Sometimes the fact that our society has come to expect the ability to give instant feedback and share ideas comes into sharp focus. Blame it on Amazon.com and its instant feedback mechanism, which has since become ubiquitous across the Internet.
The Big Idea
Case in point is an idea I have for the United States Postal Service that I have nowhere to send.
As I have prepared for my move to Houston, in addition to being buried in boxes I have also started to ponder how I will set up my business in the new location.
One of the ideas I had was to get a PO Box for snail mail. But I would love it if they would allow you to forward mail sent to a PO Box to a regular street address rather than having to bother with having to go visit a box in some building to get your mail. In other words, a virtual address.
Why doesn't the Post Office offer such a service?
They already forward mail on a temporary basis, so it wouldn't be hard to set up, and it would be a real money maker too.
E-Government Around the World
So with this thought fresh in my mind, I was listening to a segment on Talk of the Nation today about e-government in the U.S., and the lack thereof:
Talk of the Nation, April 14, 2008 · This week, millions of Americans will check their math and their Internet connections and file their taxes online. Are the Feds doing everything they can to provide e-government tools? In a recent op-ed on Politico.com, Andrew Rasiej and Micah Sifry make the case for why Americans should demand more from government Web sites.
I really loved the quip that the only e-government sites that seem to work are those that are set up to take our money.
Andrew Raisiej and Michah Sifrey's op-ed is worth the read, if only to find out these facts about e-government around the world:
- Estonia has an official Web site called “Today I Decide,” launched by the government press office. It allows citizens to comment on draft laws and submit their own ideas for new ones. If a majority of online voters support a draft bill, it is forwarded to the relevant government department for review. It reminds me of Dell's IdeaStorm, but for government.
- Similarly, New Zealand's government launched a wiki to solicit citizen input on the wording of a new national Policing Act before it was formally introduced in parliament.
- In France, the Parliament Law Commission recently launched a website seeking the public’s help in simplifying laws to make them more readable and understandable.
- In England, anyone can submit an e-petition directly on the 10 Downing Street website, and the most popular ones are featured on the site’s home page.
If the USPS had something like this I would use it in an instant. And other US government sites could really benefit from this crowdsourcing of ideas.
What ideas do you have for making government more responsive?