myGov365 offers a new service to engage the public in the political process. Similar to the Sunlight Foundation’s OpenCongress.org, 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.
I 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.