local government & online civil society


in Civics Classes Mirrors Decline in Youth Vote": this is a pretty

good article on youth civic engagement in yesterday’s Boston Globe.

I gave a paper today at the American

Society for Public Administration‘s Annual Conference, arguing that

local governments should support independent voluntary associations

in producing elaborate websites with databases, interactive maps,

searchable archives, researched and edited articles, structured deliberation

forums, and streaming videos. I believe that local governments can and

should help in some of these ways:

  • Providing modest grants and technical assistance. Even a total pool

    of grant money on the order of $100,000 in a county of (say) one million

    people would catalyze a lot of good work

  • Publicizing the availability of relevant information that can be put

    online in enhanced and creative forms—information such as GIS mapping

    data, historical records, and photographs.

  • Regulating local Internet service providers (ISP’s), especially cable

    companies, to ensure that they do not provide services that discriminate

    against nonprofits or against people who want to create their own websites.

    If an ISP were to block you from visiting a particular site, you would

    switch carriers (as long as there was a choice). But ISPs can discriminate

    more subtly by speeding up content from certain favored commercial sites

    and slowing down other sites, by making certain portals and search engines

    the defaults for their users, by making it artificially slow to transmit

    data, etc.

  • Creating state-of-the-art local information networks (especially wireless

    ones) that provide cheap access and do not discriminate on the basis

    of the type of content transmitted.