Ed Blayney is an Innovation Project Manager in the Office of Performance Improvement and Innovation for Louisville Metro Government (KY).
Crowdsourcing is an effective tool for governments to use to understand their community in new ways. In Louisville, we have embraced the philosophy of open government, as evidenced by our Citizen’s Bill of Rights, and we think that crowdsourcing is a logical extension of our open government work. Under Mayor Greg Fischer's leadership, we have worked hard to understand our community's challenges and create solutions to those challenges with measurable, targeted outcomes in partnership with our residents. We believe that crowdsourcing information from our citizens allows us to better understand our problems and help us create more impactful solutions for our community.
Crowdsourcing is also a great way for citizens to connect with their government in today's hyperconnected world. It has forced us to change the way we, as government, do business with our citizens. It has also changed the way our citizens can contribute to their community. Through crowdsourcing, citizens can now passively or directly provide opinions and data to us on their own terms. By sharing data and direct feedback with the government, our citizens help us understand our community in new ways.
In Louisville, we have three civic tech projects that showcase the full spectrum of civic crowdsourcing, from passively sharing aggregated data from smartphone applications to actively calling a toll-free number to provide direct feedback on a project.
Below, I give a brief description of each, and what we have accomplished or hope to accomplish with the project.
Waze Connected Citizens Program Partnership
Waze is a free smartphone application that leverages crowdsourced data to route drivers around congestion. They aim to save the average user five minutes per day on their commute. The Waze application relies on regularly-updated information to get users to their destinations as quickly and safely as possible. Because they rely on accurate and timely data, they created the Connected Citizens Program, which works with local governments from around the world to collect (or even help create) data feeds including planned road closures, locations of parking lots, and speed limits on roads.
Louisville joined the program in 2015. In return for the data about our roads, Waze shares anonymous, aggregated crowdsourced traffic data from the Louisville area with us at no cost. This traffic data comes in a form much different than traditional traffic data, but still gives us a new understanding of traffic in our community. We are learning how to use this data to identify traffic congestion hotspots in our community and to improve travel for drivers. We believe using this crowdsourced data will allow us to make significant improvements in traffic congestion.
SpeedUpLouisville.com collects and shares crowdsourced data about local internet service speeds, rates, and service quality in our community – information that was not previously available. The website helps citizens, businesses and policymakers better understand where Louisville residents can access high-quality Internet service, and where there are gaps in service.
Once residents input information about their internet service, an interactive map displays the data and makes it available for free download, with the goals of increasing transparency about Internet service quality in Louisville and continuing the conversation around fiber in our community.
“The more residents share their Internet speeds, the easier it will be for Louisville to attract competition into underserved parts of our community, and the more obvious it will be where residents are not getting the advertised service levels,” said Ted Smith, the Metro’s former Chief of Civic Innovation.
CityVoice was originally developed by Code for America (CfA) to collect feedback from residents about vacant properties in South Bend, Indiana. It is a place-based survey tool that gives residents a phone number to call to answer a short series of questions about a given property. The application logs the responses and then shares them with the appropriate staff.
This year, the Civic Data Alliance, our local CfA brigade, modified the CityVoice application from the CfA GitHub to help us collect resident feedback about pedestrian safety coinciding with a revamp of a key corridor in our community, Dixie Highway. Through our deployment of CityVoice, we hope that we will be able to collect feedback from residents who might not be able to make it to a community meeting about the project. We will also be getting direct citizen feedback while they are physically in and experiencing the traffic corridor about which we want feedback. Through this more resident-friendly approach to community engagement, we hope to significantly increase the number of residents engaged in this project by meeting them where they are, rather than relying on them to come to us.
As we continue on this open government journey in Louisville, we hope that our citizens will continue to crowdsource data and feedback that can help us get a better picture of our community. Based on our early successes, we believe that crowdsourcing in government is just getting started. It will only become more important and prevalent as our world becomes even more connected.