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Publishers Weekly
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Souped-up information technology will set us free, declares this breathless, shallow manifesto. Newsom, the lieutenant governor of California and ex-mayor of San Francisco, heralds the new regime of cloud computing, which makes all public information instantly accessible and, he argues, utterly transforms how governments do business. The specifics he mentions feel small-bore and superficial: city IT departments, he notes, could be outsourced; government databases from Veterans Administration health records to city crime stats can be made downloadable; a New York City phone app guides users to the nearest location where they can get free condoms; and why not have citizens post Yelp-style online reviews of government services? Citing gabby cyberutopian visionaries from Bill Clinton to Mark Zuckerberg, Newsom styles all this as the overthrow of the "top-down, bureaucratic, hierarchical government that's choking our democracy," one that empowers citizens to "'solve their own problems and meet their own needs'" in the manner of open-source programmers and righteous hacktivists. Unfortunately, as with his proposal for a "Citizenville" online game in which people win points for spending their own money on municipal repair projects, his rhetoric amounts to a glitzy but dispiriting brief for the abdication of government responsibilities in an era of budget austerity. Agent: Elyse Cheney, Elyse Cheney Literary Associates. (Feb. 11) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.