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Chopra Chats ExpertNet, Civic Participation

Federal CTO Aneesh Chopra, Photo: omb.gov

Late last year, federal Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra proclaimed 2011 “the year of civic participation.”

Chopra made his comments at a forum marking the one-year anniversary of the Open Government Directive, where he also unveiled the latest civic engagement tool: ExpertNet, a government wiki, which aims to leverage citizen expertise in policymaking.

Now, in a White House blog post, Chopra and Associate Director of the Office of Management and Budget Shelley Metzenbaum provide a “use case” for the new civic-engagement platform.

First, policymakers will pose questions on a plethora of topics: “from creating new jobs to preventing homelessness among veterans or developing next-gen transportation systems,” Chopra and Metzenbaum write.

The second step is to make sure the questions reach the right people, those with “the greatest expertise or enthusiasm for a topic.”

To do this, the authors envision reaching out to online professional groups and communities, although, they are also open to other suggestions, such as RSS feeds.

The last step is showing that officials in the government’s storied halls of power are actually listening.

“We know that no system will work unless public officials participate actively and explain how the agency uses the public’s ideas,” the authors write.

How committed are Chopra and Metzenbaum to seeking out public expertise and actually hewing to it? Well, they even will consider changing the name, if someone has a better idea.

The key to understanding the project, they write, is that expertise, which the whole platform is built around, must be “understood broadly.”

“We aren’t just looking for participation from people with the highest professional qualifications,” they write. “We want to make sure that everyone who is interested and has something relevant and useful to share has an opportunity to participate.”

Check out the wiki space for ExpertNet now to join the discussion about how the program will take shape: http://expertnet.wikispaces.com/Getting+Started

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