eGovernment from the Private Sector


I've written before about how sometimes eGovernment happens because of someone in the private sector decides that they'll do what they government doesn't seem to be able to accomplish. One example I noted was the Deseret News putting up an eGovernment site on gasoline pump inspections using data from Utah's Dept of Agriculture. Dan Gillmor, in his Sunday column digs into what is perhaps the most spectacular example of this phenomenon: Earth911.org:

Every Monday morning, volunteers from the Surfrider Foundation, an environmental group, collect water samples from San Mateo County's beaches and send them to a laboratory for testing. By Wednesday, Carolann Towe, a part-time county employee and foundation volunteer, has the results.

Towe then logs into a Web site called Earth 911 (www.earth911.com), where she updates the county's beach information, noting when bacteria counts have risen above or fallen below levels considered risky to swimmers and surfers. It takes her five or 10 minutes a week, she says.

What's the result of this effort? County residents or visitors can check the site and, using an interactive map and other tools, quickly check the status of the beaches.

Across the United States, government workers and volunteers are feeding all kinds of environment-related information into Earth 911, an environmental clearinghouse of unparalleled scope and value, serving both governments and communities.
From Mercury News: Bay Area news, technology, jobs, cars & real estate
Referenced Mon Apr 19 2004 08:13:55 GMT-0600

I first met Chris Warner, the driving force behind Earth911 when I was CIO of Utah. Chris has an extraordinary vision for how ordinary citizens can play a role in the governance of our cities, counties, states, and country. His vision empowers citizens to create the kind of data that only government could previously aggregate. Moreover, he empowers government workers by giving them the IT tools they need to inform the public. A surprising number of government workers provide data to Chris' projects because they care about their jobs and Chris' systems are the best way for them to accomplish their goals.

One of the reasons I believe strongly in eGovernment is because of the ability it has to create transparency in government where that hasn't previously been possible. I have faith that when the public has the right data, the right things will happen. We often worry about what the government keeps secret, but there's a lot more data that isn't secret, but is effectively unknowable. eGovernment changes that. Chris Warner and Earth911 are a great example of how we don't have to wait for the government to give us eGovernment.