Civic Awesome: Open Data in the News for the Week of April 13, 2015

April 17, 2015 8:07 am PST | Data as a Service

Open government around the planet relies on people power. From letting local experts collect data on the ground in Nigeria, to the discovery creativity in citizens fuels innovation in cities, this week’s roundup highlights the importance of the public’s hand in all things government.

Trust Before Transparency in Nigeria

When public trust has been demolished, open data alone can’t build it back. As Adam Talsma reported in, the Nigerian government created an open data website to show, “schools built to international standards,” but many Nigerians reacted with distrust. Many citizens, operating from experience, even wondered whether the schools actually existed. In response, Reboot, Talsma’s organization, teamed with the World Bank to put Nigerian surveyors in the field, using Android-based tools to collect and upload construction data. The result: a high value dataset that’s earned the public’s trust.

Open Data? Get Your Library Card

The Boston Public Library is poised to become the city’s own open data portal, thanks to local visionaries – and a juicy grant from the Knight Foundation. For more than a year, the city has made much of its data public, but the process has been, “overwhelming, and hard to use for people who do not have a data science background.” Now that’s changing, reported Jordan Graham in, as the city and the Boston Public Library are hiring, “a team of librarians who will be charged with making data as easy to find and understand as books.”

Cities and Citizens: Sparking Innovation

“Technology by itself won’t work,” stated John M. Kamensky in, commenting on key factors that boost innovation at the city level. From, “using inclusive approaches for governing,” to, “partnering with a broad array of entities,” Kamensky captured highlights of a recent report by the University of Texas’ Sherri Greenberg. Her report shows how successful cities partner with their communities. The municipalities capitalize on new technology by engaging citizens in a culture that creates, “inspiration and permission to innovate.”

Los Angeles’ Dashboard of Sustainability

Cities are at the forefront of environmental and conservation efforts. Los Angeles just took a big step toward figuring out what’s actually working, reported Jason Shueh in, with the release of its new pLAn dashboard. Built on Socrata’s GovStat platform, pLAn takes, “the clear, specific, and important commitments the city is making,” to achieve sustainability goals, and puts them in measurable, accessible form. Los Angeles Chief Data Officer Abhi Nemani stated, “users can not only track the metrics, but also explore the data behind, as you can see on the home page.”

UK: Labour Bets Big on Open Data

With an eye on the May 7 elections, the Labour Party has pledged to, “boost the economy and transform public services if it wins,” stated Steve McCaskill in TechWeekEurope. Labour’s bid rests with the UK’s recognized global leadership in open government, and with its citizens’ desire for even more transparency. Not only has the party promised affordable high speed Internet access throughout the UK, it also committed to, “implement an ‘open by default’ policy,” in a new administration. The party gave a nod to privacy concerns, “promising to protect the freedom of individuals.”

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