open government

New York City crowd-sources bike share station location

London bike share New York City has always been seen as a trend-setter. This time they’re jumping on the backs of two big trends: bike sharing and crowd sourcing. New York City Department of Transportation has collaborated with OpenPlans, a non-profit focus on open government and transportation, to develop software that collects public input for bike sharing stations.

The software, to be called CivicWorks, is behind NYCDOT’s bike share suggestion engine. It is an open source tool that eventually will allow any group to open their own suggestion engine for the placement of anything on a map – street trees, parks, bike parking, new development. It takes a standard, “analog” public participation interaction exercise (involving Legos and printed maps) and brings it into the 21st Century.

At first glance, the crowd-collected data on NYC’s map seems to be rather useless. How much information can you gather about preferences if there is no variation in them? The whole city seems to be covered in dots. But as Neil Freeman of NYCDOT explained, there actually is a fair amount of variation in the data.

Each dot represents a location where one person requested a station, but also embedded in the dot are several votes from other community members. This variation enabled the DOT to produce “heat maps” of station location preferences, highlighting the need to focus first in Manhattan’s southern core, but also a desire to expand into further reaches of Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx.

The data have also been used to perform “proximity tests,” where planners compare the hottest locations with practical measures like the width of the sidewalk or ownership of the land where it would be placed.

The information collected through this online platform will be augmented with feedback collected at many in-person public meetings across the City throughout the year in order to determine the placement of the City’s first bike share stations.

-          Terra Curtis

Advancing open government/Gov 2.0 in San Francisco

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fu_-D44rCwE&w=439&h=250] The Gray Area Foundation for the Arts has partnered with the San Francisco Department of Technology to launch Summer of Smart, a three-month intensive program that brings together designers, planners, architects, technologists, developers and other urbanists to create bold new ideas to address pressing issues in San Francisco.  At the conclusion of the program, leading ideas will be presented to Mayoral candidates to inspire lasting change in the city.

The program includes three weekends of workshops covering Community Development and Public Art; Sustainability, Transportation, and Energy; and, Public Health, Food, and Nutrition.  Each weekend, attendees are asked to focus on the following question: What projects and applications should be built around urban issues facing San Francisco, and then presented to mayoral candidates for their feedback and support?

This is perhaps too big a question to start with.  It seems that necessarily the process must start by identifying the existing issues and examining the feasibility of tech or open government-type solutions.  That’s why it is so important that attendees include both those working within the government and those from the tech world.

Some solutions mentioned in their Twitter feed (#sfsos) and on the website so far include:

  • Publicly-visible eBay for government contracts
  • A management system for transit agencies to view real-time delay information, change operations
  • The Neighborhood Game, designed to inspire people to meet their neighbors and learn more about their neighborhood
  • Permit This, aggregating building permit info with building codes

A major success of the program could be simply to bring open government and technology into the mayoral debate.  This video highlights the tech (il)literacy of each of the candidates.

- Terra Curtis

 

Advancing open government/Gov 2.0 in San Francisco

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fu_-D44rCwE&w=439&h=250] The Gray Area Foundation for the Arts has partnered with the San Francisco Department of Technology to launch Summer of Smart, a three-month intensive program that brings together designers, planners, architects, technologists, developers and other urbanists to create bold new ideas to address pressing issues in San Francisco.  At the conclusion of the program, leading ideas will be presented to Mayoral candidates to inspire lasting change in the city.

The program includes three weekends of workshops covering Community Development and Public Art; Sustainability, Transportation, and Energy; and, Public Health, Food, and Nutrition.  Each weekend, attendees are asked to focus on the following question: What projects and applications should be built around urban issues facing San Francisco, and then presented to mayoral candidates for their feedback and support?

This is perhaps too big a question to start with.  It seems that necessarily the process must start by identifying the existing issues and examining the feasibility of tech or open government-type solutions.  That’s why it is so important that attendees include both those working within the government and those from the tech world.

Some solutions mentioned in their Twitter feed (#sfsos) and on the website so far include:

  • Publicly-visible eBay for government contracts
  • A management system for transit agencies to view real-time delay information, change operations
  • The Neighborhood Game, designed to inspire people to meet their neighbors and learn more about their neighborhood
  • Permit This, aggregating building permit info with building codes

A major success of the program could be simply to bring open government and technology into the mayoral debate.  This video highlights the tech (il)literacy of each of the candidates.

- 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