Citizenville: How to Take the Town Square Digital and Reinvent Government


Citizenvilleby Gavin Newsom
Penguin Press, 2013
249 pages with index, Hardcover $25.95
Ebook formats also available

In his book Citizenville, California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom posits that making data governments collect widely available can improve civic life and bolster citizen engagement.

Getting past bureaucratic impediments (or defensiveness) is a huge step in the process. Citizen advocacy recently succeeded in making sure California didn’t take a step backward by rescinding the Brown Act.

(Getting past corporate defensiveness is another challenge. One reason I chose this book was that Newsom, as Mayor of San Francisco, championed the municipality’s Cell Phone Right to Know legislation that was ultimately defeated by a wireless industry lawsuit.)

Newsom covers recent successes and failures in using the data local governments collect, concluding that “The future is sharing – open data, open participation, open source, open everything.”

While the anecdotes that introduce each chapter in the book are relevant, they made me think that ideas for using digital technology to improve citizen engagement should be presented in list form on a searchable network, not hidden as the eventual lessons of text narratives! FYI – most chapters deal with uses for data collected by local, municipal and state governments.

Newsom discussed his ideas with Patt Morrison earlier this year at the Los Angeles Public Library ALOUD series – link to the podcast archive here.

Another general take on using data to improve policy, just published on EByline: When Open Government and Big Data Collide.

This is the second Sunroom Desk summer book review for 2013. Next: Mistrial.