The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has introduced a mobile app designed to help users access GAO’s priority recommendations for the federal government in support of the presidential and congressional transitions. The app allows users to navigate agency reports that layout the critical challenges facing the nation, including GAO’s important High Risk List of issues, top recommendations for fixing agency-specific problems, and government areas with the potential for significant savings. The free app also directs users to newly established congressional and presidential transition web pages that offer resources that officials can use in setting policy priorities.
Senegal is rolling out a national digital currency this year to be issued by its central bank. Dubbed eCFA, the digital currency will coexist with other forms of currency, such as the CFA Franc, yet offer a digital form for financial transactions. Although the details are still being finalized, the e-currency will have special security features, just as hard currency has watermarks and serial numbers. Observers note that an advantage of e-currencies issued by a central bank is that countries can retain control over their monetary policies without being influenced by decentralized organizations like Bitcoin. If successful, the eCFA will be used by other countries in the West Africa Economic and Monetary Union, including Cote d’Ivoire, Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Togo, and Guinea-Bissau.
The city of Philadelphia is deploying high-tech sensors and a new statistical model to help it combat the blight and attendant health problems of vacant and abandoned properties. The city’s Department of Licenses and Inspections first calculates which properties might be vacant and too hazardous for inspection. It then employs aerial surveillance with laser imaging to determine if they are at risk of collapsing roofs. After this data and other indicators are collected, the department uses a scoring system to evaluate the safety of the properties. Presently, department officials believe that about 4,800 vacant homes are unsafe and 230 are imminently dangerous.
To maximize available public resources and reduce reliance on outsourcing of tasks to external consultants, Singapore’s government has launched a program to encourage its public employees to share their skills across various departments within the agencies in which they work. Under an internal Facebook-based platform, users can request assistance for tasks such as document translation, video production, corporate planning, and organizational development. After a task is completed, users and the departments that “hosted” them can mutually rate each other according to performance in a manner similar to Airbnb and Uber. Officials hope the move will encourage government employees to explore freelance opportunities within their own agencies, and help to empower and motivate them. The initiative began in October and the pilot is running for six months.
One area of Japan wants to curb the increase in car crashes involving elderly drivers by offering them cheap ramen in exchange for handing in their driver’s licenses. Japan’s Aichi prefecture is providing seniors who turn in their licenses with certificates that make them eligible for a 15-percent discount at a popular noodle and broth soup chain. Other incentives being offered include discounts at barber shops, public baths, and lower taxi fares. Tokyo has awarded “graduation” certificates to retiring drivers, who are reportedly also entitled to discounts on bus and taxi fares.
The city of Brummen, in the Netherlands has unveiled a lighted crosswalk to make traversing the street safer for cars and pedestrians alike. Pedestrian crossings pose a significant safety hazard for people on the roads, and the “Lighted Zebra Crossing,” which consists of plates that are always lit up like a giant piano, is an infrastructural attempt to make this urban element as safe as possible. The “smart” crosswalk also includes sensors to measure the number of crossing pedestrians and the number of vehicles, including their speed and load.