'My Ontario' Mobile App - Government as a Game

Created on November 23, 2016 by Windsor_360.  4 comments

I want Ontario to spend over $250,000 to fund a digital service about Distributed issue-based problem-solving on the local level in order to make government services faster and easier to use.

Mobile app to gamify government and public interactions

This idea was selected for voting but was not one of the top 3 projects.

This idea received 624 votes.

What is your project idea? 

'My Ontario' mobile app would harvest suggestions, problems, ideas, and solutions at the local level and funnel them to the appropriate regional or provincial ministry or office. It would create of paradigm shift of citizens creating actionable content and interacting with government as an engaging form of real-time entertainment, rather than a source of frustration.

'Players' are any citizens of Ontario old enough to use a smartphone or mobile device. The App would be available for download through either the Apple or Android platforms. The App would apply 'gamification' concepts to citizen-government interaction, and provide a point system and award system for levels of participation. Here's a brief scenario with a fictional player, Jenny, who is 12 years old:

Jenny received an iPhone for a present. She installs 'My Ontario' from the Apple iTunes store. The App detects her location automatically, and she creates a 'player' profile. Jenny's school bus always hits a giant pot-hole near her house, so she chooses the 'Please Fix' icon. She then can choose many different options, but she chooses 'Roads & Bridges'. The App allows Jenny to take a picture and describe the problem. She takes a picture, and the App captures the GPS coordinates of the picture, and she describes the problem. Jenny receives 10 points for reporting a road problem, and will receive another 90 points if it's deemed to be serious enough for road-workers to fix it. Other 'My Ontario' players near her location will be able to Up-vote (like) or Down-vote (dislike) her suggestion if it's legitimate or not.

The App knows where Jenny lives, so the 'report' is sent to the appropriate ministry or city office that deals with those concerns.

Success is automatically built-in to the structure of the game, and on how much players participate. If reported problems don't get fixed within a reasonable time-frame, an option to share it via Twitter or Facebook, notifying others that the officials responsible may need a gentle reminder.

Cost for 'game development' for 2 full-time coders would be about $120,000 and 'gamification consultant' would be about $80,000. The back-end and database would be integrated into Ontario.ca, which could provide real-time results of players, leaders, and a heat-map of which cities are participating most.

How will this idea provide a solution? 

The problem with the 'dinosaur' version of government, is that it has always been an unfriendly, bureaucratic beast to slay if anyone wanted something done, or for suggestions to be made.

The solution, is for government to facilitate 'My Ontario' and its citizens as a crowd-sourced wealth of knowledge, with eyes, ears, mouths, and technology that can reach across any piece of Ontario with the click of a button. This technology is readily available, the cost is minimal, and the benefits are too numerous to even fathom at this point.

The outcome would be an engaged citizenry that actually enjoys government, because they would have a direct hand in building it and making it better. 'My Ontario' wouldn't just give a voice to the average citizen, it would create a permanent platform for individuals to interface with government in an entirely new way. A way that removes the brick-wall bureaucracies of yesteryear, and ushers in a new era of digital democracy facilitated by mobile computing. It would put Canada on the map of Who's Who in utilizing technology to benefit government, and ultimately, people.

'My Ontario' would make people's lives easier by creating a direct link between the phone or tablet in their hand, with the individuals that run cities and government. It's a tangible form of direct democracy available 24/7 and 365 days a year, that could be built in less than a year, and transform not only Ontario, but Canada, forever.

Is there anything else we should consider? 

* Consider creating a small budget for 2 or 3 individuals to continually improve the versions of this App. This way, bugs and other problems can be handled in a timely manner.

* Ideas for all areas of government could be gamified, such as taxes, projects, housing, streets, lakes, fishing, hunting, energy, fuel, consumer protection, tenancy, art, holidays, quality of life, water, medicine, health care, etc...

* Use AGILE methodology. DO NOT create a bloated team with rigid hierarchies to create this App. Use mostly young people who can re-think the relationship between citizen and government without being restrained by brick-and-mortar and bureaucracy.

* Make it fun. Look at Apps like Waze, that have gamified maps, or Pokemon Go. These apps have transformed the relationship between individuals as passive consumers to active content creators in the digital space.

* Canadians of all ages is an untapped wealth of knowledge and content, that Ontario could never afford to hire. We are willing to give our time and dedication to an App like this, because people have always wanted to have a say in building our province.

* Let the genie out of the bottle.

Project ID: 2478

Mobile app to gamify government and public interactions

This idea was selected for voting but was not one of the top 3 projects.

This idea received 624 votes.


2 agreed
1 had questions

What do you think?

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 I agree with this Posted on November 23, 2016 by Jason

Cool idea.

 I agree with this Posted on November 23, 2016 by gram

Great idea. How would government close the loop with citizens to let them know their participation is leading to action?

Posted on November 23, 2016 by Windsor_360

That's a good question! I had to think about that for a few hours before it became clear to me.

The problem that you've stated, is how does a 'bottom-up' Government 2.0 model ensure that 'top-down' Government 1.0 framework will take it seriously and take action based on citizen suggestions, solutions, etc...? Let me take this step-by-step, and try to isolate the main issue.

I don't think that adoption of technology is the issue. Almost 90% of Ontarians own cell phones, and nearly 68% of the province owns smartphones as of 2015, which have the ability to download apps. As we head into 2017, I think it's safe to assume that well over 70% of Ontarians will have a smartphone capable of downloading apps. (http://catalyst.ca/2015-canadian-smartphone-market/)

So, what makes apps like Facebook and Twitter so magical? On the usability side, a user just signs up, adds some profile information, and types words in a box on a screen and shares pictures with friends. Usability is super-simple for both of those platforms, so where does the 'magic' happen? The magic happens with how the data is manipulated, transferred, and applied to new domains behind the computer screen. Much the same way with 'My Ontario' app, I believe strongly that an emergent behavior will arise if it is kept as a 'bottom-up' app, and if relevant data is easy to consume. Pictures, graphs, infographics, etc...

This is to say, specifically, that introducing a top-down, Gov 1.0 approach of, "you must take action on what these citizens are saying" would miss the whole idea of the emergent properties of platforms like FB & Twitter. Many people already cringe at the very sound of the word 'government,' and there may be instant resistance to using any platform that has a dictated 'top-down' action-loop of any kind. In the same way, that's why iTunes and Android app markets work so well. Take Google Maps, for instance. You're under no compulsion to listen to user feedback or 'star ratings' on services that others have already purchased. With enough feedback, though, something special happens, and we see patterns emerge between good businesses and bad businesses. People have risked real money on going to a bad service, and I will almost always go to the business that has a better online review. Would you take your car to a mechanic that had 2/5 stars, or 4.5/5 stars? As thousands of Ontarians start to use this Gov 2.0 approach, without a doubt, these same emergent patterns will start to appear across all sectors and ministries of government. Something really cool starts to happen when people have fun, and it's called 'learning by accident.' This learning by accident is the reason why there's no going back to a pre-internet civilization. Imagine the government trying to tell its population to revert back to reading paper newspapers? Not gonna happen.

That being said, it then becomes even more important for the developers to make user-created content even more accessible for people responsible in government, cities, and towns. In order for Gov 2.0 to really succeed, it has to be easy to create content, and just as important, that content has to be easy to access for those working in the appropriate ministries. To be sure, 'My Ontario' will need time to grow, make mistakes, and take new paths just like every other digital service.

Here are some ideas that may provide a solution:

1. Key VERIFIED people in the 33 applicable Ministries, Secretariats, and Offices could be given "official status" and simply and a green check-mark to any work done. This work could be easily verified by 'players' of the app, as well. Essentially, anyone with an ****@ontario.ca email would be given "official" recognition, and their "official" status could be certified only through this email 2 or 3 times per year.

2. Crowd-pile verification. If a ministry forgets to officially mark something as 'done,' it would most likely be just as easy to "verify with numbers".

3. Task Forces. High-level participants with many contributions could be teamed together to look into long-standing issues, effectively becoming an Ontario Task Force. We're not talking about thugs with sticks or anything, of course....lol, just people with phones that can make some phone calls to MPs or other relevant ministry officials to see if there's an ETA or a time-line that can be added to the 'My Ontario' database. There would be zero-tolerance for any 'My Ontario' players that become abusive in any way.

4. Commits. Better-known to the software community, this principle could be easily applied to 'My Ontario' as well. To receive a whole wack of points, a player could "Commit" to finding an answer to an issue that is important to them, and if they're able to provide one to the community...much glory and prizes would flow. (Well, probably just points and a badge)

5. Trust. Something that has been lost in government. Let's press the reset button & work together!

 I have questions Posted on November 30, 2016 by OliviaDorey

Hi there Windsor_360,

Have you ever thought of building this outside government? I`d love to chat more about this idea - would you reach out at olivianicoledorey[at]gmail[dot]com?

Warm regards,