Monday, July 27, 2015

Open Data And Participative Government In NE Wisconsin

This is a relatively short post tonight with a few comments about an item I read today titled “Digital Government Is the New Social Network.”
“...For a century, city hall reformers used tight hierarchical systems where a government official with access to information not available to others crafted rules and procedures that public servants followed. Even the much-celebrated 311 systems were based on the idea that an aggrieved citizen would place a request for service to an all-knowing and powerful city hall. These frustrating bilateral exchanges reinforce the view that residents are passive recipients of services from a government that monopolizes responses with authority, information, and skill, as opposed to meaningful participants in their community. 
A more modern system...assumes that the public value of an open network of residents, officials, and their information is proportional to the number of connected individuals and the quality and usability of the data available to them. I have borrowed this concept from Metcalfe’s Law, which hypothesizes that the value of a technology network is proportional to the square of the number of users of the system. data openly socialized...allows for the co-production of solutions where an ever-dynamic and often messy group of people/organizations/agencies involve each other in a problem-solving process,,,This open data, including observations or requests for service to a call center, allows for discoveries...One community leader in New York told me a few years ago that well-visualized open 311 data helped her identify the cause of a large number of pedestrian incidents at an intersection where a retirement home was on one side of the street and a pharmacy on the other — a fact that had eluded transportation engineers who were just looking at traffic flows...”
Four thoughts were prompted by reading about digital governments creating new social networks..

  1. Most of NE Wisconsin feels like like it’s still a relatively tight hierarchical system where government information is not widely and openly shared. I think this is the case for two reasons. (1) That’s how it’s always been done. Cities and counties don’t see a need to change and are comfortable with the way things are. (2) Residents of the cities and counties aren’t asking for information and data to be made open and easily accessible.
  2. Changing the status quo regarding open data and transparent government requires both a pull from the residents of NE Wisconsin and a push from the city and county governments. Not much will change if only one of the sides is working to change things.
  3. NE Wisconsin civic hackers need to work with city and county officials to find out what problems they’d like citizen help with and what 21st century tools are missing and most needed to help their government perform the way it should.
  4. NE Wisconsin civic hackers need to educate residents of the region about civic hacking, open data and transparent government. We need to help foster citizen engagement with their governments and create an environment where area residents feel responsible for making their communities better, rather than sitting back and waiting for the government to do everything for them.

If you feel your community will benefit from open data and transparent government, get involved with civic hacking and become part of this group that's taking action to make things better. Join us on Slack in the #dhmncivichacks channel. Read through posts on this blog and figure out what aspect of civic hacking you’re going to jump in and start working on! Then jump in and start working!

(Contact Bob Waldron at bwaldron (at) gmail [dott] com if you have questions.)

Hope to see you at the next civic hacking event in this region!


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