutions; instead, Americans must innovate their way out. Just as the post office and the highway system provide public infrastructure to channel both personal and private enterprise—a platform upon which citizens can grow—so too could a modern digital government house the needs, concerns, information, and collaboration of an enlightened digital citizenry.

A vision for better government that truly achieves the ancient goal of commonwealth and a triumphant call for individuals to reinvigorate the country with their own two hands, Citizenville is a timely road map for restoring American prosperity and for reinventing citizenship in today’s networked age.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Souped-up information technology will set us free, declares this breathless, shallow manifesto. Newsom, the lieutenant governor of California and ex-mayor of San Francisco, heralds the new regime of cloud computing, which makes all public information instantly accessible and, he argues, utterly transforms how governments do business. The specifics he mentions feel small-bore and superficial: city IT departments, he notes, could be outsourced; government databases from Veterans Administration health records to city crime stats can be made downloadable; a New York City phone app guides users to the nearest location where they can get free condoms; and why not have citizens post Yelp-style online reviews of government services? Citing gabby cyberutopian visionaries from Bill Clinton to Mark Zuckerberg, Newsom styles all this as the overthrow of the “top-down, bureaucratic, hierarchical government that’s choking our democracy,” one that empowers citizens to “‘solve their own problems and meet their own needs’” in the manner of open-source programmers and righteous hacktivists. Unfortunately, as with his proposal for a “Citizenville” online game in which people win points for spending their own money on municipal repair projects, his rhetoric amounts to a glitzy but dispiriting brief for the abdication of government responsibilities in an era of budget austerity. Agent: Elyse Cheney, Elyse Cheney Literary Associates. (Feb. 11)
Kirkus Reviews
A former mayor of San Francisco introduces methodology to improve citizens' interaction with their government through the Internet. Newsom, the lieutenant governor of California, reflects fondly on his mayoral terms and his efforts to accelerate the learning curve for an often bogged-down city government operating "on the cutting edge--of 1973." As founder of an impressive array of small Bay Area businesses, the author understands the power and influence technology can wield--but how to harness and channel it to engage smart, forward-thinking consumers with their respective bureaucracies? Overcoming governmental "technophobia" is key to bridging that gap, but disinterest, privacy concerns and procurement costs are also roadblocks. Newsom cites many affirmative initiatives on data sharing, governmental transparency and numerous interactive applications like QR codes or his "Citizenville" gaming concept. While conducting research, the author came into contact with a host of technologically savvy professionals, from software pioneers and hyperproductive tech executives to fellow entrepreneurs and even George Clooney, who laments the death of individual privacy. Newsom's pitch for a compulsory donation system to co-fund government projects or the concept of incentivizing to gain more rapid solutions is certainly progressive. An idea to offer $1 billion to the innovator of a cure for a constantly morphing disease like AIDS, however, comes off like a lofty campaign promise. Still, the book remains fresh and lively with Newsom emerging as a persuasive, if fast-talking, progressive proponent focused on how best to "radically rethink the relationship between citizens and government." Empowering, motivating and just a tad self-indulgent.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781594204722
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 2/7/2013
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 6.42 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.94 (d)

Meet the Author

GAVIN NEWSOM is the forty-ninth lieutenant governor of the State of California, following two terms as mayor of San Francisco. He was the youngest mayor of San Francisco elected in more than a hundred years. Previously, Newsom founded fifteen small businesses in the San Francisco Bay area after graduating from Santa Clara University. He lives in the Bay Area with his wife, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, and their two children.
 

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 7, 2013

    Gavin Newsom has managed to encapsulate all my frustrations with

    Gavin Newsom has managed to encapsulate all my frustrations with government in this book. His solutions make sense and I think its about time! 

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2013

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    Posted August 18, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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