SXSW: ‘In Code We Trust’ – Technology Promotes Open Government

March 13, 2010

3:31 pm

The first session that kicked off my SXSW conference experience was definitely a good one.  Titled “In Code We Trust, Open Government Awesomeness,”  it featured panelists from state and local government: Noel Hildago of the New York State Senate, Alissa Black of the San Francisco Emerging Technology Team, and Dmitry Kachaev of the D.C. City Government.  All three offered interesting insights on how governments are using  social media tools to be more open and to connect with the public.

Hidalgo gave some great examples of how New York’s State Senate is using tools like Twitter to be more transparent and better serve the public.  He had a great quote about technology and its effect on government: “Digital technology erases the distance between the electorate and those elected to serve them.”

Black talked about her experiences in San Francisco and the sustainability of open government.  She focused on three main points:

  1. The need to ensure  – San Francisco issued an open data directive requiring all future data sets to be accessible to the public.
  2. Participation – The city created tools, not only for the public, but also to allow state employees to be able to track and participate in government decision making.
  3. Open source – San Francisco requires any software procurement that costs over $100k to include an open source solution in the study/procurement process.

The session was rounded off by Kachaev, who spoke of his experience making the DC government a platform for technology.  He said government officials learned that having data and data sets are great, but you need an application programming interface to allow developers and the public to learn about, use, and analyze data.  DC has since used that API to open an app store for the public to let citizens see and use the apps that have been developed from the city’s data sets.  The one thing he noted, though, is that governments aren’t very good at marketing. There was a spike in traffic on the release of the app store, but then interest died down.  Governments must learn to be able to sustain the momentum of these initiatives, he says.

It was a terrific panel, and I suggest you take a look at the Twitter hashtag #incodewetrust to get more info on what other attendees thought were important.

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Jimmy Gardner is a Senior Unix/Windows Engineer, a lover of technology and photography. Follow him online at @jjgardner3 and enjoy his portfolio at jjg3photo.com/.

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