The five elements of an open source city

Jason Hibbets in Open “How can you apply the concepts of open source to a living, breathing city? An open source city is a blend of open culture, open government policies, and economic development. I derived these characteristics based on my experiences and while writing my book, The foundation for an open source city.  Characteristics such as collaboration, participation, transparency, rapid prototyping, and many others can be applied to any city that wants to create an open source culture. Let’s take a look at these characteristics in more detail.

Five characteristics of an open source city

  1. Fostering a culture of citizen participation
  2. Having an effective open government policy
  3. Having an effective open data initiative
  4. Promoting open source user groups and conferences
  5. Being a hub for innovation and open source businesses

In my book, I take a look at how these five principles are being actively applied in Raleigh, North Carolina. I also incorporate other experiences from my open government adventures such as CityCamps and my first Code for America Summit. Although Raleigh is the case study, the book is a guide for how cities across the country, and world, can implement the open source city brand.”

The Future of Internet Governance: 90 Places to Start

Council on Foreign Relations Blog: “The open, global Internet, which has created untold wealth and empowered billions of individuals, is in jeopardy. Around the world, “nations are reasserting sovereignty and territorializing cyberspace” to better control the political, economic, social activities of their citizens, and the content they can access. These top-down efforts undermine the Internet’s existing decentralized, multi-stakeholder system of governance and threaten its fragmentation into multiple national intranets. To preserve an open system that reflects its interests and values while remaining both secure and resilient, the United States must unite a coalition of like-minded states committed to free expression and free markets and prepared to embrace new strategies to combat cyber crime and rules to govern cyber warfare.
These are the core messages of the just-released CFR report, Defending an Open, Global, Resilient, and Secure Internet. The product of a high-level task force, chaired by former Director of National Intelligence John D. Negroponte and former IBM Chairman Samuel J. Palmisano, the report opens by describing the epochal transformation the Internet has wrought on societies and economies worldwide—particularly in the developing world.
Facilitating this unprecedented connectivity has been a framework based not on governmental (or intergovernmental) fiat but on “self-regulation, private sector leadership, and a bottom-up policy process.” By leaving regulation in the hands of technical experts, private sector actors, civil society groups, and end-users, the pioneers of the early Internet ensured that it would “reflect a broad range of perspectives and keep pace with rapidly changing technology.” They also ensured that rights of free expression and privacy would emerge as dominant norms….
Given current trends, can the United States possibly preserve the open global internet? Yes, but the first step is getting its own house in order. Distressingly, the U.S. government lacks a coherent strategic vision, an adequate policy coordination framework, and the requisite legislative authorities to develop and implement a national cyberspace policy, undercutting its global leadership.
Beyond this general guidance, the CFR task force offers some ninety (!) recommendations for U.S. policymakers.”

The Use of Data Visualization in Government

Report by Genie Stowers for The IBM Center for The Business of Government: “The purpose of this report is to help public sector managers understand one of the more important areas of data analysis today—data visualization. Data visualizations are more sophisticated, fuller graphic designs than the traditional spreadsheet charts, usually with more than two variables and, typically, incorporating interactive features. Data are here to stay, growing exponentially, and data analysis is taking off, pushed forward as a result of the convergence of:
• New technologies
• Open data and big data movements
• The drive to more effectively engage citizens
• The creation and distribution of more and more data…
This report contains numerous examples of visualizations that include geographical and health data, or population and time data, or financial data represented in both absolute and relative terms—and each communicates more than simply the data that underpin it.In addition to these many examples of visualizations, the report discusses the history of this technique, and describes tools that can be used to create visualizations from many different kinds of data sets. Government managers can use these tools—including Many Eyes, Tableau, and HighCharts—to create their own visualizations from their agency’s data.
The report presents case studies on how visualization techniques are now being used by two local governments, one state government,and three federal government agencies. Each case study discusses the audience for visualization. Understanding audience is important, as government organizations provide useful visualizations to different audiences, including the media, political oversight organizations, constituents, and internal program teams.To assist in effectively communicating to these audiences, the report details attributes of meaningful visualizations: relevance,meaning, beauty, ease of use, legibility, truthfulness, accuracy,and consistency among them.”

Why Are We Signing Our Emails With “Thank You?”

Krystal D’Costa on Anthropology in Practice in Scientific American: “These types of linguistic structures are known as “politeness formulae.” … These patterns of responses are deeply nuanced and reflect the nature of the relationship between participants: degree of intimacy, relative status, and length of contact or expected duration of separation all influence how these interactions are carried out.

In the age of texting, these practices may seem antiquated, but the need for those sorts of rituals remains important, particularly in electronic communication where tone is hard to read. We end our communiques with “talk later,” “talk 2 u tomorrow,” or even simply “bye.” “Thanks” and “Thank you” have worked their way into this portion of the formula particularly in emails. More traditional valedictions have been replaced with “Thank you” so subtly that it’s now a common sign-off in this medium. But what does it mean? And why is it more acceptable than “Sincerely” or “Yours truly”?

It is in part be a reflection of our times. Email offers a speedier means of contact than an actual letter (and in some cases, a telephone), but that speed also means we’re sending more messages through this medium both for personal and professional reasons, and reading and responding to these messages requires a commitment of time. So it’s more important that the sender recognize the burden that they’ve placed on the recipient. In a time when letters took time to write, send, and respond to, it was important for the sender to attest to her reliability. Responses and actions were not so easy to take back. “Sincerely” and “Yours truly” which were meant to build trust between communicants. Credibility was an important determinant of whether a response would be issues. Today, as the web enables stranger to contact each other with little effort, credibility is less of a factor in determining responses (SPAM mail aside) when weighed against time.”

Technocracy within Representative Democracy

Christina Ribbhagen’s new paper on “Technocracy within Representative Democracy: Technocratic Reasoning and Justification among Bureaucrats and Politicians”: ” How can you possibly have ‘Technocracy within Representative Democracy’, as suggested in the title of this thesis? Shouldn’t the correct title be ‘Technocracy or Representative Democracy’, the sceptic might ask? Well, if technocracy is strictly defined, as rule by an elite of (technical) experts, the sceptic obviously has a point. Democracy means rule by the people (demos) and not rule by (technical) experts. However, in tune with Laird (1990; see also Fischer 2000), I argue that merely establishing the absence of a simple technocratic ruling class is only half the story; instead a more subtle interpretation of technocracy is needed.
Laird (1990, p. 51) continues his story by stating that: ‘The problem of technocracy is the problem of power relations and how those relations are affected by the importance of esoteric knowledge in modern society. The idea that such knowledge is important is correct. The idea that it is important because it leads to the rise of a technically skilled ruling class is mistaken. The crucial issue is not who gains power but who loses it. Technocracy is not the rise of experts, it is the decline of citizens’. Or as formulated by Fischer (2000), ‘One of the most important contemporary functions of technocratic politics, it can be argued, rests not so much on its ascent to power (in the traditional sense of the term) as on the fact that its growing influence shields the elites from political pressure from below’. The crucial issue for the definition of technocracy then is not who governs, rather it lies in the mode of politics. As argued by Fischer (2000), too often writers have dismissed the technocratic thesis on the grounds that experts remain subordinate to top-level economic and political elites. A consequence of this, he continues, is that this argument ‘overlooks the less visible discursive politics of technocratic expertise. Not only does the argument fail to appreciate the way this technical, instrumental mode of inquiry has come to shape our thinking about public problems, but it neglects the ways these modes of thought have become implicitly embedded in our institutional discourses and practices’ (p. 17). Thus, technocracy here should not be understood as ‘rule by experts’, but rather ‘government by technique’ focusing on the procedures and content of politics, suggesting that technocratic reasoning and justification has gained ground and dominates the making of public policy (Boswell, 2009; Fischer, 1990; Meynaud, 1969; Radaelli, 1999b;). To be sure, indirectly this will have consequences as to who will win or lose power. A policy issue or process that is technocratically framed is likely to disempower those lacking information and expertise within the area (Fischer, 1990; Laird, 19903), while supplying those with information and expertise with a ‘technocratic key’ (Uhrwing, 2001) leading to the door of political power.”

Big Data Is Not Our Master. Humans create technology. Humans can control it.

Chris Hughes in New Republic: “We’ve known for a long time that big companies can stalk our every digital move and customize our every Web interaction. Our movements are tracked by credit cards, Gmail, and tollbooths, and we haven’t seemed to care all that much.
That is, until this week’s news of government eavesdropping, with the help of these very same big companies—Verizon, Facebook, and Google, among others. For the first time, America is waking up to the realities of what all this information—known in the business as “big data”—enables governments and corporations to do….
We are suddenly wondering, Can the rise of enormous data systems that enable this surveillance be stopped or controlled? Is it possible to turn back the clock?
Technologists see the rise of big data as the inevitable march of history, impossible to prevent or alter. Viktor Mayer-Schönberger and Kenneth Cukier’s recent book Big Data is emblematic of this argument: They say that we must cope with the consequences of these changes, but they never really consider the role we play in creating and supporting these technologies themselves….
But these well-meaning technological advocates have forgotten that as a society, we determine our own future and set our own standards, norms, and policy. Talking about technological advancements as if they are pre-ordained science erases the role of human autonomy and decision-making in inventing our own future. Big data is not a Leviathan that must be coped with, but a technological trend that we have made possible and support through social and political policy.”

'Wiki' style government policymaking means everyone is a lobbyist

Robert Halfon MP is a member of the  UK Commons Public Administration Committee (PASC) in the Guardian: “We need to end phoney consultation in policymaking – and stop trying to reinvent the wheel when it comes to implementation… Another week, another lobbying scandal. But what if the government found a way to really listen to all its citizens, to genuinely involve the public in policy making? So that it would no longer be an issue of who has the government’s ear – because everyone would?
A report published by the Public Administration Select Committee, which I sit on, calls on government to adopt an open, “wiki” style approach to policy making, where public opinion, ideas and contributions are sought and welcome at any and all stages of the policy cycle. This kind of genuine public engagement would contrast sharply with the status quo: tokenistic exercises in phoney consultation about issues that have already been decided.
We all welcome the government’s moves towards more digital engagement, but what our committee really wants to see is more direct, real public involvement in policy making, whether that is via the internet or other means. The most important point is that government treats public engagement as a serious part of policy-making. That will mean communicating and engaging in ways that are tailored to every audience, in new and more traditional ways. This is not just a time or cost-saving exercise, although using existing and new technology and media well should bring those benefits. This is about making better policy. To those who say it can’t be done, our report contains examples from New Zealand, the US and even as far afield as Redbridge councilshowing that if there is real will, crowd sourcing of policy and real public engagement can be possible…
We have moved from being subjects to citizens to active open-source citizens – and yet our policy making does not recognise this. The public no longer want to be handed out policy like tablets of stone from Mount Sinai. In fact they want to go up the mountain with Moses. However, they have to be able to believe that their input can make a real difference. Genuine engagement means ensuring that a good proportion of the public actually participate in open policy-making. Although this will be a challenge for government to achieve, without it there’s little point.”

A Citizen’s Guide to Open Government, E-Government, and Government 2.0

Inside the MPA@UNC Blog: “Engaged citizens want clear, credible information from the government about how it’s carrying on its business. They don’t want to thumb through thousands of files or wait month after month or go through the rigors of filing claims through FOIA (Freedom of Information Act). They want government information, services, and communication to be forthcoming and swift. The Open Government, Government 2.0, and E-Governance movements fill the need of connecting citizens with the government and each other to foster a more open, collaborative, and efficient public sector through the use of new technology and public data.
Open Government is defined by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) as “the transparency of government actions, the accessibility of government services and information, and the responsiveness of government to new ideas, demands and needs.”
E-Government is defined by the World Bank as “the use by government agencies of information technologies that have the ability to transform relations with citizens, businesses, and other arms of government. These technologies can serve a variety of different ends: better delivery of government services to citizens, improved interactions with business and industry, citizen empowerment through access to information, or more efficient government management. The resulting benefits can be less corruption, increased transparency, greater convenience, revenue growth, and/or cost reductions.”
Government 2.0 is defined by Gartner Research as “the use of Web 2.0 technologies, both internally and externally, to increase collaboration and transparency and potentially transform the way government agencies relate to citizens and operate.”
Open Government and E-Government paved the way for Government 2.0, a collaborative technology whose mission is to improve government transparency and efficiency. How? Gov 2.0 has been called the next generation of government because it not only utilizes new technologies such as social media, cloud computing, and other apps, it is a means to increase citizen participation….
We have compiled a list of organizations, blogs, guides, and tools to help citizens and public service leaders better understand the Open Government, E-Government, and Government 2.0 movement….”

Is Civic Hacking The Future Of Democracy And Job Creation?

Anthony Wing Kosner in Forbes: “The hacker method is code first, ask permission later. This is great for getting things done quickly, but it sidesteps the gnarly issues of how citizen contributions actually get deployed within government agencies. There are all kinds of projects that can just get done and deployed using resources in the public domain, but civic hacking aims to get more directly involved in government.
For organizations on the receiving end of civic code, there are many questions as well. How do you test and implement the code? How will the code get maintained? What happens if there are unintended consequences of how public data is used? Jawitz hismelf is working on the idea of “civic startups,” as a way of both creating jobs around these efforts and in developing the specific infrastructure required to harvest civic efforts and turn them into working programs—and in some cases, new businesses….
I think that we are only beginning to explore the ways to merge the creative anarchy of hacker culture with the careful regulation of civic concerns. In a sense, this is the dialectic between entropy and inertia that play itself out in technologies of all kinds. But the fact that it is difficult is an indication that there is real work here to engage with, real problems to solve. Hack on!”

“Statisticians are the modern explorers”

An interview with Professor David J. Hand in Statistics Views: “The point to remember is that statisticians are there when the discoveries are made because the statisticians are, almost by defintion, the ones analysing the data and seeing the patterns. Often they are patterns no one else has seen before. Statisticians are the modern day version of the 19th century explorer….The computer has totally revolutionised the subject. It’s arguable that statistics is now more of a computational discipline than a mathematical one. You cannot do modern statistics without a computer. The computer has enabled us not merely to work more quickly but also to do things we would never have thought of before. Bootstrap methods are an example….The discipline is so important. Modern societies are built on the infrastructure of statistics. We need statisticians to cope with the data for medical research, government policies, engineering and there have not been enough. Society would benefit tremendously from statisticians and there is a danger that there aren’t going to be enough.”