IMAGINE IF GOVERNMENT COULD QUICKLY GET ADVICE from infectious disease experts in the event of a pandemic, or find and reach out to cyber-security professionals following an infrastructure attack, or pose questions about our public challenges to data scientists. From combatting terrorism to safeguarding the future of the planet, society will confront unprecedented challenges over the next decades. To succeed, Noveck argues, we have to run our institutions differently. Getting ideas from outside – often called crowdsourcing or open innovation – should be just as vital for the improvement of public institutions as it has been for success in commerce and science. Data science tools hold the potential to transform how we govern by making it possible to solve hard problems through the diverse and distributed expertise of the many citizens who would be willing to contribute their talents, skills, expertise and enthusiasm to the public good.
“Changing how we make decisions will depend squarely on having the personnel who embrace openness and collaboration. The recognition of citizen expertise does not mean jettisoning the professionals and substituting some kind of web-based plebiscite-far from it. Making good use of citizen expertise will require even better-trained managers and leaders. This new breed of professional-if we can call it that with a wink and a nod-will need to know how to work and talk and decide with citizens rather than for them. Just as the next generation will need to know how to govern with big and open data, predictive analytics, and real-time indicators, they will also need to develop the skillset for managing the conversation to get at the intelligence necessary to govern in a complex society.”
– From Smart Citizens, Smarter State
BETH SIMONE NOVECK is the Jerry Hultin Global Network Professor at New York University where she directs The Governance Lab and its MacArthur Research Network on Opening Governance. A visiting professor at the MIT Media Lab, Beth is also a professor of law at New York Law School and a Senior Fellow at the Yale Law School Information Society Project. She served in the White House as the first United States Deputy Chief Technology Officer and director of the White House Open Government Initiative (2009-2011). Her new book Smart Citizens, Smarter State: The Technologies of Expertise and the Future of Governing is being published by Harvard University Press this fall. She tweets @bethnoveck and writes on Medium @bethnoveck.