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Bringing Civic Engagement Into the 21st Century | Commentary

In Austin, Texas, integrating mobile technology for civic engagement has worked well. The community recently launched an effort called Speak Up Austin in which it created an online portal for users to share their thoughts on community issues and raise concerns. So far, Austin has more than 2,000 registered users on the site. More than 800 ideas have been generated from the community, and the city has received a whopping 5,280 votes and 1,055 comments on legislative issues. More than 50 of these publicly brainstormed ideas are in action, while 23 have been fully implemented.

Austin is a testament to the way online and mobile tools can battle civic apathy. With the rise of the Web and the increasing prevalence of mobile devices in American hands, government officials and congressional leaders no longer have any excuse to ignore the tools that can help them to easily fuel civic participation in the legislative process.

If government leaders really want citizens to feel their voices are being heard, it’s time to stop ignoring technological trends and bring civic engagement into the 21st century once and for all.

Tom Spengler is the CEO and co-founder of Granicus, an applications provider for government transparency, efficiency and citizen participation.

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