3 New, Free Technologies to Transform Your Town

At your disposal are three new technologies your city can utilize at no cost. Impacting planning, purchasing and economic development, these open source tools were recently provided seed funding by the Knight Foundation. Read on for details

What Happened?
The Knight Foundation awarded $3.2 million to eight projects that identified problems in government interaction with the public and offered solutions through more efficient use of technology. The winning projects were designed to tackle varying obstacles impacting private and public sector collaboration, ranging from entrepreneurialism to local planning project public awareness.

So What?
The Knight Foundation created the Knight News Challenge to encourage technology experts to come up with tools and approaches to make it easier for citizens to cooperate with government. Leveraging the latest technologies and data-driven solutions, the eight winning projects offer new strategies to overcome barriers while reducing costs and improving efficiency.

In an interview with EfficientGov, John Bracken from the Knight Foundation explained how the eight projects that received the award introduce a new era of government’s use of technology.

“It demonstrates the disruptive power of the Internet and how it is beginning to impact the way we govern ourselves,” Bracken explained. “Each of the winning projects is trying to address defined citizen needs and how this field will continue to grow exponentially.”

And The Winners Are…
Of the successful submissions, a few projects focused on making it easier for citizens and organizations to contribute to community growth and development including:

  1. OpenCounter: A tool to assist entrepreneurs and small businesses in launching a new enterprise through open source software that connects to the appropriate governmental office. The resource gathers and categorizes data on government regulations to help startups plan out initial costs and expectations. Users can leverage the tool to simplify the initial launch process while reducing costly errors or fines.
  2. Procure.io: A software resource aiming to make the government contract bidding process more transparent so smaller businesses have a better chance of winning a public client. Journalists can use the tool to track where government money is being spent, while small enterprises can discover potential business faster and submit a bid more easily – making the process more competitive.
  3. Plan In A Box: Technology to help governments and contractors create websites for new local planning projects. The websites can be updated regularly, ensuring the public has access to the latest information and can offer their input. An open-source web-publishing solution was created to incite civic engagement in planning projects while requiring minimal effort from the public sector.

The goal of the project was to create a tool that can be easily applied in daily government applications. The challenge emphasized the importance of simplicity of use and cost-efficiency in the short and long term.

“Governments need to make it a priority to explore emerging solutions while also researching the pain points for citizen interaction,” Bracken said. “Overall, they should make it a goal to lower the barriers of engagement with citizens and deploy the technology that best fits their needs.”

Tech Solutions On The Rise
EfficientGov has tracked similar technology adoptions governments are experimenting with to enhance communications with residents and improve the quality of life with mobile solutions.

About the author

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Barry Greenfield

Barry Greenfield is the founder of EfficientGov.com.