Month: September 2011

NIC awarded contract

“The First State” will become the twenty-fourth state website to be managed by e-government services firm NIC Inc.

NIC announced that its Dover-based subsidiary, Delaware Interactive, was awarded a three-year contract to develop and manage the Delaware state website, The contract includes three one-year renewals that extend through September 2017.

According to the announcement, “the state will pay Delaware Interactive an annual portal management fee. Delaware Interactive will also work with state agencies to develop new online services under the self-funded, transaction-based model.”

Earlier this month, Georgia awarded Phase2 Technology a contract to migrate and manage its web operations from the Vignette content management system to the open source platform Drupal.

Update: NIC said it will release financial details of the contract on November 3. Official RFP issued by Delaware is below.

State of Delaware Government Information Center: e-Government Project | Request for Proposal

Reno readies for world’s biggest little hackathon


The world’s biggest little city is about to get its code on.

Set for October 15-16 at the Pioneer Center for the Performing Arts in Reno, Nev., Hack4Reno is a 24-hour civic hackathon organized by the Reno Collective and the City of Reno.

We asked organizers from the Reno Collective, Colin Loretz, Don Morrison and Chris Yoder, and City of Reno Web Manager Kristy Fifelski to share why they’re doing Hack4Reno and what’s in store before, during and after the event.

Who’s behind Hack4Reno and who’s it for?

Hack4Reno is a partnership with Reno Collective and the City of Reno to inspire developers, designers and entrepreneurs to build apps, websites or services that help the Reno community grow into a smarter, more engaged city. If you’ve ever wanted to build an app or a website, this is the perfect opportunity to do so while getting a lot of exposure and even win prizes!

What do you want to accomplish short- and long-term with Hack4Reno?

In the short-term, Hack4Reno will help local developers, designers and entrepreneurs to meet one another, learn about what other talent exists in the area and showcase the local talent. We have a wealth of resources in Reno and places like Tahoe, Sparks and Truckee all within 30 minutes but not everyone knows what resources exist or how to access them. The apps that get built at Hack4Reno will help make Reno a more connected place.

Long term, Hack4Reno is about education. We want people to understand what is happening around them in their community and we want them to see what kind of talent exists here. In doing so, we hope to retain and even attract new talent to the area through the creation of new businesses and opportunities around web technology, open government and entrepreneurship.

What are the the pre-hackathon events and why are they important?

We are hosting various Hack4Reno meetups and workshops leading up to the event so that we can prepare everyone for the 24 hour hackathon. This includes classes on various services and open source technologies that can cut the time and cost of development significantly. We see them as a kind of training regime, similar to how you’d train for a marathon. You can’t just show up to a marathon without any training and expect to run all 26.2 miles. These meetups also allow the participants to meet one another, form teams and learn more about open government, open data and learn more about why Hack4Reno is happening and why it is happening specifically in Reno.

How can people connect with Hack4Reno and get involved?

Everything can be found online at or you can follow updates on Twitter at @hack4reno. Thanks to our wonderful sponsors, we have made the event completely free for participants and we want to encourage developers and designers, even if they are from another city, to come out and build something with us!

Watch this video from the organizers:

Photo: CityofReno

NAGW honors top government websites

Earlier this month, the National Association of Government Webmasters honored three members with its 2011 Pinnacle Awards for the “highest achievement in web design and development.”

The three classifications are based on population size (low, medium, high). Scoring criteria encompasses eight categories (team size, content, organization, design, function, accessibility, standards, interactivity) for a possible total of 100, judged by web professionals from the public and private sectors.


Low Population (less than 50,000)

City of Montgomery, Ohio

City of Montgomery, Ohio

Medium Population (between 50,000 and 150,000)

City of Johns Creek, Georgia

City of Johns Creek, Georgia

High Population (in excess of 150,000)

Buncombe County, North Carolina

Buncombe County, North Carolina

SF CIO, Innovation Director discuss city’s tech progress, innovation


[audio:|titles=SF CIO and Innovation Director discuss city’s tech progress innovation]

San Francisco Chief Information Officer Jon Walton and Director of Innovation Jay Nath discuss government innovation and the work they’re doing within the SF Department of Technology.

Does government innovation need its own department?

In an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, SF city attorney and mayoral candidate Dennis Herrera said, if elected, he would create an innovation department and appoint a Chief Digital Officer to lead the city’s web and social media strategy that embraces open engagement with citizens.

While Herrera is right on target with regards to appointing a CDO, I hope he re-evaluates his idea around creating a department focused specifically on innovation.

The problem with building a designated innovation department is that innovation in itself is relative, hard to measure and a separate division has high potential to succumb to the laws of the bureaucratic silos, never extending beyond the walls of its own members.

It’s inevitable SF will have a CDO when the next mayor is sworn into office. Herrera’s comments gel with conversations I had with him and a number of other candidates prior to SFOpen, many of whom support establishing a senior-level digital role that reports directly to the mayor. Candidates Phil Ting, Joanna Rees and David Chiu all made a point of emphasizing the importance of such a position.

While a CDO position is new to SF government, it’s not a novel concept, and may very well be part of a trend in big cities as innovative leaders realize the value of strategically leveraging the web to efficiently and proactively communicate with larger, tech-savvy populations.

In New York City, Mayor Michael Bloomberg did this, appointing Rachel Sterne as the city’s first CDO. Since Sterne’s appointment just 7 months ago, the NYC Digital department has released the city’s first Digital Road Map, held a Reinvent NYC.GOV hackathon, launched SMART, among other initiatives with more undoubtedly on the way.

It’s important to note, however, that Bloomberg doesn’t have a department dedicated specifically to innovation within his administration. I imagine he just expects it from everyone.

If government wants to innovate, it must emulate those that do.

Generally considered the epicenter of tech innovation, rarely will you see an innovation department in Silicon Valley. Start-up companies, most of whom have limited budgets, creatively leverage resources hoping to build the next new thing. Innovation poster child Apple consistently designs creative consumer products and, like Bloomberg, surely Steve Jobs just expected everyone to “think different.”

For them, the entire company is their innovation department. It’s in their DNA.

In his interview with the Chronicle, Herrera said, “In order to have a government that inspires people, you need two things. One is results, and No. 2 is transparency.”

I couldn’t agree more, but rather than partition innovation into one department that could become constrained by silos, government must build innovation into its cultural DNA. Leaders must create institutional opportunities for it to prosper. Establish roles with focused objectives and measurable returns, allow room for experimentation and failure and reward creative solutions with positive results. Do this daily.

Whoever is elected the next mayor of San Francisco, I hope he or she establishes an ‘SF Digital’ department with a chief digital officer to lead it.

As far as innovation is concerned, that department should be the entire SF government.

Mobile democracy: How governments can promote equality, participation and customer service

Mobile democracy

There’s a lot more to democratic government than holding elections and town hall meetings.

It’s about transparency and openness in government operations. It’s about empowering citizens with information, access to services, and opportunities for engagement. It’s about being “of the people and for the people” in every way possible.

In many ways, mobile technologies offer an ideal avenue for agencies to achieve these goals. Mobile trends suggest that increasing numbers of people are using smart phones for information and interaction — for personal, business and consumer purposes. Naturally, proponents of open government have been clamoring for agencies to get on board by providing mobile options to citizens. Whether it is a mobile version of a municipal site, apps for government services, mobile civic engagement campaigns, or a combination, making some type of mobile effort can show an agency’s commitment to connecting with citizens.

So … what can mobile government do for democracy? Here are a few ideas:

Engage more people

Not just the civic-minded folks that have time to attend public meetings or write to their elected officials — mobile tools can be used to reach people that might otherwise have very limited means of connecting with government. Rural residents, youth, handicapped or home-bound citizens, even people who are just plain busy — all can benefit from mobile access to government info and services. Mobile is everywhere, and it’s growing ever more common and affordable. By utilizing this avenue, governments can provide information AND get feedback from a broader swath of the population than by other means. This is democracy — equal opportunity — or at least a significant advancement in that direction.

Meet them where they are

Too often, governments do not make the effort (or just don’t know how) to connect with residents in meaningful ways. A government “for” the people will meet people where they already are, use the tools they are using, communicate in a way they can understand. This doesn’t mean that citizens are dumb, it just means that agencies need to cut the jargon, red tape and long lines as much as possible if they truly wish to empower the people. Mobile efforts are an ideal step in this direction. Through mobile interfaces, governments can offer no-wait access to services like bill payments, licenses and registrations, transit information, citizen reporting and beyond. Bringing these options TO the people, meeting them where they are, demonstrates a true democratic mindset and a sincere effort to connect with citizens.

Power to the people

Knowledge is power, and the democratic concept of empowering people through the opening of government data is a large part of the open government movement. It seems inevitable that agencies should aim to jump-start this process by going mobile — after all, citizens are already getting the majority of their daily information (weather, traffic, socialization, stocks, news, business, etc.) through their mobile devices. Governments hold great amounts of potentially helpful data in their hands. Opening this data by releasing it on public websites is good, but using mobile interfaces to disseminate it in a usable form is even better, and puts the power where it belongs — with the people.

Affordable democracy

Mobile democracy is affordable in the deepest sense (not just monetarily). It makes government connections and interactions more affordable for citizens in terms of effort, portability, flexibility, and convenience. Given mobile gov options, people are more likely to interact with their governments frequently, increasing trust and familiarity in ways that should be the goal of every democracy. They may visit the voting booth once a year or less, but citizens use government services — transit, taxes, sanitation, public works — every day. They also use their mobile phones every day. See the connection?

For a true democracy, a government striving for openness and accountability, getting on board with mobile technology just makes sense. Many agencies have made significant mobile efforts, with success, encouraging others to follow suit. Mobile democracy takes “open data” and makes it usable for the people … and wasn’t that the whole point of open government in the first place?

Government sharing is government caring

Just discovered this MESH Government to the Rescue TEDxGotham talk by former New York State Senate Chief Information Officer Andrew Hoppin. Hoppin’s presentation is based on Lisa Gansky’s book The Mesh: Why the Future of Business Is Sharing and discusses how government can leverage shared resources, from capital assets to code, and be more efficient and resourceful.

(Thanks Mike Gifford.)

OpenDataRace Begins in Philadelphia

OpenData Race

Several months ago, with the unveiling of the OpenDataPhilly website, the City of Philadelphia joined the growing fraternity of cities across the country and around the world to release municipal data sets in open, developer friendly formats. But the City of Brotherly Love did things a bit differently than most of it’s contemporaries.

The city actively partnered with outside parties, private firms, not-for-profits and universities to help set the direction of the city’s open data efforts. The OpenDataPhilly website itself, although it’s brimming with data collected and maintained by the city, was developed by the geospatial and civic application firm Azavea, and is not hosted or operated by the city.  The website, and the larger open data effort in Philadelphia, operates under the stewardship of a group made up of both public sector and private sector partners.

This unique partnership has raised innovative opportunities for collaboration.  This is clearly evident in the latest efforts by the OpenDataPhilly team to solicit ideas from those in and around Philadelphia about the specific data sets that should be opened up by the city, formatted for developers and researchers and released through the OpenDataPhilly site.

Last week, the OpenDataPhilly team, in partnership with Azavea, NPower Pennsylvania, Technically Philly and the William Penn Foundation launched the OpenData Race.

The OpenData Race is a competition open to not-for-profits that want to obtain data from the City of Philadelphia to further their missions and to better serve their constituencies.  It calls on not-for-profits to nominate data that is not currently available through the OpenDataPhilly site or through other sources to be released by the city in an open format.  The top nominations will receive cash prizes, and the OpenDataPhilly team will work with the City of Philadelphia to facilitate the release of the winning data sets.

This competition is a departure from the traditional kinds of contests that derive from municipal open data efforts, which typically take the form of hackathons or application building contests.  It builds on the idea behind the latest “Big Apps” competition in New York City – which asked competitors to name the kinds of open data apps they would like to see developed – by asking consumers of municipal data which data sets they would like to see opened up and released to the public.

Any not-for-profit can nominate a data set by registering with the OpenDataPhilly site and submitting a nomination before the deadline on September 29th.  The OpenDataPhilly team will also be working with the winners of the OpenData Race to facilitate events aimed at building civic applications that use the new data in early 2012.

The partnership in Philadelphia between city officials, not-for profits, private firms and universities has produced a unique atmosphere for the development of an open data movement.  With the launch of the OpenData Race in Philadelphia, the city and those that live and work there will now start to reap the benefits of this innovative partnership.

For more information on the OpenData Race, and to signup to nominate data, go to the OpenDataPhilly website. has Drupal on its mind

The next iteration of will be built using the open source platform Drupal.

Phase2 Technology announced it was awarded a contract to replace, migrate and support an overhaul of the state’s website and content management system, which will be developed using Phase2’s Drupal distribution OpenPublic. The company will partner with Acquia and Mediacurrent to transition the current site from the Vignette CMS to Drupal.

“We are excited about the possibilities that Drupal brings to the state of Georgia,” said Georgia Chief Information Officer Calvin Rhodes. “This new platform will give us the flexibility to offer more online services to Georgians while making government more efficient and saving taxpayers money.”