Vancouver’s Early Adoption of Open Government is Good for Civil Society
If transportation is the lifeblood of a city, data policy is its neural pathway. Kudos to the City of Vancouver, whose council passed a motion to become an open city last May. VanChange Camp participants were abuzz with the news, and a main topic of discussion at the conference was centered around how open government could work, what it would look like, feel like and so forth..
What is open government? Vancouver has elected to open up all of its real data to the public, and has passed a motion to make all of its applications open source.
What can a Civil Society get from Open Government?
When developers get to work with the real data, the applications they are creating or innovating are then based on actual real world data, instead of sandbox development databases. Developers can build iterative applications that they may be tested and developed before the go-live stage.
This is an intelligent policy for many reasons, chiefly because invites the community, with fresh and pertinent ideas, into city hall. Operating costs could decrease as communities build and share software. Empowered citizens become adept at solving collective problems. The city can be branded as a place where services are active and current, and solutions are readily produced; a good place to do business.
What are the Challenges?
Multi-platform, Multi needs Go-live Capability
A developer told me that many of his colleagues are cautious about making applications for governments, because the programs are usually required to work as complete alpha versions for everyone, including people with disabilities, ESL and so forth. There may need to be more flexibility on this point as applications are continually improved.
I predict that the city will not have to go very far back to encounter legacy information stored on various, difficult to parse formats like PDF and DOC files. Much of that old information is still very useful for determining trends over time.
Is it Worth it?
I believe that the greater citizen participation is in society design is, using the real apparatus of state keeping,, the more inclusive, nimble and responsive society will be. After all, citizens are the eyes on the ground that see what their areas need; the local experts.