Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Technology: Attend a state senate hearing in your pajamas

From The Austin American Statesman

"It's part of an online renewal of the governing process," said Tom "Smitty" Smith, Texas director of Public Citizen, a government watchdog group. "In a state the size of Texas, it gives people from Pampa to Poteet the chance to participate directly in government in ways they never had a chance to before."

At present, the Senate panel is working to "crowdsource" an upcoming hearing on payday lending to give a voice to more Texans affected by the high-interest, short-term loans.

Crowdsourcing is an open call issued online for help in performing tasks — preparing legislation or compiling research, in this case — in the hope of getting a group of people or "crowd" to carry out the task.
Several times in recent months, the Senate panel and the Joint Committee on Oversight of Higher Education Governance, Excellence and Transparency have used Twitter, live blogs and other online tools to try to broaden citizen involvement.

"I absolutely love it," said state Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, chairwoman of the Senate Higher Education Committee and a co-chair of the joint committee. "We don't make as many copies as we used to, and that saves money, because it's all online in real time. People can participate from any point in the state without coming to Austin, and it's much easier for them to be involved."

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