Today we’ll be talking about open government initiatives from the perspective of open data and how it impacts web managers. So, what is open government? It looks a lot like this illustration. Wikipedia says it’s the “Governing doctrine that citizens have the right to access government documents and proceedings.” From Local Open Government Initiative at opengovernmentinitiative.org, they say “Open Government” is the movement to improve government by making it more transparent, participatory, and collaborative. Open Government will help build the public’s trust and satisfaction in government, will improve government’s delivery of services, and will create new opportunities for innovation.
However you want to define it, open government is built upon three basic goals + collaboration which most folks now include in the mix: Transparency The goal is to make government information available to the public a requirement, thus creating an informed citizenry and an accountable government. Participation Democracy requires opportunities for participation and collaborative problem solving whenever possible; this is at the core of democratic governance. Accessibility A government serving all its people needs policies which provide maximum information accessibility and maximum inclusion in participatory processes.
OK, so why is it important? Beyond basic transparency, participation, and accessibility open government is important for many reasons. A few of them are shown here. But for all the reasons, the biggest reason is why we are all here in the first place … citizens. An open and accessible government has nothing to hide. If citizens can have access to any data and information they need, they are more informed and can make better decisions. A transparent and participative government willingly supplies valuable data sets and data feeds for private enterprise to develop useful applications upon. Governments are really great at collecting the data, but we’re not so great at doing anything with it. The private sector is really good at implementation. If we can give them the right tools, there are many talented developers and entrepreneurs that can create value from government data which can have significant direct and indirect economic value to our communities.
OK, so it’s important. Why are you telling this to me? As you can see there are many parts of an open and transparent government where technology plays an important and defining role. This is your domain. You are the experts, and this is your arena. It’s a revolution that is (almost) completely dependent on the Internet and web technologies. In your organization, you will play an important role in your organizations transition and adoption of open government principles. You’re all familiar with Web2.0. Now think Gov2.0. OK, you get it. Now, your job is to get buy-in from your organization. Because while all of you are experts in the items listed in this slide …
You’re not all experts in everything listed here… You can probably tell how were trying to show you the whole picture with the use of this word cloud. You need the buy-in from your IT Department, Public Information Officers, Executive Management, City Managers, City Councils, and County Commissioners to make Gov2.0 successful in your organization. They are the ones with the connections and knowledge of politics, policies….
You’ve probably already figured out you can’t do this by yourself. You will be a central player in any open government initiative, but it’s bigger than you. Create a revolution from the inside… You going to need support and buy-in from your organization. Don’t attempt to do this without buy-in. It will not be a sustainable venture. Start with the most forward-thinking people in your organization. That may be your PIO, IT Department, GIS Department, or maybe even Finance or Public Works. For some obvious and some not-so-obvious reasons, these are good places to start. Each department listed here produces a lot of high-value data.
One of the first things you will want to do is identify at least champion. If you can recruit more than one, great! You may be highly influential, but chances are that your position in your organization is not one that lends itself to being a long-term champion. The key part is “long-term.” There is no quick path to open government transformation. Your champion needs to be able to hang in there for the long-haul and they may have to defend and educate the open government position for a long time before you make significant progress. However, some highly influential champions are able to score quick results. Our story was easier than most. We had to look no further than our IT Director for a long-term champion. Then when she went to “preach the good word,” she found out she had many allies within our organization. Lucky for us, Arvada has been a fairly progressive organization when it comes to change like this. Your mileage may vary. Find the right champion and it will happen. Two remaining comments on this are 1) this type of change usually starts from the bottom-up, but without top-down support your chances of success are near impossible. And 2) you don’t have to get everyone to buy-in to your open government initiative, just the folks that could kill it.
Do your research. There are more metrics and case studies regarding the benefits of an open organization than we can cover here. Many of you here today can do research on the web better than I can, so I will not bore you death with page after page of resources. That said, here’s a good place to start. Organizations like Sunlight Foundation, OpenPlans, OpenColorado (shameless plug), Code for America, and CityCamp have lots of information on useful metrics and case studies you can use while selling the concept to your organization. Don’t worry about writing all of this down, we’ve aggregated all the resources into a single link which we will share with you at the end of the presentation.
One last resource I would like to share is opengovernmentinitiative.org. At Local Open Government Initiative you’ll find a few templates to help you get started. There is a template for the Declaration of Local Open Government Principles which you can use to evangelize open government and your leaders can officially declare an open government initiative. You can build a complete Open Government Plan with the Local Open Government Directive template which is ready for prime time right out of the box. All you have to do is fill in the blanks like your organization name and pass it off to your City Council for approval. If you are interested in getting more visit the site. If you want to get involved, please join the Open Government Initiative Google group – a link on the site.
OK, let’s assume you’ve been a great sales person and your organization is on board. Let’s also assume that you’ve gone the extra mile, and your organization has made the Open Government pledge – which is not required by any means but really helpful. We can now move forward with implementation. I’m a huge proponent of being agile. Start small and mature as the situation dictates. It may or may not work for your organization, but you can try. Step #1: Start with the low-hanging fruit. So you say, “thanks Captain Obvious, but what do you call low-hanging fruit.” I’m talking about GIS content (SHP files, KML files) – basically maps - stuff that you probably already have on your website. Financial Budget Plans maybe in an XLS document. Maps to parks, facilities, city boundaries. Yeah, it’s not necessarily high-value data, but you have to start somewhere. For starters, create an area on your site where all this information is easily accessible. It doesn’t have to be anything complicated. This is not rocket surgery. We’ll touch on data catalogs in a minute. For now, just put it all in one place and promote it. Whatever you do, just do something. Through my work at OpenColorado, I’ve talked to many agencies who say they want to do something, but they are just afraid to pull the trigger. They feel the need to wait until everything is absolutely perfect before they take any action. Well, absolute perfection will never happen, and it’s not even a particularly good excuse.
Step 2: Develop your plans and policies that will encourage transparency – open data publishing standards, open government directives, vendor contracts, and open data licensing to name a few. One of the most overlooked is data publishing standardizations. In the past, most of the data collected by government agencies was not created with public consumption in mind. Nowadays, you have to make sure it's available AND readable by the public. At the City of Arvada, we recently launched a new financial data application where the public could go and see where we are spending money..in real time. Well, one of our City facilities is a arts center, The Arvada Center. They had a theater production called Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, and our directors went to New York to audition actors for the production. Well, on documenting a travel expense, someone entered “taxi for whorehouse.” Well, you now know the context of the story, but curious citizens didn't. This is just one example where data entry standardizations help make the data more useful. But I’m also talking about creating guidelines on how you deal with vendors. Make sure you have access to the data your business partners collect, and insist that your vendors provide you access to that data through things like APIs and web services. You’d be surprised how many of your organizations work with software and SaaS providers who give you no access to your own raw data. This even extends to social media. Do you have a solid social media policy? Does your organization utilize social media on a whim, or is it a part of regular business? Organizations who are active social media users tend to be more transparent. Remember, keep your policies simple. They will allow you to evolve more quickly as you become a more mature and open organization. Again – think agile.
Identify high-value data sets that you can access and find out what it would take to publish that data. Make a plan to liberate that data. After you’ve picked the low hanging fruit. There are many ways to find high-value datasets to publish. Poll your citizens, search what other have found as high-value, poll other employees who may get FOIA requests. Create a data inventory and roadmap for data liberation. Many of your systems don’t have the ability to easily extract data. Remember what I said about making sure your vendors provide easy access through APIs or web services? You may have to write code, hire contractors, or renegotiate with your vendor to gain access to this information. Not all of this is feasible. You'll be working with your internal partners to get their data ready to present. We were able to write a script to allow self-service data queries for a particular system because on IT staff member would constently get CORA and FOIA request for a specific data set. After we made the data available online, City staff only had to direct requests to the self-service option. It saved a lot of time, frustration, and costs to us and the citizen. Prioritize what can easily be achieved or has the highest value to your organization – the costs may outweigh the human capital involved in regularly fulfilling FOIA requests manually through a legacy system.
Make friends with your organization’s legal team. Not many municipal attorneys are experienced in internet law or have very much exposure to open government initiatives. Help them do the necessary research to develop open government and social media policies, as well as, determinations on what license you will use with your open data sets. Keep them informed of all you do and get their support. It’s not always the case, but many times open government initiatives have been stalled because there was not support from the legal teams. It’s not that they don’t want to help you, they are just trying to protect your organization. They know law, but you’re the Internet professionals.
Now that you have a bit of data to present on your website, consider starting or contributing to an existing data catalog. You’re a web programmer. You could always roll your own. We started to go down that road before we found CKAN. CKAN is an open-source data portal software. CKAN makes it easy to publish, share and find data. It provides a powerful database for cataloging and storing datasets, with an intuitive web front-end and API. This is what we used for the data catalog at OpenColorado. Any government agency in Colorado can add their data to the OpenColorado catalog (powered by CKAN), and through the available API they can instantly display their datasets in their own site as well as on OpenColorado. We also have some PHP and .NET code that would have you up and running in a matter of minutes. But, I’ll go into more about that in a minute. Another fine product that has a different approach is Socrata. Socrata is significantly more advanced than CKAN as it not only warehouses your data but it’s instantly available for use by non-technical users who can easily create visualizations and interact with the data. Pretty cool stuff. While I’m not selling either of these two services, they will certainly get the job done, and I’ve been most impressed by the functionality of each. A quick Google search will, no doubt, uncover many more options. The main difference is CKAN is free but requires some technical ability to host and configure. Socrata is easy to use and powerful, but is, alas, not free.
So, I want to take a few moments to share with you what we have been doing at OpenColorado. If you are in Colorado, you'll want to pay attention. We've pretty much done all the work for you, and can help you get started in less than a day. If you're not in Colorado, you can take this and do something similar in your community. OpenColorado was founded in late 2010. It's a new non-profit that provides web-based services, solutions, and support to governmental organizations within the State of Colorado. Through technology, our goal is to help agencies become more transparent, accountable, participatory, and efficient. We help governments with everything from social media strategies and consulting to helping them transform to a more open and transparent organization with open data needs. Our first main achievement was launching a state-wide data catalog that all agencies (state, county, and city) can participate...for free. As I just mentioned we use CKAN to power our catalog.
So, how does it work? Data Providers (that's you) frequently have data scattered all over their websites. Agencies often don't really even know what they have because it ends up getting buried in the site, or even worse they have data they could put on their site, but they don't know how to present it. So, any agency employee can add a link to a dataset on the OpenColorado site. Simply click – Liberate a Data Set. Now using the CKAN API and your favorite programming tools, you can extract all your data in a single stream. Now Data Consumers (that's citizens, journalists, and businesses): Simply query the OpenColorado catalog to find data for your applications. You don't have to dig for it on each municipal website .
Now that you've extracted the data using the API, you can create a mashup to embed just your data right into your website. Don't necessarily have the programming skills to create a mash-up from a REST API? Well we've created nice PHP and .NET front-ends. Just download the code and place in your website. It's almost plug-and-play. I believe there is also a Drupal module available – if you're into that kind of thing. Instant data catalog. So, now it doesn't matter if a user is searching for data with a Google search, on OpenColorado.org, or on your website – they'll find it.
The City of Arvada was the first to adopt the OpenColorado model, and you can see here we've seamlessly embedded the dataset listed on OpenColorado right into our own website. Now we are not alone. There are three other agencies in Colorado that have adopted the OpenColorado model, and the City of Boulder will be going live with it soon. If you're in the State of Colorado, give us a call and we can get you up and running. If you're not in Colorado, and you are interested in standing up your own data catalog. Give us a call. We can start you in the right direction.
Continue to educate yourself. There's more about the Gov2.0 movement than we can cover here in an hour, and things change every day. At the end of this presentation, we have links to the presentation that you can download and re-use. We've put it under a Creative Commons license. See – we practice what we preach. We've also included a link to delicious.com where we have aggregated all the links and references used in this presentation. It is by no means exhaustive lists of resources, but there's enough there to get you started. Follow the movers and shakers. Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+ are good places to start. There's a lot going on in this space, and a lot of smart people talking about it. Finally, attend a CityCamp. CityCamp is an unconference focused on innovation for municipal governments and community organizations Each City Camp has four main goals: Bring together local government officials, municipal employees, experts, programmers, designers, citizens and journalists to share perspectives and insights about the cities in which they live Create and maintain patterns for using the Web to facilitate local government transparency and effective local governance Foster communities of practice and advocacy on the role of the Web, mobile communication, online information, and open data in cities Create outcomes that participants will act upon after the event is over CityCamp explores and documents ideas, lessons learned, best practices, and patterns that can be implemented within and shared across municipalities, anywhere in the world. Of particular interest is the use of social/participatory media, mobile devices, linked open data, and “Web as platform.” If you're in the area. I highly recommend you attend the next CityCamp which happens to be here in Colorado (next Friday) on October 28. You can register for CityCamp Colorado and find out more information on other CityCamps at OpenColorado.org.
How to Evangelize and Implement an Open Government Initiative
How to Evangelize and Implement an Open Government Initiative Leslie Labrecque, City of Boulder, CO Sean Hudson, City of Arvada, CO
Agenda <ul><li>What is Open Government? </li></ul><ul><li>Why me? </li></ul><ul><li>How do I Get Buy-In? </li></ul><ul><li>Where Do I Get Started? </li></ul><ul><li>Showcase OpenColorado </li></ul><ul><li>Next Steps </li></ul><ul><li>Questions? </li></ul>
Get Buy-In <ul><li>Go to anyone within your organization that will listen. The usual suspects might include: </li></ul><ul><li>Public Information Office (PIO) </li></ul><ul><li>Information Technology (IT) </li></ul><ul><li>Mapping Professionals (GIS) </li></ul><ul><li>Finance </li></ul>
Get Buy-In You don’t have to get everyone to buy-in to your initiative, just the folks that could kill it.
Get Buy-In <ul><li>Do your research. Metrics and case studies are readily available. Start here: </li></ul><ul><li>Sunlight Foundation ( http://sunlightfoundation.com/ ) </li></ul><ul><li>OpenPlans ( http://openplans.org/ ) </li></ul><ul><li>OpenColorado ( http://opencolorado.org ) </li></ul><ul><li>Code for America ( http://codeforamerica.org/ ) </li></ul><ul><li>CityCamp ( http://citycamp.govfresh.com/ ) </li></ul><ul><li>GovFresh ( http://govfresh.com/ ) </li></ul><ul><li>GovLoop ( http://govloop.com/ ) </li></ul>
Get Buy-In http://opengovernmentinitiative.org/
How to Get Started Step #1: Start with the low-hanging fruit. Most of you already have data on your website. Put it in one place and promote it.
How to Get Started Step #2: Develop policies and guidelines for liberating future data sets and improving overall transparency. Keep the policies simple as they will allow you to evolve quickly as your initiatives evolve – think agile.
How to Get Started Step #3: Identify high-value data sets, and plan how to make them accessible. Poll your citizens, search what other have found as high-value, poll other employees who may get FOIA requests.
How to Get Started Step #4: Make friends with your organization’s legal team. Keep them informed and help with research. They know law, but you’re the Internet professionals.
How to Get Started <ul><li>Step #5: Start a data catalog (or contribute to an existing data catalog and/or repository). Promote your efforts. </li></ul><ul><li>Roll your own </li></ul><ul><li>CKAN ( http://ckan.org ) </li></ul><ul><li>Socrata ( http://socrata.com/ ) </li></ul><ul><li>Many others… </li></ul>
Next Steps <ul><li>Educate yourself </li></ul><ul><li>Follow the movers and shakers </li></ul><ul><li>Discover existing open government initiatives </li></ul><ul><li>Attend a CityCamp and get on CityCamp list </li></ul><ul><li>CityCamp Colorado </li></ul><ul><li>October 28, 2011 </li></ul><ul><li>http://opencolorado.org/citycamp-colorado </li></ul>