2017 Semifinalist
Winners:
California State University
January 1, 2017
Jurisdiction:
California

Digital Democracy delivers a first-of-its-kind online, searchable database of California legislative hearings, enabling users to search video archives by keyword, topic, speaker or date. Through advanced software technologies, inventories of dense, static bill text and vote counts give way to interactive multimedia clips that bring the lawmaking process to life. Prior to its inception, the IT staff within the California state legislature dismissed the concept as technologically infeasible and cost prohibitive. One state software developer estimated the cost to build the platform at $80–100 million. A rough proof-of-concept platform built by the Institute for Advanced Technology & Public Policy at the California Polytechnic State University was demonstrated in June 2014 and caught the attention of the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, which provided the $1.2 million of funding. Over the next six months, nearly 50 students built the full-scale platform. The site was released to the public in May 2015 and has been live without interruption since. Teams of students continue to develop and deploy new technology innovations to increase the site’s effectiveness. Since launch, significant technology improvements have been made to increase the automation and accuracy of transcription and speaker identification. Additionally, students have developed and deployed new tools requested by users, including an e-mail notification system and a custom video player that enables the clipping, montaging, and social media sharing and embedding of key video moments. With a growing ‘big data’ set underlying the platform, students are currently developing analytics to explore trends and relationships between special interests and lawmakers.