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Help yourself and your city with a mobile reporting app

I’m really interested in ways that people can use their mobiles not only for their own communication and information needs, but also to benefit others. And I just came across a brilliant example of that: the City of Boston Citizens Connect App.

This mobile app lets Bostonians log problems like potholes and graffiti with the city, with the aim of contributing to a better city environment. It looks like a really neat robust example of ‘citizen-to-city’ interaction, with community-contributed content used to directly benefit the community.

What’s more, it’s a great extension of the UK’s www.fixmystreet.com service in that it works right at the moment when you see the problem (and use your mobile), rather than when you return to wherever your desktop computer is (and probably forget all about the problem you saw).

I wonder what it would take for city councils in Sydney (or anywhere in Australia, really) to take on this? And surely it’s possible for one app to serve all councils, and which localises itself depending on where you are when you open it – one app to rule them all, as it were.

If this catches on as a common mobile behaviour pattern, city councils are going to have a lot of demands — and lovely lovely geo-tagged data — on their hands…

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Government 2.0 Taskforce report released

The Government 2.0 Taskforce has just released its final report – Engage: Getting on with Government 2.0. I’ve been eager to see the release of this report, not only because of its generous attribution to me for the Government 2.0 Taskforce logo and cover design  ;) , but also because it’ll hopefully provide the concise authoritative foundation that the public sector needs – and something I can have under my arm in client meetings.

The main points from the report include:

  • Emphasising the opportunities afforded by Web 2.0 ideas and functionality
  • Showing how Web 2.0 can help the overall government aims of information availability, transparency, accountability, responsiveness and efficiency, as well as public service delivery
  • Defining Government 2.0 as an approach, rather than a technology
  • Highlighting the leadership, culture, policy and governance changes that would have to happen for Government 2.0 to be embraced

There’s loads more, of course, but it seems to stress Government 2.0 as a destination and philosophy. This is important, because it needs to separate itself from the hoopla and hyperbole that mostly gets our attention – and my clients’ attention.

I’ve been involved in several client projects, especially with public sector clients, where there’s been a lot of interest in what Web 2.0/Government 2.0 can deliver for them. I’ve seen some excellent innovative ideas go by the wayside because they’re obfuscated, derailed, or basically dismissed, because the knowledge and experience that business decisions are based on is not authentic or accurate.

Hopefully the Engage report can help with these knowledge and experience gaps, and come to be an authoritative foundation that folks like my clients will be able to refer to.

Read about it at the Department of Finance and Deregulation website, or download the PDF.

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Government launches LivingGreener

The Environment Minister The Hon. Peter Garrett has just announced the launch of a new government website: LivingGreener.gov.au. It centralises a lot of government information available on living more sustainably, especially information about rebates, grants and loans available.

LivingGreener.gov.au home page

LivingGreener.gov.au home page

There’s been a tonne of work involved in getting this website live, and the Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts has done a brilliant job at researching and listening to the target audiences to deliver something that anyone and everyone can use.

I was involved as Senior Consultant at PTG Global with the user experience design for LivingGreener, including:

  • Personas and want maps design based on user research, website traffic analysis and statistics from the Australian Bureau of Statistics
  • Information architecture, including an overall conceptual model based on leading people at whatever point they were at, on a journey towards being more active to live more sustainably
  • User interface design, with wireframes and prototypes and working with content writers to structure content to integrate action points throughout the website

This has been a really rewarding project to work on. One reason is that this website isn’t trying to be everything ‘environmental’ to everyone; it’s focused squarely on guiding people towards the government assistance available to help everyone do more for the environment. And that’s got to be a good thing.

This is only the launched version of the website too; there’s more content and functionality in the wings that will be rolled out – to borrow a phrase from the Prime Minister – in due season. ;)

So take a look: livinggreener.gov.au, and here’s the official press release, too. What do you think? What are some ways you think a website can motivate you to do more for the environment?

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Voting for the Government 2.0 Taskforce banner competition is on

I recently submitted four designs for the Government 2.0 Taskforce logo/banner competition. This competition has already generated a bit of heat from the design community, but I’m taking this competition in the spirit in which it’s intended: open community involvement, and encouraging government to get into online collaboration a bit more.

And now you can vote on which ones you like! Just go to their voting page here. My entries are numbers 10, 11, 12 and 13 (below).

My entries for the Government 2.0 Taskforce banner competition

My entries for the Government 2.0 Taskforce banner competition

As the Government 2.0 Taskforce website says: “Your votes will be influential, but we will make the final decision largely because it is too difficult for us to be confident that the result of a popular poll represents the views of a representative sample of participants on our blog and the ease with which such competitions can be influenced by campaigning and multiple voting”.

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Open markets: let’s not forget the ‘we’ in web 2.0

The Government 2.0 Taskforce has announced a competition to design a banner for their website gov2.net.au. Judging from the comments on their announcement and call for entries, there’s a lot of huffing and puffing about not doing spec work. I think they’ve missed the point, and I also think this shows one of the honest truths about doing things the ‘web 2.0′ way.

The comments raise some worthy issues about spec work devaluing design as a commodity and the design industry itself. Some go so far as to comment that it’s offensive and degrading. There’s examples cited like:

“Do you ask your dentist, mechanic or accountant to do work for free on the off chance that the pride they have in their work may be acknowledged publicly? I doubt it.”

Now, I’m involved in writing proposals, quoting for work, and sharing ideas and concepts with potential clients, all to win business. That’s how it’s done. As Lisa Harvey over at Energetica (who it should be said is part of the Taskforce) says: “my team and I spend a lot of time with clients, preparing proposals and tenders, all of which contain our ideas, our expertise and a lot of other stuff that should be paid for. We win some, we lose some. It’s business.

Perhaps some commenters aren’t grasping that different commodities and services (dentist, mechanic, designer) operate in different market set-ups. Dentists don’t write proposals to fix your teeth.

And maybe they’re also not seeing the spirit in which this competition is intended: collaboration and participation. Is it Nike or Microsoft running a competition with no prize? No. It’s government. Our government. Your government. For all the times that people like us wish we could contribute more to government and have a say… well, this is just one of those ways.

The whole ‘web 2.0′ zeitgeist has grown off the back of a lot of people contributing a lot of creativity, design, and content for nothing. And I’m sure those who argue for no-spec have done well by taking some of the contribution and used it for themselves.

This is all about give and take. Let’s not forget to give every now and then.