Digital Town Squares: Modernize Shasta County Local Government


We are living in an age where technology is spilling out of our pockets, backpacks, cars, classrooms, and board rooms. Everyone has a smart device, and they are all connected in an absolutely unprecedented harmony. Yet there is a lingering question in the air, mingling casually with the Wifi and radio waves; what about the government?

This is the very question posed by Gavin Newsom, California Lieutenant Governor, and co-author Lisa Dickey, in the acclaimed book Citizenville: How to Take the Town Square Digital and Reinvent Government.


The cloud enables the enterprise to organize itself in a distributed fashion, without central
power, to deliver and collaborate in ways that you couldn’t before. In other words, it gives
power to the people, which is the first crucial step in moving away from the top-down,
bureaucratic, hierarchical government that’s chocking our democracy today.

The Shasta EDC is XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX to make this a reality. 

In this exploratory treatise on the current insufficiencies of local government’s dated communication efforts, Newsom snipes shrewd insights, raises pressing questions, and proposes fresh ideas involving the fusion of tech and government. One of those engaging ideas involves an originally conceptualized ‘digital town square’.

The Third Wave

In Citizenville, Newsom refers to the current structure of American governance as firmly planted in the ‘second wave’, or conventionally, glued to the industrial revolution era. Meanwhile, the rest of society has moved quickly into the ‘third wave’, one of technological integration and intercommunication. His vision involves a theoretical third wave government. One way that would take shape is through digital town squares.

The title, Citizenville, was inspired by the once seemingly omnipresent Facebook game Farmville. In Farmville, players plant crops, get rewards, grow their farm, and repeat. Newsom envisions an online hub that blends the gamified sim-reality of Farmville, with real-life incentives and consequences. The citizenry already has formed an infatuation with this virtualized real life, so why not tie it into true government functions?

Citizenville places the power of decision back into the hands of the masses, tapping away at their touch screens not for fake corn or cattle, but for real budgeting decisions, community ethics concerns, and elections. It underlines just how difficult our current system is to navigate, and how comparatively easy an online sim-alternative could be.

The digital town square, then, might be more literal than online voting. Imagery of avatars, reward systems, and real-life consequences accentuate the innovative and ever optimistically pro-people tone of Newsom’s political treatment. This is how you grow local government.   

At Shasta EDC we love this innovative talk, particularly the concept of an open dialogue between government (big and small) and the citizenry through a technological model. Using our resources, and an understanding that both the government and citizenry will benefit from free-flowing data important to societal issues, we hope to bring this vision to reality.