New York City

New mobile app Commons gets creative with 311

TechPresident’s Becky Kazansky has a great overview of Commons, a new 311 iPhone app that makes use of gaming and social features to better engage citizens. Here’s a short video interview featuring one of its founders, Suzanne Kirkpatrick.


“It’s exciting to be with other practitioners who are thinking about the idea of the relationship between technology and social change and civic empowerment, so we’re glad to be part of that conversation. “

Download Commons on iTunes here.

OpenGov Camp hits the Big Apple

New York City Hall

Photo via Wikipedia

New York open government advocates and civic techs will gather this weekend to build on its past and current efforts at OpenGov Camp. The event is this Sunday, June 5, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. Register here.

Noel HidalgoOrganizer Noel Hidalgo of Reinvent Albany discusses the event’s objectives and what he hopes will come of it.

What is OpenGovNYC and who should attend?

OpenGov NYC is for the “DO’er,” the entrepreneur, the thinker, the academic AND the government worker. For the past few years, our friends up and down the eastern seaboard and across the NYC metro area AND up in Albany have been doing a great opening the doors of government. In many of these cases, it has been a partnership of participation. This is why we have Reinvent Albany – an advocacy group, Personal Democracy Forum – a network of journalists, and Digital Democracy – an on the ground “do tank”. This event follows in the tradition of creating a safe space for conversation and a platform for collaboration.

Give us your take on what’s happening in NYC open government.

Open government in NYC and in Albany is in a very precious location. No longer is about an experiment, but how to maximize an investment of tax dollars. From the SAGE commission in Albany to NYC’s digital future report, NY’s leaders know that there are smart people who have the knowledge to outline the problems. The real problem is if we have the political will to take on those problems and apply a logical, fiscally responsible solution. The only way to do this is to remove the blinders and openly talk about the problems.

In Albany, Governor Cuomo has a policy playbook filled with program outlines and sample operational structure to create a team that will open NY.

Here in NYC, the Council, the Administration and good government advocates are trying to advance several pieces of legislation that would embolden the great work the city has done and point it in the proper direction for the 21st century. It’s a struggle because some in the Administration get it and some don’t. This isn’t unique to open government; we see the same stubbornness in the advocacy for car-free transportation alternatives.

What do you want attendees to take away from OpenGovNYC and any longer-term objectives?

At OpenGov Camp, attendees will leave knowing that they have friends in and out of government. Our work is too precious for advocates to fight against the system. We want to work hand-in-hand through the tough, confusing and archaic thinking to create a City and state State home to the most innovative ideas, the social entrepreneurs and the “developers”. Together, we can have a double bottom line that helps out “Main Street” and “City Hall”.

Register for OpenGov Camp and follow the latest news on Twitter at @OpenNYforum and the hashtag #OGCamp.

In New York and San Francisco, TransportationCamp aims to build a better to and fro


Photo by Richard Drdul

Transportation enthusiasts will gather in New York City and San Francisco over the next few weeks for TransportationCamp, a series of transit-meets-tech unconferences organized by the non-profit OpenPlans. TransportationCamp East will be held in New York City March 5-6 and TransportationCamp West in San Francisco March 19-20. There are also Ignite #Transpo afterparties. Here’s how it works, and here’s where you can suggest ideas.

Nick GrossmanOpenPlans Director of Civic Works Nick Grossman discusses TransportationCamp’s objectives and transportation’s impact on the bigger issues around Gov 2.0 and open government:

What is TransportationCamp? Who should attend?

TransportationCamp is an “unconference” focusing on the intersection of transportation and technology. How is technology (such as mobile apps, powerful mapping tools, open data coming from government agencies, etc.) changing the way we move around our cities? How is it changing the way we plan our cities? What does this mean for governments agencies who manage transportation systems, for companies working in the space, and for citizens? How can we insure that advances in transportation tech help us work towards equitability and sustainability goals, and not against them?

For two upcoming weekends (March 5-6 in NYC and March 19-20 in SF), a group of about 250 technologists, transportation enthusiasts, public officials, and others will convene to discuss these issues and work on related problems. This is not a traditional conference: following the BarCamp or “unconference” model, nearly all of the working sessions will be proposed and led by attendees.

You should attend if:

  • you work in transportation operations or policy, especially in roles relating to the management of technology and data;
  • you work for a company that’s building tech tools for transportation (there are tons of startups entering this space right now);
  • you’re a transportation or urban planning advocate with a futurist bent (either skeptical or optimistic OK!); or
  • if you are just generally interested in how cities operate.

We already have a great list of participants signed up for each event, representing these communities and more. Both East and West are currently sold out, but if you’re interested, you should definitely sign up for the waiting list, and we’ll do our best to open up tickets.

What is the goal of the camps and longer-term objectives?

The technology landscape, effecting transportation and of course more broadly, is evolving really quickly. TransportationCamp intends to make connections between many players working in the space, across industry and sector lines, to help make sense of the problems and opportunities. By bringing together a group of people who share a common interest but do not often cross paths, we hope to spark collaborations and partnerships and provide a venue for collaborative problem-solving.

In this short-term, this might mean connecting a transit agency with members of the software development community who are building apps on that agency’s data, to help inform the direction of those data sets. Or simply exposing people to a side of the problem that they don’t typically think about.

Longer-term, we’d love to see that connections made during TransportationCamp have blossomed into longer-term projects, collaborations, and partnerships. As the organizers of TransportationCamp, we can’t force that to happen; but we can create an environment that’s fertile ground for these types of connections.

How do transportation issues relate to broader open government / Gov 2.0?

The transportation space is a great one to watch for those interested in “Gov 2.0” for a few reasons:

First, from a public service perspective, transportation is one of the only government services that people interact with directly on a daily basis. Whether it’s riding the subway or paying for a parking space, transportation is one of the most accessible and tangible government sectors. We think that’s why we’ve seen such an explosion in government and private sector innovation in the transportation space: agencies across the US are opening up data sets for developers to hack on; entrepreneurs and interested citizens have made hundreds of transportation apps (from bus trackers to tax-sharing apps and way more).

Second, beyond the immediate mobility and efficiency concerns represented by the transportation app explosion, transportation planning is an area where policies, plans, and their related public involvement processes touch countless citizens. While innovations in “open government” approaches to transportation planning are slower to develop and materialize, they will no doubt have a major impact on how cities are planned and managed. We believe that agencies that are experiencing the benefit of Gov 2.0 on the efficiency side will also be more inclined to pursue open government activities on the planning side.

So, transportation has really been an amazing place to study the effects of “Gov 2.0” approaches, and we expect this to continue.

Follow @transpocamp and the #transpo hashtag on Twitter.