This summer I will be travelling across Canada (twice!) on my motorcycle— approximately 20,000 kilometres in total—to bring attention to the open government and open data movements, which are based on transparency, accountability and engagement.
The open government tour will put into practice the theories that make up these movements.
Each #OGT14 event is built upon its predecessor through feedback from its attendees, invited guests, and City Champions. So in a way you could say that the tour is specifically designed to learn from itself.
For example, the Montreal event on July 7 proved to be a terrific learning experience and that’s why we re-jigged a few things for Halifax (July 14). And the results were nothing short of AWESOME! The audience was privy to an exciting, engaging, and insightful conversations with subject matter experts who shared their stories and described the hurdles in making our government more Open…so much so that the event went 45min into “overtime.”
You too now have a chance to participate as there are two events coming soon to Atlantic Canada:
1) July 22 – Charlottetown, Holland College Campus, CAST building, Room 318, 300 Kent Street
2) July 23 – Moncton, Venn Centre, 735 Main Street
My view on open data
I like to say that open data is the technology that will give us a more accountable, transparent and engaging government.
Open government is the willingness to use that technology. It is the culture change required both within our government and our homes that will create a much more collaborative and productive relationship between people and their government, to build trust between people and their government and to create collaborative environments where we can work together.
Open data sets are like Lego blocks
You can build anything with Lego blocks—Star Destroyers,full-sized Volvo SUVs, and superheroes—and the only thing stopping you is the type of Lego block and your own imagination.
Open data sets are just like Lego blocks. You can build anything with them, as long as you have access to the right data sets and have a lively imagination. That’s why I never really have an answer when people ask me “how much impact do you think open data can have?”
Who can say? It could be a passing fad like the Macarena, or a culture-shifting movement that will redefine how we engage with government and operate businesses. I can tell you this, though: open data has already massively changed at least one sector, and that sector is transit.
Transit apps exist in most large urban centres (like Toronto, San Francisco and Paris) and many smaller ones too (like Halifax, Denver and Bordeaux). These apps give users real-time updates on when their buses/streetcars/subways will be arriving at their stop. This is made possible because the governing transit agencies chose to release (we sometimes use the word “liberate”) their data instead of keeping it inside the walls of the bureaucracy.
Thanks to the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) releasing their data sets, there are approximately 20 transit apps in Toronto on the Android platform. And I argue that if the TTC had chosen to not release their data, then there would only be one TTC app (maybe), and it wouldn’t be very good. Now, people get to choose their preferred transit application.
Using this example, we see that open data and open government allow people to customize their government services. What a novel idea!
Now, just imagine what else it could do.