recommended reading

Biggest federal crowdsourcing challenges aren’t technical


The greatest challenges that federal agencies face when trying to draw crowdsourced information from citizens on social media aren’t technical; they’re organizational, political and legal, an analyst at the U.S. Agency for International Development’s GeoCenter said Thursday.

Shadrock Roberts’ team worked extensively with USAID attorneys before launching a crowdsourcing project that relied on volunteer labor to map where the agency’s Development Credit Authority had backed loans, he said at a social media in emergency management event sponsored by the Wilson Center think tank’s Science and Technology Innovation Program.

Tim Brice, a senior meteorologist at the National Weather Service, has faced similar challenges.

“Government rules and regulations are either slowing us down or stifling innovation,” he said. “I don’t know how many times I’ve tried to roll out a new idea only to be told ‘that’s against the law, we can’t do that, you can’t put that on a government computer.’ It gets very frustrating.”

NWS began to solicit Twitter storm reports from the public in 2010 under the #wxreport hashtag and broadcasts weather information on other social media.

The toughest question for the U.S. Forest Service is what function crowdsourcing should fulfill.

On one hand, citizen reports of wildfires, unlike storms, tend to be inaccurate, said Kris Eriksen, a public information officer with the Forest Service’s National Incident Management Organization.

As a result, Eriksen said she is wary of engaging too much with the crowd because its members might come to expect a Forest Service response to concerns that are not top agency priorities.

“If we create a forum for people to tell us they feel threatened or endangered then do we have an obligation to respond?” she asked. “We don’t do wild land fires that way. We don’t put an engine in every driveway. We have a larger, 30,000-foot view of where we need to respond.”

On the other hand, she said, there’s a psychological benefit to having a social community during a crisis and drawing citizens into that community is a good way to broadcast useful information and combat rumors.

“People want and need something to do in a crisis,” she said. “They need to feel they’re participating.”

(Image via VLADGRIN/

Threatwatch Alert

Stolen credentials

Hackers Steal $31M from Russian Central Bank

See threatwatch report


Close [ x ] More from Nextgov

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

  • PIV- I And Multifactor Authentication: The Best Defense for Federal Government Contractors

    This white paper explores NIST SP 800-171 and why compliance is critical to federal government contractors, especially those that work with the Department of Defense, as well as how leveraging PIV-I credentialing with multifactor authentication can be used as a defense against cyberattacks

  • Toward A More Innovative Government

    This research study aims to understand how state and local leaders regard their agency’s innovation efforts and what they are doing to overcome the challenges they face in successfully implementing these efforts.

  • From Volume to Value: UK’s NHS Digital Provides U.S. Healthcare Agencies A Roadmap For Value-Based Payment Models

    The U.S. healthcare industry is rapidly moving away from traditional fee-for-service models and towards value-based purchasing that reimburses physicians for quality of care in place of frequency of care.

  • GBC Flash Poll: Is Your Agency Safe?

    Federal leaders weigh in on the state of information security


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.