Wiki Government: How Technology Can Make Government Better, Democracy Stronger, and Citizens More Powerful

By in Science & Technology on February 9, 2013

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Collaborative democracy-government with the people-is a new vision of governance in the digital age. Wiki Government explains how to translate the vision into reality. Beth Simone Noveck draws on her experience in creating Peer-to-Patent, the federal government’s first social networking initiative, to show how technology can connect the expertise of the many to the power of the few. In the process, she reveals what it takes to innovate in government.

2 thoughts on “Wiki Government: How Technology Can Make Government Better, Democracy Stronger, and Citizens More Powerful

  1. 1
    4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    Required reading for improving government, November 5, 2009
    Andy Nash (Vienna, Austria) –

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    Anyone interested in using the Internet to help improve the way government works should read this book. Noveck presents an excellent background describing the problems with existing government decision-making processes, a case study of the Peer-to-patent process she helped develop and recommendations for developing effective Internet based applications.

    The book is well written and edited, easy to read and full of examples that will spur your creativity. I read it quickly and thought it was very good, but as I go back and re-read sections I think it’s extraordinary.

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  2. Patrick Buckley
    1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    Electronic Government For The People?, April 9, 2010
    Patrick Buckley (Ottawa, Canada) –

    Many feel that government will be improved when there is more participation by individual citizens. In Wiki Government,1 Beth Simone Noveck tells of the potential for using information technology to acquire more input from the citizenry. Noveck sees more social justice in a world in which government actions are influenced by the inputs of citizens on the Internet with social networking software.


    Wiki Government starts off by recounting one successful use by government of the interactive technology of Web 2.0. The author directed this project when she was a Professor at New York Law School. The demonstration project is the Peer-To-Patent Initiative, a system that now facilitates the processing of patents in the field of information technology at the US Patent Office.
    The problem faced by the Peer-To-Patent demonstration project is multi-faceted: the allocated time for a bureaucrat to approve a patent is short, many patents are approved in error, and this leads to costly litigation. The solution is to provide government officials with better information when they are making decisions. This information comes from the online collaboration of relevant volunteers who participate in Peer-To-Patent.
    A volunteer user of Peer-To-Patent initially chooses from a list of patent applications and joins a team that’s reviewing one. The reviewers discuss the application’s focus and quality with posted comments, suggest further research, and inputs of prior “art.” The latter is documentation of significant advances in information technology that occurred before the date of the patent application. The intellectual property in this prior “art” is protected by functions that are built-in to Peer-To-Patent.
    Each member of a Peer-To-Patent team rates the team’s findings and the best are provided to the US Patent Office in an Information Disclosure Statement. In this way, the team influences, but does not make, the decision of the US Patent Office on a patent application.

    Problems At (…)

    Right now there is a US government web page, (…), where citizens can leave comments about government regulations. An overall evaluation of this site indicates that it has not increased the amount of useful information available to government. It has become a place where participants tend to “notice and spam” rather than “notice and comment.”
    Noveck sees a need to transform sites like (…) into places where citizens become better informed by reading others’ comments, collaborators build on the inputs of others, and experts criticize and respond to what they see. Such processes are facilitated when each participant is assigned to a group whose members are discussing similar issues and topics. The resulting teams of participants will develop more meaningful outcomes that convey better information than the flood of one-off pronouncements that are currently received by (…).

    New Initiatives

    Beth Noveck foresees developing further Internet based applications, like Peer-To-Patent, in her current position of US Deputy Chief Technology Officer for Open Government. She leads the Open Government Initiative.
    One proposal is for a “bubble up” system for determining questions for the US President to answer in regular media sessions. In such a system, participants submit questions, the questions are rated by other participants, and only the best are presented to the President. Wiki Government tells of similar systems being used with the politicians in other countries, and television personalities.
    Another proposal is for a “civic jury.” The jury is randomly chosen from volunteers to monitor the decisions of a policy maker in a government department – the example given is for policies in education. The jury members read and comment on an electronic blog in which the policy maker gives reasons for decisions taken. Sub-groups of the jury keep up wiki’s about specific decisions and policy areas.

    Motivating the Right Participants

    Wiki Government does discuss problems of motivating knowledgeable people to participate in a system of electronic commenting. Wiki Government points out that the screens in successful systems are designed to respect users and give feedback in such a way that contributors feel that they are part of a community. The systems are also designed to quickly weed out frivolous communications so that meaningful participants feel they are speaking with others of similar stature.
    There may still be problems of motivating knowledgeable volunteers and specialists to spend their free time by continually returning to an Internet site and commenting on more than one issue. One way of obtaining the regular contribution of time is through public-private partnerships. As it is, many participants in Peer-To-Patent were employees of the major sponsoring

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