U.S. Chief Technology Officer Todd Park with President Obama (Photo: White House)

An API strategy for the U.S. government

I was asked to provides some thoughts on what is next for the U.S. government’s application programming interface strategy. I’ve put a lot of thought into it during my work and travels over the last couple months since I’ve left Washington, D.C., and I keep coming back to one thought: strengthen what we have.

Data.gov

Why no one uses your government data

Publishing government information is about much more than simply throwing 0’s and 1’s over the firewall. It’s about building ecosystems and communities. It’s about solving shared challenges. It’s about consumption — after all, that’s the American way.

Photo: Josh*m

Breaking the wall in Chicago

Over the past few years, the civic innovation movement has grown tremendously. It’s exploded really. Ten years ago, who would have imagined that Chicago would be a national leader in open government data?

San Francisco: Driving the boundaries of open data

During last week’s 2013 Code for America summit at the Yerba Buena Center, officials from cities including Louisville, New York City, South Bend and New Orleans spoke about how open data had changed the complexion of their communities in public safety, citizen services and blight mapping.

Photo: White House/Pete Souza

America needs a .gov backup plan

Regardless of what’s happening between the opposite ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, why is America in this situation, and what can we do to ensure it never happens again?

SF Mayor Ed Lee introduced open data legislation on on October 15 that would create a chief data officer and promote the use of open data in city government. (Photo: City of San Francisco)

San Francisco makes open data city policy

Today, open data and its power to transform a city and a nation by engaging tech savvy citizens will be on display at San Francisco City Hall. And just as importantly, companies that have been successful because of forward thinking open data policies will testify to our elected leaders about its importance.

Is San Francisco sittin’ on the dock of the open data bay?

In October 2012, in the form of proposed legislation, San Francisco announced it would appoint a chief data officer to “be responsible for sharing City data with the public, facilitating the sharing of information between City departments, and analyzing how data sets can be used to improve city decision making.”

Gaming the future of government

On January 22-23, the Institute for the Future will host Connected Citizens, a 24-hour collective forecasting game to “to rethink and reprogram government services for a complex and connected world.”

Code for Oakland

Oakland gets its code on

Code for Oakland will be held July 21 at the Kaiser Center in Oakland, Ca. Steve Spiker, OpenOakland Brigade Captain and Director of Research & Technology for Urban Strategies Council, discusses Oakland’s open data progress and what attendees can expect from the event.

Jonathan Reichental

How Palo Alto is leading the digital city movement

Palo Alto, Calif., Chief Information Officer Jonathan Reichental discusses his “digital city” vision, including how he leveraged the local developer community to help build city applications, bringing a “hacker ethic” to bureaucracy and the importance of supportive leaders in managing IT and cultural change.

Voter ID and Civic Innovation

Since 2008, there has been a wave of voting law changes that impose barriers to the ballot box. Georgia Rep. John Lewis, a veteran of “Bloody Sunday,” called the new laws “the most concerted effort to restrict the right to vote since before the Voting Rights Act.”

The right to vote is being chiseled away by voter ID laws that require voters to show government-issued photo ID in order to vote.

Cost of Freedom Project Logo

In December, the Department of Justice blocked South Carolina’s voter ID law on the grounds it would make it harder for minorities to vote in violation of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Mississippi and Texas voting ID laws also must be pre-cleared but Texas is not waiting. The Lone Star State filed a federal lawsuit in an effort to speed up a decision.

Strict photo ID requirements will be in place in at least five states – Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Tennessee and Wisconsin — In November. With Election Day less than nine months away, voters without an official photo ID cannot wait for the challenges to play out at the Justice Department and in the courts.

In Wisconsin, for instance, voters must navigate “The 4 Proofs.”

I am a founding member of the Election Protection Coalition. Still, looking at the infographic makes my head hurt. More worrisome, it discourages voters from completing the application process. So I presented the problem of TMI (read: disenfranchisement by design) at Random Hacks of Kindness and the Hackathon for Social Good. Citizen programmers developed solutions to quickly provide voters with information on how to get a voter ID.

During Social Week Washington, DC, I gave a demo of the Cost of Freedom web-based app developed by Kin Lane, API Evangelist for CityGrid.

Users in Wisconsin can forget about “The 4 Proofs.” Instead, in four clicks or less, they will be able to access information about the state’s voter ID requirements, how to obtain a certified copy of their birth certificate (the document that’s typically produced to establish one’s identity), and the location, hours and directions to the Office of Vital Records using public transit.

I also gave a live demo of the Cost of Freedom text-based app developed by Jack Aboutboul, Twilio’s API Evangelist. Twilio is making an in-contribution of text message services to promote voter education.

To commemorate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we plan to launch the Cost of Freedom App on April 4, 2012.

I will post regular updates about the Cost of Freedom Project and other initiatives that are using civic innovation to protect the right to vote. The conversation about voter ID also gives us an opportunity to raise awareness about disruptive technologies in the public sector beyond election administration.

For more information, please visit us at Facebook.com/CostofFreedom. You can sign up to receive notice when the Cost of Freedom App is launched. Continue reading

The state of U.S. state government finances in four simple charts

Four charts from Google Public Data Explorer summarize how U.S. state governments are trending with respect to finances. Despite all odds, however, liquor stores continue to hold their own when it comes to generating revenue.

Revenue

All amounts of money received by a government from external sources–net of refunds and other correcting transactions–other than from issuance of debt, liquidation of investments, and as agency and private trust transactions. Note that revenue excludes noncash transactions such as receipt of services, commodities, or other “receipts in kind.”

Cash Security Holdings

Cash and deposits and governmental and private securities (bonds, notes, mortgages, corporate stocks, etc., including loans and other credit paper held by state loan and investment funds) except holdings of agency and private trust funds. Includes fund investments in securities issued by government concerned but does not include interfund loans, receivables, and the value of real property and other fixed assets.

Expenditure

All amounts of money paid out by a government–net of recoveries and other correcting transactions–other than for retirement of debt, investment in securities, extension of credit, or as agency transactions. Note that expenditure includes only external transactions of a government and excludes non-cash transactions such as the provision of perquisites or other payments in kind.

Debt at end of fiscal year

All long-term credit obligations of the government and its agencies whether backed by the governments’ full faith and credit or nonguaranteed, and all interest-bearing short-term credit obligations. Includes judgments, mortgages, and revenue bonds, as well as general obligations bonds, notes, and interest-bearing warrants.

2011 GovFresh Awards entries and voting now open

Every day, tech-minded citizens across the country are doing good by their communities, literally geeking out about how they can help re-define the relationship government has with its citizens, using technology as a democratic tool to empower both.

Bloomberg: How cities can ‘Moneyball’ government

New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg has a blog post on how cities are collaborating to better leverage data analytics and maximize taxpayer return on investment. The post cites examples from major American cities and how they’ve leveraged data, especially 311 logs, to realize efficiencies.

San Francisco City Hall

Bring the IT Dashboard to San Francisco

San Francisco has led the nation with Gov 2.0 innovations, like Twitter311 – connecting the City’s 311 Call Center to Twitter — allowing residents to contact the City about potholes, graffiti and interact with government in real time with a tweet, DataSF.org – the City’s one stop shop for government data that has empowered developers to create incredible apps that bring city data to life, and Open311 the first national API in government.

OpenData Race

OpenDataRace Begins in Philadelphia

Several months ago, with the unveiling of the OpenDataPhilly website, the City of Philadelphia joined the growing fraternity of cities across the country and around the world to release municipal data sets in open, developer friendly formats.

Look at Cook

Beautiful budgets? Look at Cook

Developed and designed by Derek Eder and Nick Rougeux, open data and visualization project Look at Cook was created in collaboration with Cook County (IL) Commissioner John Fritchey to bring aesthetics to the county’s budget and expenses.

Open government hackathons matter

Open government hackathons matter

The civic hackathon – a gathering (either virtual or physical) of technologists for a few days or weeks to build civic-themed software – remains one of the more durable manifestations of the open government movement.