In recent years senior officials from the US and the UK have started alluding to a trinity of “open governments, open societies, and open economies” in high level transparency talks, as well as to the potential of digital technologies and digital information for innovative new businesses and growth. In addition to the kinds of panels you might expect at a transparency summit, there were also sessions on public-private partnerships, entrepreneurs in civic innovation, and smart cities. Web inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee remarked in his closing talk, “for me always the most exciting piece of it at the end of the day is economic value”.
What is open government really all about? What should it be about
The project, called the Chicago Data Dictionary, is a massive, public metadata repository—a searchable archive of “data describing data”—that gives users information about the variety of data in the City of Chicago’s numerous databases. As the next phase of Chicago’s government transparency initiative, the Data Dictionary complements the City’s open data portal by providing background information on where such data comes from.
While it may not be the city’s chicest tech initiative, the Data Dictionary is nonetheless an ambitious and colossal project that is enhancing the city’s data landscape.
Copying and pasting boilerplate legislative language is as old as law itself. In fact, legal precedent is built on throwbacks, edits, and remixes. The modern day copying and pasting feature has served as a technological blessing in legal matters that require a high level of repetition, such as producing demand letters for common legal claims, or, for one of Sunlight’s favorite exercises of individual rights, completing a public records or freedom of information request. However, when copying and pasting enters more nuanced areas of law, such as contract or legislation drafting, significant complications can arise. Without the proper edits or engaged collaborative thinking required in policy drafting, the ever tempting copy/paste model falls short. Below we explore just how borrowed open data legislative language thus far has been and examples of where it’s been the least helpful.
The City of Philadelphia is experimenting with some new ideas that we hope will change the way that city departments procure technology solutions. The “petrie dish” for some of the more interesting of these experiments is the social coding site GitHub.
EngagingCities's Managing Editor Della Rucker has released a new book about the big changes in how communities work, and how professionals and volunteers of all types can help their places succeed in the face of these new conditions.
What if data published by governments had tracked changes and comments turned on like a Word document—for every user? That is basically the question asked the other day by Gov 2.0 evangelist Ben Balter.
What was most exciting about this year’s gathering was a sense that this movement has become somewhat mainstream. CfA’s Founder, Jen Palhka, is serving in the White House and Mayors like San Francisco’s Ed Lee and Philadelphia’s Michael Nutter as well as Mayor Bloomberg in New York are using the tools and techniques espoused by CfA to attract and retain businesses, improve transportation services, and increase the quality of life for residents in their communities.
When it comes to how civic technology can change the world, the conversation has a way of shifting back and forth between the start-up community and the hacktivists. One can easily have a debate about which technologists are, on balance, accomplishing more to make cities work: The entrepreneurs or the altruists. (And it’s not as if the lines between the two are clear.) Government itself is a third actor in the equation.