Wiki Government

Wiki Government: How Technology Can Make Government Better, Democracy Stronger, and Citizens More Powerful

Beth Simone Noveck
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Wiki Government
    Book Description:

    Collaborative democracy -government with the people -is a new vision of governance in the digital age.Wiki Governmentexplains how to translate the vision into reality. Beth Simone Noveck draws on her experience in creating Peer-to-Patent, the federal government's first social networking initiative, to show how technology can connect the expertise of the many to the power of the few. In the process, she reveals what it takes to innovate in government.

    Launched in 2007, Peer-to-Patent connects patent examiners to volunteer scientists and technologists via the web. These dedicated but overtaxed officials decide which of the million-plus patent applications currently in the pipeline to approve. Their decisions help determine which start-up pioneers a new industry and which disappears without a trace. Patent examiners have traditionally worked in secret, cut off from essential information and racing against the clock to rule on lengthy, technical claims. Peer-to-Patent broke this mold by creating online networks of self-selecting citizen experts and channeling their knowledge and enthusiasm into forms that patent examiners can easily use.

    Peer-to-Patent shows how policymakers can improve decisionmaking by harnessing networks to public institutions. By encouraging, coordinating, and structuring citizen participation, technology can make government both more open and more effective at solving today's complex social and economic problems.Wiki Governmentdescribes how this model can be applied in a wide variety of settings and offers a fundamental rethinking of effective governance and democratic legitimacy for the twenty-first century.

    eISBN: 978-0-8157-0346-4
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xvii-xxii)
  5. PART ONE Collaborative Democracy and the Changing Nature of Expertise

    • CHAPTER ONE Peer-to-Patent: A Modest Proposal
      (pp. 3-24)

      Patent law is the students’ least favorite part of the semester-long class, Introduction to Intellectual Property, that I teach at New York Law School. In this survey course they learn about trademarking brands and copyrighting songs. But they also suffer through five jargon-filled weeks on how inventors apply to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to secure a twenty-year grant of monopoly rights. Despite the fact that patents signal innovation to the financial markets and investors and drive economic growth in certain industries, many dread this segment of the course.¹ Patent applications are written in a special language;...

    • CHAPTER TWO The Single Point of Failure
      (pp. 25-44)

      The patent system is just one example of how government institutions create single points of failure by concentrating decisionmaking power in the hands of the few, whether legislators in Congress, cabinet officials in the executive branch, or bureaucrats in agencies. Administrative practices are constructed around the belief that government professionals know best how to translate broad legislative mandates into specific regulatory decisions in the public interest. Governance, the theory goes, is best entrusted to a bureaucracy operating at one remove from the pressure of electoral politics and the biased influence of the public at large.

      The rationale for this closed...

  6. PART TWO Peer-to-Patent and the Patent Challenge

    • CHAPTER THREE Patents and the Information Deficit
      (pp. 47-69)

      Jack Harvey has risen through the USPTO ranks to become the director of Technology Center (TC) 2100, one of eight clusters of officials deciding who gets a patent.¹ Born and raised in New York, Harvey loaded tractor-trailers by night to put himself through college (in pursuit of a degree in electrical engineering) before parlaying his technical expertise into a position as an examiner with the USPTO in Alexandria, Virginia. He has worked on applications relating to computer networking innovations, database storage solutions, novel computer programs, and devices like memory sticks and hard drives.

      Now, twenty years later, as head of...

    • CHAPTER FOUR Designing for Collaborative Democracy
      (pp. 70-104)

      Peer-to-Patent grounds the idea of collaborative democracy in a concrete strategy to remedy the problem of information deficit in the Patent Office. The challenges facing patent examiners described in the previous chapter cannot be fixed through legislative or judicial reform alone. Legislative proposals that would change the standards of patentability require extraordinary political capital. Judicial reform to raise the standards of review and ensure that low-quality patents are harder to enforce is slow and piecemeal and comes too late in the patent process to make a difference for the majority of patents that are never litigated and yet are used...

  7. PART THREE Thinking in Wiki

    • CHAPTER FIVE Social Life of Information
      (pp. 107-127)

      In chapter 4 I focus on how technology can be designed to reflect the work of a group back to itself and, in so doing, create an impetus toward successful collaboration. In this chapter, I continue to explore the role of information technology in fostering collaborative democracy by examining the ways in which groups can enrich the quality of information used for decisionmaking and problem solving. The technique of visual deliberation that exploits the screen to convey specific tasks and roles can also reduce the coordination costs for teams to source, evaluate, and use information (if the data are available,...

    • CHAPTER SIX History of Citizen Participation
      (pp. 128-145)

      While innovative in approach and design, Peer-to-Patent is hardly the first effort to involve citizens in government decisionmaking in the United States.¹ This chapter situates Peer-to-Patent in the history of citizen participation since the New Deal, a history that includes attempts to create greater openness and transparency about the workings of government as well as practices designed for citizen comment. It is not a comprehensive chronology of administrative law but rather a look at some of the approaches to soliciting information from sources outside government before and since the advent of the Internet. Of course, specific statutes and methods for...

    • CHAPTER SEVEN Citizen Participation in a Collaborative Democracy
      (pp. 146-169)

      Under the current legislative framework for participation even the availability of extraordinary technologies has not translated into a supply of strategies to improve consultation or collaboration. Drawing on the experience of the Peer-to-Patent project, in this chapter I sketch out what it might mean to reinvent consultation as collaborative governance in other arenas of policymaking. In so doing, the goal is to rescue the concept of participation from the assumption that it is unnecessary, time consuming, and ineffectual and, instead, to demonstrate that collaboration is essential for effective governance.

      After brainstorming some of the ways to adapt the Peer-to-Patent model...

    • CHAPTER EIGHT Lessons Learned
      (pp. 170-190)

      The financial crisis that began in 2008 highlighted the urgent need for effective strategies to address complex, unpredictable social problems. There is no better way to achieve effective governance of both public and private institutions today than through collaboration, not for its own sake, but to generate creative solutions to these kinds of challenges and to share the work of oversight and accountability.

      Driven by competitive pressure, the private sector has recognized faster than government that success turns on mobilization of resources independent of traditional institutional boundaries. Jefferson’s adage of two centuries ago captures this idea as applied to government:...

  8. Notes
    (pp. 191-218)
  9. Index
    (pp. 219-224)
  10. Back Matter
    (pp. 225-226)