Monday, June 15, 2015

Responsive Cities And Catalytic Civic Hackers

A vision of the future can make a huge impact.

If you want to see a vision of the future for civic hacking, watch the video below of Susan Crawford talking about her book, “The Responsive City: Engaging Communities through Data Smart Governance.”

“The Responsive City,” co-authored by Stephen Goldsmith, talks about “civic engagement and governance in the digital age.” It provides insight into what civic hacking is right now in cities like Chicago, New York, and Boston, and what it can be in the future for Appleton, Green Bay, Oshkosh, Fond du Lac and other cities in NE Wisconsin.

The video is over 50 minutes long, so it’s definitely not intended as an Instagram short-attention-span smartphone video. You could fast-forward through the six minute humorously informal introduction of the speaker, and the Q&A session after the talk might not be of interest. But from the 6:00 minute mark to 27:30, there is an excellent presentation of Susan Crawford’s vision that “cities are now platforms and it’s crucial for economic development and civic life that everyone be wired.”

A recent study indicated most Americans 18 - 34 years old believe that in 5 years, everything will be delivered to them on the same day they request it. To understand the implications of that for cities, Susan says, “Now think about this from the local government point of view. How does the local government avoid becoming anachronistic in a setting in which everybody is expecting things to happen immediately?

The personal computer created an ecosystem that resulted in a PC industry sector worth billions of dollars and impacted almost every other industry sector. The smartphone ecosystem is worth billions of dollars, and we’re probably just seeing the tip of the iceberg for that technology. It’s impossible to predict exactly how large an ecosystem the city-as-a-platform (open data, city-wide optical fiber network, smart city components, civic hacking community, and city workers) will create, but it has great promise and appears to be the smart way to go.

Listening to Susan’s vision for the future of engaged cities made me want to connect with her and other catalytic civic hackers.

Susan Crawford
Appleton as a city and northeast Wisconsin as a region don’t currently offer a lot of compelling reasons for Susan Crawford and other catalytic civic hackers to visit or work with us. Larger metro areas have bigger budgets, bigger problems, bigger universities, more potential investors and more active civic hackers. Those factors are why “The Responsive City” focuses on Chicago, New York and Boston.

However, if we can develop a unique and impactful vision of ‘the responsive region,’ we can identify compelling reasons for those catalytic civic hackers to work with us and to participate in a regional civic hacking unconference.

Susan Crawford pretty much sums it all up when she says, “We’re at the most interesting time in local government in the last 100 years.”


Two footnotes:
  1. Santa Monica is mentioned in the video and the book. Santa Monica’s Information Systems Department mapped out a plan for the creation and expansion of its broadband network in 1998. Since then, the city has been slowly and methodically implementing its plan, saving city government $700,000 a year in communications costs as well as making advanced communications capabilities available to private entities. If you’re interested in more info about that and want to understand how we might get started on wiring cities in NE Wisconsin with ultra-high speed optical fiber, look at “Santa Monica City Net: An Incremental Approach to Building a Fiber Optic Network.”
  2. I have not yet read “The Responsive City: Engaging Communities through Data Smart Governance.” I requested that the Appleton Library purchase it. If they get the book, I’ll read it and post a short review of the highlights.

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