Crowd Capital in the Governance Context

John Prpic, Prashant Shukla


How can crowdsourcing contribute to good governance? This research builds the first database of worldwide initiatives using crowd applications for governance. It contains 209 applications, found through secondary archival sources. Many individuals and organisations are using IT to engage crowds to create resources for the governance context. The authors find that there is a wide diversity of actors engaging IT-mediated crowds, on all continents, and in at least 10 governance sectors. The principal actors are social enterprises and non-profits, while the most prevalent topic areas are community improvement and public safety. These initiatives are largely aimed at national or municipal governments.

Ranging from health care, intellectual property and legislation, to foreign aid, law enforcement and military, we are beginning to see functions and issues that have traditionally been within the purview of government now enlisting the aid of IT-mediated crowds. Given the central role of policy and political governance, the arrival of IT-mediated crowds in the governance context signals an important change in the function, role, and reach, of political and policy governance. Unlike the corporate use of IT-mediated crowds, largely aimed at narrow profit pursuit, the use of IT-mediated crowds in governance raises novel concerns at the intersection of the legislative, judicial, and executive branches of government, at all levels of government operations, and in all rule-bound nations.

Key Findings:

  • Actors: social enterprise (38 per cent) and non-profits (29 per cent) are the most frequently occurring types of actor.
  • Contexts: community improvement (22 per cent) and public safety (19 per cent) are the most frequently occurring governance sectors.
  • Level of government: applications predominantly targeted national (51 per cent) or municipal governments (23 per cent).
  • Structure: 69 per cent of applications used an episodic IT-structure, meaning individuals never interact with each other. 31 per cent used a collaborative IT-structure, where individuals interact directly to build resources.
  • Location: 41 per cent of the crowds are located in North America; 24 per cent globally; and 13 per cent in Europe and Russia.


Prpic, J. & Shukla, P. (2014). Crowd Capital in the Governance Context. Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford - IPP 2014 - Crowdsourcing for Politics and Policy.