Crowdsourcing for Public Agencies

Crowdsourcing for Public Sector

For a long time governments and public agencies have been grappling for ways to innovate. Now that the high-technology age is upon us, it is an even more valuable undertaking with higher risks and higher potential benefits. Yet many agencies are still stuck in the past when it comes to performing day-to-day operations. Innovation is needed, but how can this be brought in given limitations of government and the reality that funding may often not be available?

In recent years, crowdsourcing has become a viable mechanism by which the public sector can be transformed. Consider some of the following ways this can happen:

Crowd Competition

While not everyone who is innovative can work for the government, the government can attract more innovation from citizens. By offering the general population a well-defined problem in need of a solution, a competition can be created. A prize or other form of incentive can be offered to participants if the public agency ends up implementing their suggestion.

Perhaps a government agency is trying to identify how best to harness the sun’s energy. Through crowdsourcing, a competition generates many plausible ideas — and one idea might revolutionize the way the world approaches solar power.

Crowd Collaboration

There are many times when public agencies face problems that are extremely complex, and when existing personnel are at a loss about how best to proceed. By opening up the problem to the wider populace, fresh ideas and observations can be shared in a collaborative manner that leads to innovative solutions.

Crowd Labor

There are times when the amount of labor required to accomplish a task is mind boggling even for well-funded public agencies. Crowdsourcing has provided a way to find and enlist small armies of volunteers to do certain mundane tasks in a short time that would otherwise take many long hours and paid employees to complete. Two examples are: cataloging or digitizing collections at libraries or museums, and computerizing old-fashioned paper-based property records.


These are just a few ways that crowdsourcing can benefit the public sector.