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How to Take the Town Square Digital and Reinvent Government

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Citizenville offers both an impassioned plea for more tech-enabled government and a tour d'horizon of the ways some governments have begun using technology to good effect… a fast-paced and engaging read” --San Francisco Chronicle

A rallying cry for revolutionizing democracy in the digital age, Citizenville reveals how ordinary Americans can reshape their government for the better. Gavin Newsom, the lieutenant governor of California, argues that today’s government is stuck in the last century while—in both the private sector and our personal lives—absolutely everything else has changed. The explosion of social media, the evolution of Internet commerce, the ubiquity of smart phones that can access all the world’s information; in the face of these extraordinary advances, our government appears increasingly irrelevant and out of touch.

Drawing on wide-ranging interviews with thinkers and politicians, Newsom’s Citizenville shows how Americans can transform their government, taking matters into their own hands to dissolve political gridlock even as they produce tangible changes in the real world. When local Web designers wanted to prevent muggings in Chicago and Oakland, they created innovative crime-mapping tools using public police data. When congressional representatives wanted citizens’ input on new legislation, they used interactive blogging tools to invite public comments and changes. When a town in Texas needed to drum up civic engagement, officials invented a local digital “currency” to reward citizens for participating in government—making small-town politics suddenly as fun and addictive as online games such as Farmville. Surveying the countless small advances made by ordinary Americans in reinventing government for the twenty-first century, Newsom unveils a path for American prosperity and democratic vitality.

Newsom explains how twenty-first-century problems are too big and too expensive for the government simply to buy solutions; instead, Americans must innovate their way out. Just as the post office and the highway system provide public infrastructure to channel both personal and private enterprise—a platform upon which citizens can grow—so too could a modern digital government house the needs, concerns, information, and collaboration of an enlightened digital citizenry.

A vision for better government that truly achieves the ancient goal of commonwealth and a triumphant call for individuals to reinvigorate the country with their own two hands, Citizenville is a timely road map for restoring American prosperity and for reinventing citizenship in today’s networked age.

Publishers Weekly Review

Dec 24, 2012 – Souped-up information technology will set us free, declares this breathless, shallow manifesto. Newsom, the lieutenant governor of California and ex-mayor of San Francisco, heralds the new regime of cloud computing, which makes all public information instantly accessible and, he argues, utterly transforms how governments do business. The specifics he mentions feel small-bore and superficial: city IT departments, he notes, could be outsourced; government databases from Veterans Administration health records to city crime stats can be made downloadable; a New York City phone app guides users to the nearest location where they can get free condoms; and why not have citizens post Yelp-style online reviews of government services? Citing gabby cyberutopian visionaries from Bill Clinton to Mark Zuckerberg, Newsom styles all this as the overthrow of the “top-down, bureaucratic, hierarchical government that’s choking our democracy,” one that empowers citizens to “‘solve their own problems and meet their own needs’” in the manner of open-source programmers and righteous hacktivists. Unfortunately, as with his proposal for a “Citizenville” online game in which people win points for spending their own money on municipal repair projects, his rhetoric amounts to a glitzy but dispiriting brief for the abdication of government responsibilities in an era of budget austerity.

Customer Reviews

Eye opening analysis that keeps the pages turning

Why isn't the public more engaged in government? How should leaders connect with the generations' leading our innovation economy?

These are some of the tough questions that Newsom and this collection of thought leaders unravel brilliantly. A must read for anyone with an interest in politics and/or technology.


I read Citizenville this weekend and only wish I had these concepts available during my twelve year battle with bureaucracy at the California Infrastructure and Economic Development Bank. Had these concepts been known to me during that time, I am confident that much greater progress would have been made by the I-Bank, especially in breaking the bonds of the out of date government systems that so hindered our progress. I am committed to this campaign to bring government into the twenty first century, bringing all the advantages of well used participatory technology to our democracy.

Stan Hazelroth
Executive Diirector


Wonderful read I am looking forward to interactive life and the changes coming in the present and future

View In iTunes
  • $9.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Politics & Current Events
  • Published: Feb 07, 2013
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Seller: Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
  • Print Length: 272 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

Customer Ratings