Kevin Curry is Chief Scientist and Co-founder of Bridgeborn. He recently helped organize CityCamp Chicago to help address open government and Gov 2.0 issues at the local level.
What was your path to Gov 2.0?
My path to Gov 2.0 might be a case study in the power of the social Web; simple, scalable, and serendipitous. I sent Tim O’Reilly a link via Twitter to the paper Government Data and the Invisible Hand by David Robinson, Harlan Yu, William Zeller, & Edward Felten. I hadn’t yet met Tim but was and am still a fan of his “What is Web 2.0?” essay. Tim re-tweeted the link and started following me. A few days later he contacted me to ask if I might be interested in helping him organize the first Gov 2.0 Summit. I wasn’t sure how I could help, but saying “Yes” was a no-brainer. I’ve been involved with Gov 2.0 ever since.
What area of government offers the biggest opportunity for improvement via Web 2.0 tools?
Municipalities. Local governments have the most direct impact on our day-to-day lives. They affect our immediate physical environments; our homes, our schools, our commutes. Sure, we pay federal and state income taxes, but our sales taxes, real estate taxes, vehicle registration fees, parking fees, sanitation fees, and the like, all go to local governments. It’s our city councils and school boards who decide what services we get (or not). Web 2.0 can help at the municipal level in a number of ways; by virtualizing council meetings on the Web, by using tools that allow citizens to vote priorities up or down and see both sides of issues in one place, and by opening up crime and other key indicator data to better inform local populations, for examples.
Whatâ€™s the killer app that will make Gov 2.0 the norm instead of the exception?
Gov 2.0 isn’t about apps. Gov 2.0 is about government as a platform. Government provides infrastructure. Citizens provide apps. In the same way that a power utility provides the grid and a water utility provides plumbing, government should provide an infrastructure for citizens to access and use government information. The Web provides the logical infrastructure for information access, broadband vendors provide the physical infrastructure, and government provides the legal framework for how government information can and should be used. Government also collects and manages enormous amounts of data. Assuming reasonable exceptions, this data belongs to the public and should be made available to the public according to the 8 Principles of Open Government Data. We need to change some of the laws and policies to reflect how the Web can be used to improve our ability to connect citizens more easily with government. This may be especially true at the local level, where government has more direct impact on our daily lives. If government becomes platform, that will be the “killer app.”
What part of Gov 2.0 most excites you?
The part of Gov 2.0 that excites me most is government-as-platform at the local level. Jen Pahlka and I started CityCamp because we recognized that municipal government was missing from the Gov 2.0 conversation (state government, too). Municipal governments have the greatest affect on our daily lives. I want my hometown of Virginia Beach, Virginia to adopt Open 311 so people can report work requests through SeeClickFix using a GPS and camera enabled phone instead of calling an office or filling out a form. I would like to see something like Localocracy used to survey the citizenry for pro/con input to city-wide decisions. I want my police department to start publishing their crime data as linked open data, perhaps through an API, instead of a clunky HTML table that shows exactly 15 of 20,000+ records at a time. I want events published in standard iCal formats that can be aggregated through cloud apps like Jon Udellâ€™s Elmcity Project. My good friend for over 20 year is the Director of Beach Events. Every month he sends me and a hundred other people an email containing a Word document listing the events. I need to go teach him and his colleagues how to improve that process such that it becomes easier for him to produce and everyone to consume. We’re working on it here in Virginia Beach, and I encourage others to do the same where they live.