Civic Awesome: Open Data News for July 3, 2014
Open data has serious transformative powers, if we use it properly. As this week’s stories illustrate, open data is an important tool to help us solve complex problems, gain a greater understand of how government operates, and empower citizens to create their own change.
Named the U.S.’s first chief technology officer in 2009, Aneesh Chopra, who oversaw numerous initiatives to open federal data has written a book, “Innovative State: How New Technologies Can Transform Government.” In this Washington Post interview, Chopra discusses the biggest opportunities for government transformation through open data, the types of technology which have the best chance of powering such change, and balancing transparency with privacy and civil liberties.
Speaking of people who work(ed) for Barak Obama, the White House released the salaries of presidential staffers. For me, none of the numbers are particularly eye-popping, especially when you consider the hours these civil servants must be logging. But, if you disagree with me, you can take confidence that, as the article notes, there is a general pay freeze in effect for the higher paid White House staff.
From the federal level, down to the local, open data is making an impact. The Social Computing Group at MIT Media Lab is converting local open data into maps through a project called You Are Here. Their audacious plan is to build beautiful and useful maps and release one each day for the first year the project is underway — eventually uploading 100 maps for 100 cities. That’s a lot of maps!
Mapping is just one way people convert data to the comprehensible. But, there continues to be a need to put data in context. We all talk about the importance of APIs and machine-readability, but human-readability matters too, which is why many are calling for more to be done to transform data into something more narrative.
Julia Keseru makes a powerful argument for not just open data policies, but freedom of information laws. Since many in power would default to the secretive, she argues, it is important to be able to request data on demand. She notes people must be granted “the rights both to target specific closely-held information and to gain regular and broad access to less-controversial information, [as] these two legal routes play complimentary roles.”