Knight News Challenge on Open Gov


Press Release: “Knight Foundation today named eight projects as winners of the Knight News Challenge on Open Gov, awarding the recipients more than $3.2 million for their ideas.
The projects will provide new tools and approaches to improve the way people and governments interact. They tackle a range of issues from making it easier to open a local business to creating a simulator that helps citizens visualize the impact of public policies on communities….
Each of the winning projects offers a solution to a real-world need. They include:
Civic Insight: Providing up-to-date information on vacant properties so that communities can find ways to make tangible improvements to local spaces;
OpenCounter: Making it easier for residents to register and create new businesses by building open source software that governments can use to simplify the process;
Open Gov for the Rest of Us: Providing residents in low-income neighborhoods in Chicago with the tools to access and demand better data around issues important to them, like housing and education;
Outline.com: Launching a public policy simulator that helps people visualize the impact that public policies like health care reform and school budget changes might have on local economies and communities;
Oyez Project: Making state and appellate court documents freely available and useful to journalists, scholars and the public, by providing straightforward summaries of decisions, free audio recordings and more;
Procur.io: Making government contract bidding more transparent by simplifying the way smaller companies bid on government work;
GitMachines: Supporting government innovation by creating tools and servers that meet government regulations, so that developers can easily build and adopt new technology;
Plan in a Box: Making it easier to discover information about local planning projects, by creating a tool that governments and contractors can use to easily create websites with updates that also allow public input into the process.

Now in its sixth year, the Knight News Challenge accelerates media innovation by funding breakthrough ideas in news and information. Winners receive a share of $5 million in funding and support from Knight’s network of influential peers and advisors to help advance their ideas. Past News Challenge winners have created a lasting impact. They include: DocumentCloud, which analyzes and annotates public documents – turning them into data; Tools for OpenStreetMap, which makes it easier to contribute to the editable map of the world; and Safecast, which helps people measure air quality and became the leading provider of pollution data following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
For more, visit newschallenge.org and follow #newschallenge on Twitter.

Canada's Action Plan on Open Government


Introduction: “Canada’s commitment to open government is part of the federal government’s efforts to foster greater openness and accountability, to provide Canadians with more opportunities to learn about and participate in government, to drive innovation and economic opportunities for all Canadians and, at the same time, create a more cost effective, efficient and responsive government.
The Government of Canada first launched its Open Government strategy in March 2011, and then further enhanced its commitment by announcing its intention to join the Open Government Partnership in September 2011.
Over the past two years, we have consulted Canadians on both the development of a Digital Economy Strategy and on Open Government. Our Digital Economy consultation sought feedback from all Canadians on how to improve innovation and creativity, and achieve the shared goal of making Canada a global leader in the digital economy. More recently, in the fall of 2011, we launched a consultation to explore Canadians’ perspectives on Open Government in order to inform the development of Canada’s Action Plan on Open Government.
The results of these consultations stressed the importance of providing open access to public sector information and data and, in particular, the need to improve the availability of data to researchers and the private sector with fewer restrictions on reuse of these information assets. Canadians also want the opportunity to engage in an ongoing dialogue with government on policies and priorities. Cumulatively, the valuable information and insight received from Canadians have helped us shape the direction for open government in Canada. As we move forward, we will continue to consult with Canadians and Canada’s active open government community on how best to implement this plan.
Our Action Plan on Open Government sets out our commitments to Canadians and for the Open Government Partnership, which we will achieve over a three-year period through the effective and prudent use of resources. It is structured along the three streams of our Open Government Strategy: Open Information, Open Data, and Open Dialogue.”
 

Visualizing the Stunning Growth of 8 Years of OpenStreetMap


new yorkEmily Badger in Atlantic Cities: “The U.S. OpenStreetMap community gathered in San Francisco over the weekend for its annual conference, the State of the Map. The loose citizen-cartography collective has now been incrementally mapping the world since 2004. While they were taking stock, it turns out the global open mapping effort has now mapped data on more than 78 million buildings and 21 million miles of road (if you wanted to drive all those roads at, say, 60 miles an hour, it would take you some 40 years to do it).
And more than a million people have chipped away at this in an impressively democratic manner: 83.6 percent of the changes in the whole database have been made by 99.9 percent of contributors.
These numbers come from the OpenStreetMap 2013 Data Report, which also contains, of course, more maps. The report, created by MapBox, includes a beautiful worldwide visualization of all the road updates made as OpenStreetMap has grown, with some of the earliest imports of data shown in green and blue, and more recent ones in white. You can navigate the full map here (scroll down), but we’ve grabbed a couple of snapshots for you as well.”

When Ordinary Americans Accomplish What the Government Can’t




in The National Journal: “Washington may be paralyzed by partisanship, but across the country, grassroots innovators are crafting solutions to our problems….This special issue of National Journal celebrates these pragmatic problem-solvers in business, the civic sector, local government, and partnerships that creatively combine all three. At a time of endemic stalemate in the nation’s capital, think of it as a report from the America that works (to borrow a recent phrase from The Economist)….
Another significant message is that the communications revolution, by greatly accelerating the sharing of ideas, has produced a “democratization of innovation,” as author Vijay Vaitheeswaran put it in his 2012 book, Need, Speed, and Greed. This dynamic has simultaneously allowed breakthroughs to disseminate faster than ever and empowered more people inside companies and communities to tackle problems previously left to elites. “One of the most interesting stories in social change today is how much creative problem-solving is emerging from citizens scattered far and wide who are taking it upon themselves to fix things and who, in many cases, are outperforming traditional organizations,” David Bornstein, founder of the Dowser.org website that tracks social innovation, wrote in The New York Times last year. Our honoree Eric Greitens, the former Navy SEAL who founded The Mission Continues for other post-9/11 veterans, personifies this trend. Across the categories, many honorees insist they have pursued new approaches in part because they could no longer wait for Washington to address the problems they face. In a world where barriers to the dispersal of ideas are crumbling, waiting for elites to propose answers may soon seem as outdated as waiting for a dial-up connection to the Internet.
The third conclusion limits the first two. Even many of the most dynamic grassroots innovations will remain isolated islands of excellence in this continent-sized society without energy and amplification from the top. Donald Kettl, dean of the University of Maryland’s School of Public Policy, notes the federal government is unavoidably a major force on many of the challenges facing America, particularly reforming education, health care, and training; developing regional economic strategies; and providing physical and digital infrastructure. Washington need not direct or control the response to these problems, but change on a massive scale is always harder without stronger signals and incentives than the federal government has provided in recent years. “It is possible to feed change aggressively from the bottom,” Kettl says. “[But] the federal government, for better or worse, inevitably is involved…. There’s a natural limit in what’s possible to bubble up from the bottom….
Special issue at https://web.archive.org/web/2013/http://www.nationaljournal.com/back-in-business ”
 
 

PCORI seeks the wisdom of crowds


Modern Healthcare: “The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute is trying to live up to the first two words in its name. A team of researchers from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor has been tapped by PCORI to scale up their prototype of a Web-based crowd-sourcing platform called WellSpringboard, which is designed to enable patients to propose ideas and pledge funds for clinical research.
Washington-based PCORI, an independent not-for-profit group established by the healthcare reform law, recently awarded the Michigan researchers $40,000, the top prize from its PCORI Challenge, a competition seeking novel approaches to connecting researchers with interested patients….
The platform works like this: A person has an idea for a research project and records a video explaining what that idea is. WellSpringboard posts the video on its site, sets a goal for funding and then spreads the word about the project using social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter. Once the funding target is reached, the project is opened up to researchers, who post their profiles to the site and whose applications are reviewed by a board of scientists and members of the public.”

Open Wide


in The New Inquiry: “Since the earliest days of Linux and of Wikipedia, conflicting attitudes to profit have co-existed with a commitment to digital sharing. Whether it’s source code, text, artistic works, or government data, some see the open digital commons as an ethical alternative to corporate production, while others believe that sharing and profit go together like wine and cheese. And now, as massively open online courses bring the rhetoric of digital openness to education and Web-based startups are making it easy to share apartments and cars and unused parking spaces and jobs, the seeds have been planted for a sharing economy whose flowering is welcomed both by idealists who value authenticity, sustainability and community sharing over commodity ownership and by venture capitalists looking to make their next fortune. Strange bedfellows.
Cities have long been sites of commons and commerce: full of trade and private enterprise but shaped by parks and streetscapes, neighborhoods and rhythms of daily life that grow from non-commodified sharing. In his 2012 book Rebel Cities, David Harvey observes how, in cities, “people of all sorts and classes mingle … to produce a common of perpetually changing and transitory life,” from the irrepressible energy of Manhattan to the café culture of Rome to Barcelona’s distinctive architecture to the symbolic meaning of modern Berlin. Yes, by 2009, volunteers had spent a hundred million hours building Wikipedia, but cities put this dramatic number into perspective: Every year the citizens of Canada alone volunteer roughly 20 Wikipedias for hospitals and children’s sports, for charities and the arts —  the equivalent of more than a million full-time jobs in a population of 30 million — and there is no reason to believe that the count is complete or that Canada is exceptional.
The similarities between urban and digital worlds are not incidental. Both are cultural spaces, and cultural spaces have always been iceberg-like. Above the surface, market forces and state interventions; beneath, a mass of noncommercial activity organized, at least in part, as open commons. But while digital entrepreneurs look to the “Internet’s way of working” to disrupt the bricks and mortar of our cities, urban experiences have sober lessons for the digerati if they will listen: The relationship between commons and commerce is fraught with contradictions. Harvey never once mentions computer technology in his book, but his reflections on cities make a compelling case that money-making and sharing are far from natural allies, and that the role of openness must be questioned if commons-based production is to be a real alternative.”

Colab: Winner of the 2013 AppMyCity! Prize


CaptureAtlantic Cities: “Colab, a Brazilian mobile application designed to encourage better citizenship, is the winner of the 2013 AppMyCity! Prize for the year’s best urban app.
The app’s five founders, Bruno Aracaty, Gustavo Maia, Paulo Pandolfi, Josemando Sobral and Vitor Guedes, from Recife and São Paulo, claimed the $5,000 prize last week at the annual New Cities Summit in São Paulo. Colab competed against two other finalists, BuzzJourney, from Kfar-Saba, Israel, and PublicStuff, from New York City. All three finalists presented their project to the international audience at the New Cities Summit. The audience then voted to determine the winner.
Colab utilizes photos and geolocation to connect citizens to cities based on three pillars of interaction: reporting daily urban issues; elaborating on and proposing new projects and solutions; and evaluating public services….
In total, the New Cities Foundation received 98 submissions for the AppMyCity! Prize 2013. A panel of judges chose the finalists out of ten semi-finalists, based on ability to create widespread impact and helpful user interface”

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.”

Time we all learned how to program the world we want


Editorial of NewScientist: “OUR world is written in code. These days, almost anything electrical or mechanical requires many thousands of lines of code to work. Consider a modern car: you could argue that from the driver’s perspective, it’s now a computer that gives you control over an engine, drivetrain and wheels. And with cars beginning to drive themselves, the code will soon be in even more control.
But who controls the code? Those who write the programs behind the machines have become hugely lionised. Silicon Valley courts software developers with huge salaries and copious stock options, throwing in perks ranging from gourmet food to free haircuts. The rest of us can only look on, excluded by esoteric arguments about the merits of rival programming techniques and languages. Like the clerics who once controlled written language, programmers have a vested interest in keeping the status quo…”