March 14, 2014

LET THE SUN SHINE IN:

Can Silicon Valley Sic Schumpeterian Disruption On Bloated City Governments? (Bill Frezza, 3/14/14, Forbes)

A Silicon Valley startup named OpenGov.com is putting city finances online, along with a suite of analytic tools that make it easy for both city managers and any citizen to dig into the details of their city's finances, past and present. Since its launch in 2011, OpenGov.com has helped city governments as large as Los Angeles and as small as Rockport, Texas, (population 8,766) become more transparent to the citizens they serve and more easily manageable by the elected officials and civil servants who run them. What was once an opaque morass is now a publicly accessible resource.

The key to making this work is biting off just the right amount to chew. OpenGov.com doesn't attempt to replace the antediluvian accounting software most cities use to keep their books, nor does it implement real-time controls. Rather, it offers a subscription service that gives everyone access to historical spending and budget data from both their own and other cities, stored in the cloud, where it can be sliced, diced, displayed, and compared, enabling users to shine a light on best practices, uncover clever innovations, and root out incompetence and malfeasance.

One might think incumbent officials would be averse to such transparency, afraid of what the public might uncover. But OpenGov.com is finding just the opposite, as it runs to keep up with demand. In an interview with RealClear Radio Hour, OpenGov CEO Zac Bookman takes us inside the world of harried city managers struggling to find out what's going on inside their own bureaucracies and elected officials stymied by outdated accounting software and turf-protecting apparatchiks. In cities plagued by scandal--like Bell City, California, where much of the prior administration ended up in jail for looting the public treasury--newly elected officials have found OpenGov.com the prefect tool for both cleaning up the mess and winning back citizens' trust.
Posted by at March 14, 2014 1:43 PM
  
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