Disclaimer: The opinions expressed by the guest blogger and those providing comments are theirs alone and do not reflect the opinions of the Sunlight Foundation or any employee thereof. Sunlight Foundation is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information within the guest blog.
Scott Primeau is a board member of OpenColorado, a nonprofit organization established in 2009 to promote government transparency and citizen participation. Scott has also been an employee for a Colorado state agency since 2003. He provides project management, policy research and analysis, and customer engagement services. Scott has a bachelor’s degree in public affairs management from Indiana University and is a passionate supporter of improving citizen participation and government collaboration. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The third annual CityCamp Colorado took place on October 26, 2012. Almost 140 people attended the event, making it the largest gathering of open government advocates ever in Colorado. The attendees and presenters include city CIOs and IT staff, senior city leaders, Colorado state IT leaders, private enterprises and startups, nonprofits, elected officials and citizens.
As with past camps, we kicked off with a series of Ignite presentations to inspire the rest of the day. For those who are unfamiliar, an Ignite is a five minute presentation with 20 slides that automatically advance every 15 seconds. It’s an exciting way to share a lot of quick ideas. First, Aaron Templer encouraged us to be open and responsive and to foster our communities, not dictate to them.
Karen Suhaka, from Bill Track 50 and My Fair Election, illustrated the ideological divide among politicians and their bill passing efficiency. Jamie Hollier, from the Web design firm Commerce Kitchen, told us how to build digital communities and reminded us that 20% of adults are not online. Veteran CityCamper Chris Haller talked about how mobile devices are making experiences more personal and meaningful, and shared information about his new community mapping program CommonSights.
Next, Jason Hibbets, from Opensource.com and CityCamp Raleigh, talked about the intersection of open source and open government. Tynan Svetecz, also from Commerce Kitchen, shared lessons from the hospitality industry that can teach government to focus on service, customer experience, and customer loyalty. Finally, Jacob Anderson, Innovation Analyst for the City of Colorado Springs, introduced us to sustainovation.
Following the Ignites, we were honored to welcome Denver City Councilwoman At-large Robin Kniech to address the crowd. The Councilwoman was very passionate about promoting opportunities to engage the public. She also commented on some of the obstacles to engagement, “One of the things that is challenging is the typical policy cycle. How do people know that new legislation is posted? As mainstream media consolidates, we see less coverage of local issues. How do you get people who are not reviewing information every week…how do you get the next level of citizen who cares?”
The City and County of Denver also brought a very strong crowd to the event. And, they provided us with an outstanding venue—the Atrium of the municipal Wellington E. Webb Building. The Atrium is open to the public, which created a unique opportunity for average citizens and other government staff to check out what was happening as they went about their day. It provided a view into the motivation and innovation that is happening in the heart of government. The event shined some light on the dedication and thoughtfulness among government employees.
OpenColorado also used the camp to launch its Adopt-a-City program. The goal of the program is to deploy Web technologies to underserved municipalities that lack IT infrastructure to help them become more transparent, participative, and collaborative. The program will seek grants, donations and volunteers to provide the technology, human resources, training and support to help more cities and government agencies meet citizens at the intersection of technology, services and democracy.
In addition to the Adopt-a-City program, OpenColorado was able to use the event to further the effort of unifying, cataloging, and publishing government data. Since launching data.opencolorado.org, the organization has used the open source CKAN platform. At CityCamp, OpenColorado was able to connect with the people behind the federal data.gov, the state’s data.colorado.gov, and the recently launched cities.data.gov, both of which use the Socrata platform. Planning is now underway to share data between all three platforms to give citizens and technology experts and single-point of access to city, state and federal government data.
The event wrapped up with a call to keep driving open government forward and to focus on the citizens being served. Denver Director of Excise & Licensing Tom Downey said that Denver wanted the “continuum from last year to today to next year to four years down the road. This is what we need to do to move forward. This is exciting. This is where the city is going. This is where the country is going.” And, remember who your audience is. Craft your efforts and your message to help people understand how technology can improve their work and their communities. Finally, don’t lose sight of the goal: a more open, engaged and collaborative government and public. Technology is just one tool to use. Culture, understanding and effectiveness are critical to moving forward.
Photo courtesy in order of appearance: Jason Hibbets, Opensource.com, Graph courtesy of Karen Suhaka, Bill Track 50, Scotty Martin, Denver Business Process Improvement Manager.
Disclaimer: Sunlight sponsored CityCamp Colorado
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