government 2-0

IBM’s Big Sheets – Synthesize the Internet

Big Sheets, a new product of tech Goliath IBM, collects, extracts, and enriches “gigabytes, terabytes, or petabytes” (read: tons) of unstructured data from all over the web and lets you visualize the data in a way you choose. People have used data like this to perform sentiment analyses to predict elections and box office blockbusters (see this video starting at about 3:15), and IBM also envisions its usefulness for “Digital Democracy,” or what we have been calling Government 2.0.  IBM claims with this new product they can find data on Parliament’s voting records, members of Parliaments names, bills and debates, and a timeline of events and mash it up and enrich it to provide insights on who is doing what, what people aren’t doing, and examine voting records by demographic over time.

GIGAOM

Since the beginning, the internet has offered incredible increases in communication speed and information accessibility.  In order to take the internet’s value to the next level, a device to organize the plethora of public and private data that exists on its millions of websites is absolutely necessary.  Big Sheets appears to be just that.

- Terra Curtis

Online Forums and Tools for Citizen Participation: Some Examples

On LinkedIn, I’m part of the Urban Planning Group.  Recently, I took note of a conversation happening within the group.  One of the members had asked others how local governments were using online forums and tools to engage citizens in the planning process.  On this blog, we’ve noted services like YouChooseBayArea in San Francisco and Hub2 in Boston, Betaville, and SeeClickFix, so I was interested to see more examples of tools in practice. A couple of major points I took away from the discussion: these tools should not be the public participation process – they only can enhance a public engagement process by incorporating the views of a more varied population or about a more varied set of topics.  Planners are curious about how best to synthesize and use all the web-generated content once it is collected – this is a classic problem in planning that the traditional Rational Planning model somewhat obscures.  The use of Facebook and Twitter by government planning agencies is increasing, but many warned of the need to establish a social media policy and distinct goals to be achieved through these channels before launching.

Below, I list many examples cited in the group discussion for easy reference.  Some of them are currently being used or have been used in the past in actual public participation processes; others have been released recently

  • SeeClickFix – used by the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition to help them track issues and work with the city to get them soved
  • CityPlanner by Agency9 – used by European cities Gothenburg and Norrkoping (my note: while these sites look incredibly advanced and visually appealing, they run very slowly on my computer, which may hinder their use)
  • EngagingPlans by the Urban Interactive Studio --  used by Galveston, Texas
  • OptIn – a tool of METRO, Portland, Oregon’s metropolitan planning organization
  • GreenCityStreets – this is a new web application designed to engage citizens in thinking about public transportation, walking, biking, and general transportation management through an online game
  • WikiPlanning – used by San Jose, Charlotte, Owasso, and Bessemer City
  • City Commons Club – an online forum for concerned citizens of Berkeley, California (a city well-known for its citizen organization)
  • WebPolis – a project of Eastern Michigan University’s Urban and Regional Planning Program, providing tools for online discussion, surveys, grant/loan searches, and real estate financial analysis
  • Limehouse Software – used by Chester County, Pennsylvania to establish a portal for public comment on text and mapping
  • RateMyStreet – a UK-based site that collects user ratings of the pedestrian experience on specific streets

These are general resources for discovering more tools.

- Terra Curtis

 

Online Forums and Tools for Citizen Participation: Some Examples

On LinkedIn, I’m part of the Urban Planning Group.  Recently, I took note of a conversation happening within the group.  One of the members had asked others how local governments were using online forums and tools to engage citizens in the planning process.  On this blog, we’ve noted services like YouChooseBayArea in San Francisco and Hub2 in Boston, Betaville, and SeeClickFix, so I was interested to see more examples of tools in practice. A couple of major points I took away from the discussion: these tools should not be the public participation process – they only can enhance a public engagement process by incorporating the views of a more varied population or about a more varied set of topics.  Planners are curious about how best to synthesize and use all the web-generated content once it is collected – this is a classic problem in planning that the traditional Rational Planning model somewhat obscures.  The use of Facebook and Twitter by government planning agencies is increasing, but many warned of the need to establish a social media policy and distinct goals to be achieved through these channels before launching.

Below, I list many examples cited in the group discussion for easy reference.  Some of them are currently being used or have been used in the past in actual public participation processes; others have been released recently

  • SeeClickFix – used by the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition to help them track issues and work with the city to get them soved
  • CityPlanner by Agency9 – used by European cities Gothenburg and Norrkoping (my note: while these sites look incredibly advanced and visually appealing, they run very slowly on my computer, which may hinder their use)
  • EngagingPlans by the Urban Interactive Studio --  used by Galveston, Texas
  • OptIn – a tool of METRO, Portland, Oregon’s metropolitan planning organization
  • GreenCityStreets – this is a new web application designed to engage citizens in thinking about public transportation, walking, biking, and general transportation management through an online game
  • WikiPlanning – used by San Jose, Charlotte, Owasso, and Bessemer City
  • City Commons Club – an online forum for concerned citizens of Berkeley, California (a city well-known for its citizen organization)
  • WebPolis – a project of Eastern Michigan University’s Urban and Regional Planning Program, providing tools for online discussion, surveys, grant/loan searches, and real estate financial analysis
  • Limehouse Software – used by Chester County, Pennsylvania to establish a portal for public comment on text and mapping
  • RateMyStreet – a UK-based site that collects user ratings of the pedestrian experience on specific streets

These are general resources for discovering more tools.

- Terra Curtis

 

Eight Cities Announce Winners to Solve Major Urban Challenges at LLGA2011

The cities of Barcelona, Cape Town, Eindhoven, Lagos, San Francisco, Sant Cugat, Stockholm and Taipei announce the winners of the Living Labs Global Award 2011.

The Award presented the major challenges faced by these cities in the coming years, to which 245 companies from 30 countries responded by presenting their solutions. With rapidly growing populations, budget pressures due to the financial crisis and increasing international competition for investment, talent and tourists cities are looking for innovative approaches to remain competitive. Cities represent a major, yet complex market, spending an annual EUR 3.5 trillion in public procurement alone

The cities of Barcelona, Cape Town, Eindhoven, Lagos, San Francisco, Sant Cugat, Stockholm and Taipei have announced eight winning solutions that were selected by 45 international users out of 245 submissions from 30 countries. Winning solutions will now be piloted in the participating cities, to evaluate their impact to meet the challenges.

In a unique global effort, eight cities joined forces with Living Labs Global to present their pressing challenges to the global business and technology community.

Challenges put forward by cities include the need to provide more efficient and sustainable urban services such as lighting using latest LED technologies; to rethink city services in the light of open data and apps developed by interest groups; to overcome media piracy undermining native film industries through digital distribution systems; or the need to provide financing and support to social entrepreneurs in African cities. The winning solutions are:

City of Barcelona: Citysolver, by Bitcarrier

City of Cape Town:  Venture Capital Cultivator Fund, by PoweredbyVC

City of Eindhoven: Integral Solution for Urban Infrastructures (SIIUR), by bdigital

City of Lagos: Eggup | Sell your films while preventing piracy, by Eggup.com

City of San Francisco: Open Data as a Platform for Citizen Service Delivery, by Socrata Inc.

City of Sant Cugat: Smart Parking for Smart Urban Living, by Worldsensing

City of Stockholm: Spotscout, by Spotscout Inc.

City of Taipei: A+ Care: Smart Autonomous TeleHealth Care Service, by Netown

Winners were announced after an international two-round jury process under auspices of Living Labs Global, a non-profit association based in Copenhagen working with 40 cities and 450 companies around the world to promote service innovation in cities.

The Award Ceremony was attended by 200 participants from 20 countries in Stockholm as part of the Stockholm Summit for Service Innovation in Cities.

The Living Labs Global Award 2011 is a unique global process providing full accountability in the evaluation through independent experts. The Award was carried out in partnership with Oracle Corporation, Farglory and supporting organisations from around the world.

About the Living Labs Global Award

Living Labs Global is a non-profit association based in Copenhagen (Denmark), working with 40 cities and 450 companies and research centres in Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas with a mission to open the market for service innovation in cities and overcoming key technology, organisation and trade barriers.

The Living Labs Global Award is an annual process over 8 months in which cities present their challenges and provide guidance to the business and technology community on future investment plans and needs. Solution providers respond by submitting existing technologies as entries for evaluation by an international jury.

Follow results and the upcoming Living Labs Global Award 2012 on Twitter. Facts: More than 557,000 local governments provide services to more than 50% of the world’s population with an annual spending of 3.5 Trillion Euros per year. New technologies can radically improve transport and mobility systems, access to finance, media distribution, social services and other key areas of urban life.

Eight Cities Announce Winners to Solve Major Urban Challenges at LLGA2011

The cities of Barcelona, Cape Town, Eindhoven, Lagos, San Francisco, Sant Cugat, Stockholm and Taipei announce the winners of the Living Labs Global Award 2011.

The Award presented the major challenges faced by these cities in the coming years, to which 245 companies from 30 countries responded by presenting their solutions. With rapidly growing populations, budget pressures due to the financial crisis and increasing international competition for investment, talent and tourists cities are looking for innovative approaches to remain competitive. Cities represent a major, yet complex market, spending an annual EUR 3.5 trillion in public procurement alone

The cities of Barcelona, Cape Town, Eindhoven, Lagos, San Francisco, Sant Cugat, Stockholm and Taipei have announced eight winning solutions that were selected by 45 international users out of 245 submissions from 30 countries. Winning solutions will now be piloted in the participating cities, to evaluate their impact to meet the challenges.

In a unique global effort, eight cities joined forces with Living Labs Global to present their pressing challenges to the global business and technology community.

Challenges put forward by cities include the need to provide more efficient and sustainable urban services such as lighting using latest LED technologies; to rethink city services in the light of open data and apps developed by interest groups; to overcome media piracy undermining native film industries through digital distribution systems; or the need to provide financing and support to social entrepreneurs in African cities. The winning solutions are:

City of Barcelona: Citysolver, by Bitcarrier

City of Cape Town:  Venture Capital Cultivator Fund, by PoweredbyVC

City of Eindhoven: Integral Solution for Urban Infrastructures (SIIUR), by bdigital

City of Lagos: Eggup | Sell your films while preventing piracy, by Eggup.com

City of San Francisco: Open Data as a Platform for Citizen Service Delivery, by Socrata Inc.

City of Sant Cugat: Smart Parking for Smart Urban Living, by Worldsensing

City of Stockholm: Spotscout, by Spotscout Inc.

City of Taipei: A+ Care: Smart Autonomous TeleHealth Care Service, by Netown

Winners were announced after an international two-round jury process under auspices of Living Labs Global, a non-profit association based in Copenhagen working with 40 cities and 450 companies around the world to promote service innovation in cities.

The Award Ceremony was attended by 200 participants from 20 countries in Stockholm as part of the Stockholm Summit for Service Innovation in Cities.

The Living Labs Global Award 2011 is a unique global process providing full accountability in the evaluation through independent experts. The Award was carried out in partnership with Oracle Corporation, Farglory and supporting organisations from around the world.

About the Living Labs Global Award

Living Labs Global is a non-profit association based in Copenhagen (Denmark), working with 40 cities and 450 companies and research centres in Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas with a mission to open the market for service innovation in cities and overcoming key technology, organisation and trade barriers.

The Living Labs Global Award is an annual process over 8 months in which cities present their challenges and provide guidance to the business and technology community on future investment plans and needs. Solution providers respond by submitting existing technologies as entries for evaluation by an international jury.

Follow results and the upcoming Living Labs Global Award 2012 on Twitter. Facts: More than 557,000 local governments provide services to more than 50% of the world’s population with an annual spending of 3.5 Trillion Euros per year. New technologies can radically improve transport and mobility systems, access to finance, media distribution, social services and other key areas of urban life.

SFpark Launch

[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/22610428 w=440]If you're having trouble with the video, see this link.

Almost a year ago, I wrote about several “parking 2.0” solutions around the world.  One of those solutions is SFpark, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s (SFMTA) dynamic- and data-driven parking management system.  It is intended not only to improve drivers’ experiences while trying to find a spot to park, but also sets such laudable goals as improving congestion, speeding transit, and improving bicycle and pedestrian travel.

The theory behind these benefits stems largely from the research of Donald Shoup, an economist, UCLA professor of urban planning, and venerable expert of parking who has promoted the idea that free parking is the bane of urban environments.  His theory has extended into practice in other areas as well, including Arlington, Virgina and Petaluma and Old Pasadena, California.  Pasadena has served as the prime example – creating and sustaining a vibrant commercial area, funded in part by the higher parking fees that arise due to high demand.

Back to San Francisco, the Federally-funded pilot project is a further statement of the City’s commitment to open data and government 2.0.  They’ve launched an iPhone app (with Android coming soon), displayed parking rates on sfpark.org, and opened the data stream to private app developers (here).

Some early adopters have been critical, citing the app’s strange “extreme memory warning” and the need to better understand why people are avoiding certain parking areas (crime?) rather than pricing these spaces to encourage their use.  My own criticism is of the map itself; “high” and “low” are labeled on the map, but it unclear whether this represents high availability or high prices.  The two should not be confused as they are actually inverses of each other (when availability is high, prices should be low to encourage parking there and alleviate parking in the low availability areas).  This is further confused by the pricing chart to the right of the map, which, correct me if I’m wrong, but appears to display the scheme incorrectly.  Low availability means higher prices, right Shoup?

Despite this nit-picking, I think the program is very forward-thinking and stands to set the example for other cities in the US and abroad.  For the initial pilot (running now until the summer of 2012), 7,000 of San Francisco’s 28,000 metered-parking spaces and 12,250 garage spaces will be covered with the potential to expand in the future based on the results of the pilot.

-Terra Curtis

 

On Location: APA 2011, Boston

http://video.ted.com/assets/player/swf/EmbedPlayer.swf “Revolutions in science are preceded by revolutions in measurement.” – Benjamin de la Pena

Technology Infrastructure and Planning Session

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve spent the last few days in Boston at the American Planning Association’s annual conference.  I wanted to write one post focused on a session I attended on Monday, entitled Technology Infrastructure and Planning.

With speakers from IBM, CISCO, and the Rockefeller Foundation, I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect, given that this is a planning conference.  However, as readers of this blog will know, I am very interested in the nexus of urban planning and technology, and to my pleasant surprise, this session did not disappoint.  It was probably the most thought-provoking session I attended all weekend.  Readers may want to refer to a previous blog post on “corporate planning” to learn about the planning-related initiatives of CISCO, IBM, and others. Gordon Feller of CISCO emphasized that as technology progresses and infiltrates city management further and further, we will experience a profound shift in the role of planners specifically and of government in general.  All of the speakers mentioned the concept of ERP – enterprise resource planning.  These are technology systems currently in place and used heavily by large corporations to manage and track their operations.  The speakers posited that soon we will have ERP for cities (both IBM and CISCO are currently working on it).

The implication of this is that planners will need to be extremely data savvy.  In the near term, planners could have access to extremely rich and structured data in real-time – strong evidence to defend or refute particular stakeholders’ beliefs.  In the long term, the possibilities are both amazing and frightening.  There will be a need for stronger public-private partnerships, with private companies providing and constructing the physical infrastructure (fiber optic cables, monitoring devices, etc.) and the public sector managing the data and leveraging it for decision making in ways we have yet to imagine.

That said, several early examples already do exist.  CISCO is actually constructing its own smart city in Korea – Songdo.  This is similar to Masdar City, which we previously covered.  Barcelona has designated a sector of the city as an innovation lab (22@Barcelona), where smart city concepts are tested in real time.  In 2005, Bill Clinton challenged cities to minimize their carbon footprint by making planning an integral aspect of the solution.  CISCO conducted pilots in three worldwide cities as part of its associated Connected Urban Development program: Seoul, Amsterdam, and San Francisco.  Urban Ecomap was one of the products of that program.  Blaise Aguera of Microsoft Bing demonstrates in this TEDx talk how his company is producing augmented reality maps, which have many applications for planning including data collection, community engagement, and visualization.

John Tolva, the speaker from IBM, took a reverse approach and highlighted examples of how technologists could learn from the experiences of planners and the built environment.  He emphasized a few key learnings: throughput is not connectivity; it’s easy to confuse the use of a system with the need for a system; data alone is not sufficient for problem solving, but combined with an involved community it just may be.

Benjamin de la Pena of the Rockefeller Foundation also gave an extremely insightful presentation, closing out with some cautionary notes.  I will name a few.  The reliance on data and technology may undermine our own best interests – it can be systematically exclusionary as was exemplified as far back as Athens, Greece in its democratization process.  Some of our most ambitious feats have also turned out to be great failures on certain dimensions – he cited our highway system as connecting our country but dividing our neighborhoods.  Red lining was also data driven, hardly something to be proud of.  Data literacy and transparency will be of the utmost importance: citizens must be able to trust that city managers have their best interest in mind, providing information that is not purposefully hiding misleading but rather empowering.

As a graduate student in planning, I’ll be paying heightened attention to the progress in technology infrastructure in cities and the public-private relationships that will result.  It has great implications for my, and our, future.

-Terra Curtis

Further resources:

 

On Location: APA 2011, Boston

http://video.ted.com/assets/player/swf/EmbedPlayer.swf “Revolutions in science are preceded by revolutions in measurement.” – Benjamin de la Pena

Technology Infrastructure and Planning Session

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve spent the last few days in Boston at the American Planning Association’s annual conference.  I wanted to write one post focused on a session I attended on Monday, entitled Technology Infrastructure and Planning.

With speakers from IBM, CISCO, and the Rockefeller Foundation, I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect, given that this is a planning conference.  However, as readers of this blog will know, I am very interested in the nexus of urban planning and technology, and to my pleasant surprise, this session did not disappoint.  It was probably the most thought-provoking session I attended all weekend.  Readers may want to refer to a previous blog post on “corporate planning” to learn about the planning-related initiatives of CISCO, IBM, and others. Gordon Feller of CISCO emphasized that as technology progresses and infiltrates city management further and further, we will experience a profound shift in the role of planners specifically and of government in general.  All of the speakers mentioned the concept of ERP – enterprise resource planning.  These are technology systems currently in place and used heavily by large corporations to manage and track their operations.  The speakers posited that soon we will have ERP for cities (both IBM and CISCO are currently working on it).

The implication of this is that planners will need to be extremely data savvy.  In the near term, planners could have access to extremely rich and structured data in real-time – strong evidence to defend or refute particular stakeholders’ beliefs.  In the long term, the possibilities are both amazing and frightening.  There will be a need for stronger public-private partnerships, with private companies providing and constructing the physical infrastructure (fiber optic cables, monitoring devices, etc.) and the public sector managing the data and leveraging it for decision making in ways we have yet to imagine.

That said, several early examples already do exist.  CISCO is actually constructing its own smart city in Korea – Songdo.  This is similar to Masdar City, which we previously covered.  Barcelona has designated a sector of the city as an innovation lab (22@Barcelona), where smart city concepts are tested in real time.  In 2005, Bill Clinton challenged cities to minimize their carbon footprint by making planning an integral aspect of the solution.  CISCO conducted pilots in three worldwide cities as part of its associated Connected Urban Development program: Seoul, Amsterdam, and San Francisco.  Urban Ecomap was one of the products of that program.  Blaise Aguera of Microsoft Bing demonstrates in this TEDx talk how his company is producing augmented reality maps, which have many applications for planning including data collection, community engagement, and visualization.

John Tolva, the speaker from IBM, took a reverse approach and highlighted examples of how technologists could learn from the experiences of planners and the built environment.  He emphasized a few key learnings: throughput is not connectivity; it’s easy to confuse the use of a system with the need for a system; data alone is not sufficient for problem solving, but combined with an involved community it just may be.

Benjamin de la Pena of the Rockefeller Foundation also gave an extremely insightful presentation, closing out with some cautionary notes.  I will name a few.  The reliance on data and technology may undermine our own best interests – it can be systematically exclusionary as was exemplified as far back as Athens, Greece in its democratization process.  Some of our most ambitious feats have also turned out to be great failures on certain dimensions – he cited our highway system as connecting our country but dividing our neighborhoods.  Red lining was also data driven, hardly something to be proud of.  Data literacy and transparency will be of the utmost importance: citizens must be able to trust that city managers have their best interest in mind, providing information that is not purposefully hiding misleading but rather empowering.

As a graduate student in planning, I’ll be paying heightened attention to the progress in technology infrastructure in cities and the public-private relationships that will result.  It has great implications for my, and our, future.

-Terra Curtis

Further resources:

 

Transportation Camp

Transportation Camp is an “unconference” – all sessions during the gathering are proposed and led by attendees.  These people come from a plethora of backgrounds; representatives from Grist, from New York’s MTA, from the U.S. Department of the Treasury and Transportation, Streetfilms, and academia.  This past week, Transportation Camp East was held in New York; next week, Transportation Camp West happens in San Francisco.  It is organized by OpenPlans with support from the Rockefeller Foundation, the Institute for Information Law and Policy, Gray Area Foundation for the Arts, 3GMobility, redhat, Urban Mapping, and many others. The chatter this event has created is remarkable.  Not only did discussion begin well in advance of the gathering, but also it has continued – a good measure of success.  You can follow the discussion on their website, but also through the Twitter hashtag #transpo.  Talks included “Can we do a road pricing system for really cheap with existing tech?” to “Tools for small and medium agencies.”

[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/20936443 w=400&h=225]

Transportation Meets Technology in New York from Streetfilms on Vimeo.

The video above explains most of the detail of the event itself; it is meant to stimulate discussion on technology and transport, on innovation, on government 2.0, and on open data and transparency.  Twitter has facilitated not only organizing for the event itself, but also “offline” organizing.  People interested in these topics are holding tweetups; one group in particular, @CityCampSPb, organized a minicamp in Russia.  The result of the event is organized attention toward these issues, and with such a variety of attendees, action within government and private companies is likely to follow.

-Terra Curtis

 

Citizens as Sensors for the City

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jkz_PNW0IaE&w=440&h=278] A few times a year, I receive a publication called ArcUser: The Magazine for Esri Software Users.  While I do use GIS fairly frequently for class projects, I don’t usually spend too much time reading this magazine.  Often, it’s full of technical details geared more toward web and software developers than to planners.

That’s why this issue I was happy to stumble upon one article highlighting a service called CitySourced for smartphones.  CitySourced is similar to SeeClickFix, which we’ve written about before.  In fact, it’s so similar I can’t quickly discern the difference (anyone?).  I suspect SeeClickFix uses an open source GIS, while CitySource uses Esri’s GIS solution. Nonetheless, CitySourced provides an interface between citizens, which it views as sensors for the city, and city government and management.  When there’s an issue on the street like graffiti or a pothole, citizens can snap a photo with their smartphone, categorize the problem using a drop-down menu, and then submit the problem, which is fed directly in to the city’s work order queue.

CitySourced has not only been useful for this type of interaction, but also for compliance management on university campuses.  The University of California at Davis employs the service to document its compliance with the US Environmental Protection Agency’s and California State Water Board’s regulations.  Campus maintenance crews can photograph and submit real-time examples of policy implementation.  ArcUser reports this could save the university up to $27,500 in fines every day.

If anyone out there has used both CitySourced and SeeClickFix, I’d love to hear your comparison.  Share with us in the comments section below.

­-Terra Curtis

Citizens as Sensors for the City

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jkz_PNW0IaE&w=440&h=278] A few times a year, I receive a publication called ArcUser: The Magazine for Esri Software Users.  While I do use GIS fairly frequently for class projects, I don’t usually spend too much time reading this magazine.  Often, it’s full of technical details geared more toward web and software developers than to planners.

That’s why this issue I was happy to stumble upon one article highlighting a service called CitySourced for smartphones.  CitySourced is similar to SeeClickFix, which we’ve written about before.  In fact, it’s so similar I can’t quickly discern the difference (anyone?).  I suspect SeeClickFix uses an open source GIS, while CitySource uses Esri’s GIS solution. Nonetheless, CitySourced provides an interface between citizens, which it views as sensors for the city, and city government and management.  When there’s an issue on the street like graffiti or a pothole, citizens can snap a photo with their smartphone, categorize the problem using a drop-down menu, and then submit the problem, which is fed directly in to the city’s work order queue.

CitySourced has not only been useful for this type of interaction, but also for compliance management on university campuses.  The University of California at Davis employs the service to document its compliance with the US Environmental Protection Agency’s and California State Water Board’s regulations.  Campus maintenance crews can photograph and submit real-time examples of policy implementation.  ArcUser reports this could save the university up to $27,500 in fines every day.

If anyone out there has used both CitySourced and SeeClickFix, I’d love to hear your comparison.  Share with us in the comments section below.

­-Terra Curtis

Next Generation Government

We have talked about various “government 2.0” initiatives on this blog, and now the Living Labs Global Award 2011, in partnership with San Francisco, is searching out companies that promote, create, or encourage the next generation of government. One such group I have found has created OpenGovernment.org, a “free and open source public resource website for government transparency and civic engagement at the state and local levels.”  This is a follow-up to their project OpenCongress.org, a similar resource but for the national U.S. Congress. They’ve taken open data to the next level – merely by undertaking the project, they’ve uncovered the sad truth that many governmental agencies are not in compliance with the Principles of Open Government Data, meaning OpenGovernment has to go out and find it on their own (and they do) and additionally they have provided an accountability service in so doing, encouraging more states and localities to comply and upgrade their data.

So far, five states have been covered in the project (California, Louisiana, Maryland, Texas, and Wisconsin).  Recent bills, key votes, congressional makeup, and noteworthy events are all listed on the main state page.  It’s a quick and easy way to catch up on all the civics homework you’ve been putting off as a citizen.  It may also be a quick and easy way to hold elected officials accountable for their decisions.

-Terra Curtis

Oakland Zoning on Youtube

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fzJky8yENVU&fs=1&hl=en_US] We have written about the use of online media as a tool for city planning previously, including a specific example about the town of Cary, North Carolina.  Today I want to highlight the efforts of the Oakland, California planning department, which is using Youtube as a means of education and public engagement.

The last time Oakland’s zoning code was updated was in 1965, and no matter where you live, the 1965 world was a very different one from the one you’re living in today.  With that in mind, it makes sense for Oakland to embrace one of those stark differences – online communications and Youtube – to broadcast its updates.  You will find four videos on Oakland’s Youtube Channel.  Each of these is meant to prime the audience (the citizens of Oakland) for a thoughtful discussion on proposed zoning changes. In addition to the Youtube Channel, there are over a dozen other videos posted relating to the zoning update.  Many of these capture public sentiment and the opinions of elected officials.

The City of Oakland’s use of Youtube is great from an access and transparency perspective.  However, it doesn’t appear that they’re succeeding from an engagement perspective.  (The City of Oakland has around 400,000 residents; the first primer video posted has a mere 400 views – just 0.1% of its population).  While its efforts are noble, they’re going to have to be more innovative if they are to truly engage segments of the population that aren’t already.  Perhaps they could look to showcased company Socialight, or Second Life and Acton, Massachusetts, or to Cary, North Carolina.

Some Cities Don't Need Corporate Sponsorships

Portland, ORIn two previous posts, I’ve highlighted initiatives by several corporations (Pepsi, GE, Philips, KFC, and IBM) to influence better design and function in cities and the services they offer.  But, as I discovered after reading a tweet by Portland, Oregon’s Mayor Sam Adams, corporations aren’t the only ones stimulating innovative solutions in cities. Portland created a collaboration of local governments, city agencies, a university, and a host of local and national businesses to establish CivicApps, a challenge posed to the developer community to create useful apps using open data from the City of Portland.  Various winners will be awarded a cash prize, ranging in size from $50 to $3000.

Last week, the winners of the first (of two) rounds were announced.  The “Best of Show” Award and $3000 prize went to the Andy Wallace for PDX Bus, an all-purpose iPhone app for transit riders in the Portland area.  Other notable apps include PDX API (an API that provides access to the CivicApps datasets) and a bike parking map.  Ideas suggested for further development included using sidewalk data to improve TriMet (the Portland Metro transit agency) walking directions and submitting community-contributed datasets for use in CivicApps.

If you have ideas for CivicApps, apply now!  The second round of applications is currently being collected.

-Terra Curtis