Thursday, July 2, 2015

36 Benefits of Civic Hacking

Civic hacking is new to NE Wisconsin.

We’re not sure what it is, why citizens should spend their time doing it, why businesses and organizations should sponsor it, or why city and county governments should spend their time or money encouraging it and making open data available for civic hackers.

Resistance to change and lack of clear benefits might limit or smother civic hacking in NE Wisconsin. But if enough people in our area understand the benefits and support this aspect of citizen engagement with their cities and counties, civic hacking can grow and flourish.

Today’s post attempts to present compelling and recognizable benefits of civic hacking.

Below are listed 36 benefits of civic hacking that I found mentioned or discussed online. Some of these benefits are clearly related or could be combined. Some benefits could be reworded to be more persuasive or more understandable. Some benefits, no doubt, were left off this list. Some people may distill this list into the 10 most important benefits, into 10 broader categories of benefits that cover all 36 listed below, or into the 10 benefits most relevant to the needs of their city...

  1. Creates a time and a place for citizens and government to come together to solve interesting challenges.
  2. Fosters citizen engagement with government bodies that affect them.
  3. Enables citizens to get involved in the problems of governance by opening up data and creating challenges.
  4. Contributes to economic development, job development and more efficient use of tax dollars.
  5. Provides insight into government decision-making.
  6. Enables community service through technology.
  7. Teaches important new tech skills.
  8. Connects a broad network of civic hackers.
  9. Encourages and enables citizens to take personal responsibility instead of just waiting for the government to fix problems.
  10. Provides opportunities to brainstorm, capture, design, and even deploy valuable software applications that serve the city.
  11. Creates a platform for generating creative solutions to civic problems.
  12. Helps government manage expectations around technology.
  13. Assists governments in keeping up with new technologies.
  14. Reduces negative impact of inefficient legacy government data processing systems.
  15. Makes connections between technology & non-technology individuals and groups.
  16. Facilitates a more transparent and accountable government.
  17. Helps government workers know more about citizens concerns and priorities.
  18. Increases voter turnout and voter knowledge about candidates and ballot issues.
  19. Helps government workers and elected officials do their jobs more effectively.
  20. Helps citizens better understand uses of government data and need for collection of data.
  21. Helps citizens make better-informed choices about where their children go to school and where to buy a house.
  22. Helps underserved populations be better served by their governments and community.
  23. Makes it easier for citizens to find government information that affects them personally or connects them with the right person in the city or county government.
  24. Makes use of public transit less annoying.
  25. Helps get quicker fixes for street potholes and other city maintenance or repair problems.
  26. Brings local resources together to address local problems.  
  27. Helps the visually impaired navigate their city using OpenStreetMap and Open Data. 
  28. Improves trust in government institutions.
  29. Drives the adoption of standards for open civic data.
  30. Helps governments who are under a lot of pressure to deliver better services and information.
  31. Fosters communities of practice and advocacy on the role of the civic innovation, mobile communication, online information, and open data.
  32. Improves technology tools at non-profits which deal with government services.
  33. Makes gigabytes of inscrutable and seemingly impenetrable data related to public issues clear and accessible.
  34. Liberates public data in an open format to inform better problem solving in every community.
  35. Promotes science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education by encouraging students to utilize open technology for solutions to real-life challenges.
  36. Enables ordinary citizens to take raw government data from multiple departments and
    develop elegantly designed online interfaces (front-end) to streamline business processes (back-end) making them more efficient and user-friendly.

It is my hope that everyone who reads this post can pick out a couple of the 36 benefits that resonate with them. If you’re a citizen of NE Wisconsin, that may convince you to spend a chunk of your limited non-working and non-sleeping hours contributing to a civic hack project. For businesses and organizations, maybe two or three of these reasons will persuade you to sponsor the next civic hacking activity you hear about. If you’re a government administrator or employee, one or more of the above points may convince you to make more government data available in an open format and to do more to facilitate civic hacking.

Smother or support -- It’s your choice.

Tomorrow’s post will take a look at economic benefits of open data.


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