Need help: webifying city hall
November 16, 2008 § 18 Comments
In 10 days, I’m doing a lunchtime keynote for 300 councillors, tech staff and agency heads at the City of Toronto’s internal Web 2.0 Summit. Beltzner’s great Changing the World slides (warning: big) got my mind rolling on this talk. So, I started writing it up. My main point will be something like:
Openess and participation created a better internet. They can also create a better city.
The talk will start with the Firefox story, much along Beltzner’s ‘this is how we changed the world’ line. Then I’ll tour examples of people using open, participatory webishness to make cities better. This will feed into a set of simple, concrete challenges to the people who run my city.
For this talk to rock, I really need help with the last two sections — the examples and the challenges.
On the examples front, I am looking for three very specific things:
- Cities (or other governments) that have opened up their data so citizens can mash it up and add value.
- Web apps created by normal people that do things city hall should do (e.g. transit maps), but do them better.
- Examples of cities listening effectively to their citizens at a customer service level (i.e. whether people are happy with how clean the streets are).
A few people (thanks, Sameer!) have already fed me great examples. FixMyStreet.com. The City of Portland (first to have google transit thanks to open data). Washington, DC‘s recent useful-services-for-the-city mashup contest. But I need more. If you’ve got ’em, please comment on this post.
On the ‘challenges’ front, I want to come up with some concrete things city tech managers can do to make Toronto more open, participatory and mashable. I’m going to challenge them to:
- Open (y)our data. Transit. Library catalogues. Community centre schedules. Maps. Expose it all so the people of Toronto can use it to make a better city.
- Crowdsource info gathering that helps the city. I bet somebody would have FixMyStreet.to up and running in a week if the Mayor promised to listen.
- Listen to citizens. Not just in a policy-consultation-ish kind of way, but also on everyday things-I-need-from-my-city customer service issues. First step: send a copy of the Cluetrain Manifesto to every manager in City Hall.
The City of Toronto CIO has promised more Web 2.0. That’s great. Maybe it’s the right time for challenges like these to actually be taken up. In any case, my question is: are these the right three things to push? If not, what would you ask for? Again, comments below encouraged.