Todd O’Boyle: Digital Tools and Digital Democracy – US Cities and Civil Society in 2017 #keynote

Todd O’Boyle was one of our keynote-speaker at the CeDEM17 at the Danube University Krems in May 2017. We summarized and reflected his keynote.

Digital Tools and Digital Democracy – US Cities and Civil Society in 2017

Todd O’Boyle talked about examples of how innovation in citizen engagement could be fostered by a philanthropic partnership, referring to the case of the Next Generation Engagement Awards.

Todd O’Boyle from Next Century Cities, a non-profit association of local governments, focuses amongst others on the digital rights discussion. Today, he will shed light on local level innovation from an NGO perspective.

What is meant by “Engaged dejection”?

The fact, that citizenry is more engaged than ever online, but at the same time, public trust remains rather low, is referred to as the paradox of engaged dejection.

Competition for innovations in citizen engagement

A competition targeted to award prizes for innovative digital citizen engagement. 19 submissions followed the call for innovative out-of-the-box thinking on electronic citizen engagement, including novel approaches on communication as f.i. visualizations (“InVision Raleigh”). In this case, collaborative urban planning was aimed at. Members of the public could on the one hand give feedback on proposals, and on the other hand make different suggestions. Another example was developed in Austin, Texas. There, a digital ambassador was implemented for low-income residents to be better connected with public transit. Low-income residents were offered a training of how to access e-government services in general and they were introduced to finding different options of public transit. Due to sponsoring, in line with “Smart Work, Learn, Play”, the digital ambassador will be extended. To give another example, Louisville, Kentucky, pursued the objective of the development of a cross-cutting curriculum to also include those who never go online.

What are the lessons learned?

There is a major opportunity for foundations and philanthropies to support local governments and to broadcast promising ideas. The Benton Next Generation Engagement Awards formed a new model for rewarding innovative digital civic engagement, which potentially enables the citizens to have a greater say. Through corporate sponsorship, helpful innovation can be funded.

After the keynote, it was discussed that the interaction with other community members can have a more engaging effect than just the supply of technology can have.

Todd O’Boyle (Next Century Cities, US) on “Digital Tools and Digital Democracy: US Cities and Civil Society in 2017”
Todd O’Boyle serves as Deputy Director of Next Century Cities, where he is overseeing the launch of the new Next Generation Engagement Awards to promote innovative citizen engagement and digital inclusion strategies in gigabit cities. He also works to shape strategy and organizational direction and policy priorities.
Prior to joining Next Century Cities, former Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Copps picked Todd to launch his Media and Democracy Reform Initiative at Common Cause, a non-partisan good government organization. In that capacity, Todd directed public interest communications policy campaigns, including successful efforts to guarantee the Open Internet (network neutrality); protect and promote competition; and stop Comcast’s bid to acquire rival Time Warner Cable. Regularly quoted in the national, local, and specialized media, as Program Director, he also managed legislative and regulatory outreach, grassroots engagement, and development relations.
Todd has experience in the academic and political worlds, having taught communications policy and worked in grassroots campaigns for nearly a decade. He has a Ph.D. in Public Policy from the University of Delaware.


CeDEM Keynotes-Review CeDEM17

  1. Prof. Dr. Ines Mergel — Digital Transformation: The case of government start-ups
  2. Todd O‘Boyle — Digital Tools and Digital Democracy: US Cities and Civil Society in 2017
  3. Keren Flavell — Reinvigorating the Role of Media to Educate and Engage Citizens
  4. Dave Karpf — The Promises and Pitfalls of Digital Listening: Analytic Activism in 2017 and Beyond

Download: Review CeDEM17 PDF
CeDEM17 Review PDF (Download)


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