MyGov365 puts the public in the political process

by Chuck Reynolds on January 12, 2010

in Profiles

mygov365logomyGov365 offers a new service to engage the public in the political process. Similar to the Sunlight Foundation’s, myGov365 allows users to support different politicians, bills, causes, etc. OpenCongress only gets as local as congressional districts, myGov365 takes the concept further by connecting at the “hyper-local” level such as city councils. This isn’t just a copy-cat idea, the best part of myGov365 is that it allows and encourages local politicians to interact within the network.

Screen shotI recently was invited to join go the private beta and have had an opportunity to use the product. This is a perfect time for a product like myGov365 to launch – political participation was at an all-time high during the last presidential election and now with hot button issues such as the stimulus, health care reform and (for Pittsburgh) library closures and the tuition tax people are more interested than ever to know about the issues.

Pittsburgh City Councilman Bill Peduto spoke with me about his involvement and goals with working with myGov365. He became involved early on in the project and worked diligently for almost a year to clear the obstacles for myGov365. The trick was to allow for one-way communication and not put a burden on the City Clerks office. This is great news. Because of Peduto’s experience in working with open government initiatives and foresight this access is available free of charge to any group or individual interested.

Peduto goes on about myGov365′s goal to move beyond just government and into the community. He mentions that the beta will soon grow to include some “technically and social media savvy” non-profit organizations from the East End.

The goal of myGov365 is to give politicians and community groups an easy to use platform to engage with their constituents. I believe this is a great goal, but a lofty one. Politicians have numerous opportunities to interact and with their constituents via Twitter and Facebook – what compelling reason do politicians and constituents have to go to another network? Peduto belives that this is going to be the “Facebook or Twitter for Governments.” He may be right, but to get people to move between Facebook and myGov365 may pose a challenge.

Given that myGov365 is still in it’s infancy I think they have a chance to answer that question. Right now, they are working to refine their product. Despite some hiccups with the beta invites, myGov365 is a solid beta. Unfortunately the webpages look like a beta, right now it isn’t very polished (especially given the focus on design and usability in so many of today’s startups) and it takes some guessing to determine how to get information (like to find out what H.R. 3975 is, I have to click on the title and dig through the information there.)

Like most networks, you can comment on things (bills, etc), join or create groups and contact other members of the network. For the politically active this is a great tool to find like-minded individuals and discuss the topics. For the curious it’s great to see what representatives are promoting and discussing.

Overall I think it’s a solid product headed in the right direction for local politics and non-profits. But, I’m still going to use OpenCongress as my go-to reference for national issues because of the larger community and easier to navigate UI.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jay Resio January 17, 2010 at 10:12 am

Thank you for your participation in MyGov365’s Beta and for your coverage of MyGov365 in the Startup Profile.

We have much to do, so we appreciate all the feedback we’re getting from our Beta users. Your input will help us make the site more useful to everyone as we move forward with rolling out new features and refining the user interface.

Our goal is to create a platform that opens up the political and civic process to all Citizens so that they have a one-stop place to go for information on the policies and decisions that affect them on the local, state and federal level; and to create a forum where Citizens and officials in every level of government can interact to improve the political process.

We too feel that the time is right for MyGov365; people feel that their officials are out of touch, and elected officials are looking to technology to help them better connect with their constituents. MyGov365 proposes to meet these needs with a platform that integrates information and interaction, resulting in informed discussion of the issues and valuable feedback from real citizens to their elected officials.

We look forward to your continued participation with the Beta and your coverage of MyGov365 going forward; and we believe that as our UI evolves and new features become available you will find increasing value in the platform as a connection between Citizens and all levels of government.

I encourage anyone that is interested in participating in our Beta to contact us and request and invite code. Thanks

2 Chuck Reynolds January 20, 2010 at 8:19 am

Thanks for the comment, Jay. Are you guys opening up the Beta anytime soon?

3 Sue Kerr January 20, 2010 at 8:34 am

As to the allure away from Facebook, I think the clean line will be appealing. I mean that on Facebook, we get glimpses into the personal lives of our elected officials but this seems to allow for a greater focused look at government. From my vantage, this is another tool in the array of social media that can engage voters. I can think of several of my Facebook friends who would follow links to information available here because they have real interest.

I recently blogged about the usage of social media by local and statewide elected officials in Pgh and Pennsylvania. City Councilman Bill Peduto is certainly at the forefront of those using these tools to connect with the citizenry, but Twitter is somewhat hot right now. Still, there’s only so much you can do with 140 characters.

Thanks for a new opportunity.

4 Chuck Reynolds January 20, 2010 at 9:44 am

@Sue – Great points, I agree with you that there are definitive differences between Facebook and MyGov365. The fact that people self select to be part of MyGov365 should be an indication people will participate more (and more civility?). My point really was about having to check two different places, could this market be served by an app on top of Facebook? Could this same need be filled by a creative use of Facebook by politicians? I don’t know. I don’t think many politicians have really embraced Facebook opting for more open forums (Twitter) or creating their own network (again with the self-select people are apt participate more). Overall as a Pittsburgh Startup, MyGov365 is offering an innovative solution that hopefully will open up soon.

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