LocalWiki turns open local data into open local knowledge

Marina Kukso at OpenGovVoices:” LocalWiki is an open knowledge project focusing on giving everyone the opportunity to collaborate to create and share all kinds of information about the place where they live.

The project started in 2004 in Davis, Calif. as the Davis Wiki, now the primary local information resource for Davis residents. One-in-seven residents have contributed to the project and, in a given month, almost every resident uses it.

In 2010, we received funding from the Knight Foundation to bring LocalWiki to many more communities. We created a wiki software specifically designed for local collaboration and have seen adoption in more than 70 communities worldwide. People now use LocalWiki for everything from mapping out nature trails to planning a grassroots mayoral election candidate debate….

There’s a great deal of expertise within our communities, and at LocalWiki we see part of the mission of our work as providing a platform for people to contextualize and make meaning out of the information made available through open data and open gov efforts at the local level.

There are obviously limitations to the ability of programming laypeople to make use of open data to create new knowledge to drive action, most notably many people’s lack of expertise in data analysis, but with LocalWiki we hope to at least address some of those limitations by making it significantly easier for people to collaborate to create meaning out of open data and to share it with others. This is why LocalWiki has a wysiwyg editor, which includes mapping as a core feature and prioritizes usability in design.

Finally, adding information about a community on LocalWiki is a way to create new open data. It’s incredibly important to make things like internal city crime statistics public, but residents’ perspectives on the relative safety of their neighborhoods is a different kind of data that provides additional insights into public safety challenges and adds complexity to the picture created by statistics.”