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GSA Calls on Experts for New Civic Engagement Platform

Federal CTO Aneesh Chopra, Photo: ostp.gov

The General Services Administration is ramping up a new project that will allow government policymakers to engage with the public.

But it’s not your typical crowd-sourcing effort.

The new effort, which GSA is seeking public comment on, is called ExpertNet, and it aims to foster collaboration between federal agencies and private citizens with expertise in a particular area.

But before this narrow-cast civic engagement program gets off the ground, GSA first needs some expert help in designing the program, too.

Federal Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra and Office of Management and Budget official Shelley Metzenbaum made their pitch for the program and announced their open call for experts on the White House blog earlier this week.

The program’s public-comment rollout comes the same week as the one-year anniversary of the Open Government Directive. On a webcast marking the event, Chopra said the ExpertNet program exemplified open government goals, especially for the future.

“2011,” he said then, “will be the year of civic engagement.”

ExpertNet will take advantage of the latest technology and also provide expert citizens with a “mechanism to provide useful, relevant, and manageable feedback to government officials.”

Officials will accept comments on the direction and scope of the new program until Jan. 7. But, you don’t have to write the agencies, or even email them to let your voice be heard.

Instead, in addition to those more traditional media, GSA is hosting online forums and a wiki space for people to upload their thoughts directly.

GSA’s use of a wiki, where users can upload and edit content freely, “will pioneer a new model for citizen consultation,” Metzenbaum and Chopra wrote in the blog posting. “We are eager to see if this kind of technology helps us receive meaningful, manageable feedback in response to a written policy proposal like the draft concept for ExpertNet,” he added.

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