02/07/2013 06:26 pm ET Updated Apr 09, 2013

Take the Citizenville Challenge With California Lieutenant Governor Newsom and Code for America

Technology is changing the way citizens consume information, connect with each other, and live their personal and professional lives -- and it's also changing the way they expect to interact with their local government. There's a huge potential to use open data and digital tools to create a democracy where service delivery is streamlined and citizens are empowered to take an active role improving their community.

Facing pressure from budget cuts and growing constituent demands, local governments across the country are starting to embrace innovation as a core tenet of the way they work -- appointing Chief Innovation Officers, launching open data portals, and using smartphone apps to communicate with citizens. It's this kind of change that can make our vision of government that's of the people, by the people, and for the people of the 21st century a reality.

That's why California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom and Code for America are launching the Citizenville Challenge, calling local government leaders to commit to taking steps towards building this government for the 21st century -- and cities from Philadelphia to Austin, Texas to Fresno, Calif. have already stepped up.

As a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, then as mayor, and now lieutenant governor of California, Newsom has been advocating for government innovation since 1997. The Citizenville Challenge comes on the heels of the release of his first book, Citizenville, which tells the story of how technology and open data is reinventing the relationship between citizens and government. The challenge takes the ideas and best practices described in Citizenville a step further, and helps forward-thinking city leaders put them into action in cities nationwide.

"There is huge potential to use technology to transform the way government and citizens interact, communicate and solve problems. During my seven years as mayor of San Francisco, I learned firsthand how important it is to have local government committed to driving this change. We are challenging local leaders across the country to push the boundaries of innovation to advance government to work for the citizenry of the 21st century," said Newsom.

By signing on, city leaders choose to pursue activities such as implementing gov 2.0 policies like an open data initiative or a social media policy or launching citizen engagement apps like Adopta, Textizen, or the San Francisco Rec and Park app to empower residents to take an active role in improving their community.

Cities are proving to be the laboratories of democracy -- the hotbeds of innovation -- showing that change inside government is possible, ranging from Santa Cruz to Austin, from Honolulu to New York. We're thrilled that Austin, Texas; Fresno, Calif.; Oakland, Calif.; Philadelphia and San Francisco are joining the challenge -- and we encourage other cities to follow suit and take the challenge.

Here's what the Citizenville Challenge cities have to say so far:

Mayor Ed Lee of San Francisco: "Innovation drives solutions to long-standing social and civic challenges, while building a stronger economy, which is why we continue to support and promote innovation in both the civic and private sectors -- to create a better San Francisco."

President of the US Conference of Mayors and Mayor of Philadelphia Michael Nutter: "I encourage other mayors to take the Challenge and join with Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and Code for America to institutionalize entrepreneurial civic innovation by advancing more open, participatory, and transparent government in their cities and collaborate with the broad network of cities working in this space."

Mayor Jean Quan of Oakland, Calif.: "The Citizenville Challenge highlights the incredible work that cities like Oakland are doing to bring greater openness, efficiency and participation to local government."

Mayor Ashley Swearengin of Fresno, Calif.: "Fresno is proud to join cities from around the country in participating in the Citizenville Challenge. I encourage other mayors from California to Texas to Florida to join Code For America and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom to bring civic engagement apps, community events and Gov 2.0 policies to their cities."

This initiative is part of larger efforts to encourage cities and counties to integrate democratic government with cutting-edge American innovation -- a central theme of both Code for America and Lt. Gov Newsom's work.

Through Code for America's Peer Network, we connect local governments around the country to facilitate peer learning, collaborative problem-solving, and the spread of innovation best practices between cities. Code for America will be working with the city leaders who sign on to determine next steps and provide support for implementing the innovation initiatives that the city chooses to pursue.