01/29/2014 by Cheryl Getuiza

Californians grade the state with new report card app


(photo courtesy of the California Report Card)

“Public opinion in this country is everything.”

Those words were uttered by America’s 16th president, Abraham Lincoln. He’s right. Everyone’s got an opinion and that opinion matters – at least it should – to those we elect into office.

Are you ready to take that opinion to those in California’s legislature? All you need is your smartphone, tablet or computer. It’s time to grade the state on some timely issues with The California Report Card.

“Technology is our present and future,” said Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom. “The California Report Card explores how technology can enhance communication between the public and government leaders.”

A team from the CITRIS Data and Democracy Initiative at UC Berkeley and staff from Lt. Governor Newsom’s office created the first ever report card as a pilot project.

The idea came after folks from CITRIS talked to representatives from World Bank discussing their version of a citizen report card.

“The idea was developed in India and mostly used overseas to have folks connect with their government,” said Professor Ken Goldberg, Faculty Director, CITRIS Data and Democracy Initiative at UC Berkeley. “It was always done with a pencil and a paper, traditional methods. They were very participatory and they allowed people to not only rate their governments but participate in what questions should be asked.”

The California Report Card works on all screens and anyone can participate by assigning grades to the State’s issues including healthcare, education and immigrant rights.

“And you immediately get feedback. You see what the median grades are from the state of California so far and how other people are grading, as there’s a map showing how regions are voting. We really believe that it means more when you participate and see immediate results,” said Goldberg.

“Also, after you’re done grading you’re encouraged to join this café where you suggest issues for the next version of the report card.”

One of the neat things about the report card is the information is constantly updated, so you get grades and data in real time. You don’t have to wait days or months for results.

“Our biggest goal is to engage the residents of California with their government, to connect them, so they can start getting engaged with issues and then to explore how technology can play a role in that because now people are using mobile devices more than ever. They want to be able to do this wherever they are, on the fly,” said Goldberg.

But will their opinions count? 

“The government is going to be listening. Lt. Gov. Newsom has pledged to monitor this data, watch what’s going on, and listen to what people are saying,” said Goldberg

“We’re hoping this data, real time data, posted every day, will be taken to our legislators to show them how the people feel regarding the issues they feel good about, where are the issues they feel the state needs improvement and very importantly, what are the new issues that the public feels should be addressed,” said Goldberg.

Goldberg and his team, along with Lt. Governor Newsom, will share the data and break it all down during an event on March 20 at UC Berkeley.

The California Report Card is not the answer to the challenge of engaging people and connecting them with their government, but it’s a step in the right direction.

Categories: Californians, Accountability

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