International Open Data Day
This past weekend Civinomics took part in International Open Data Day, a worldwide event where open data and civic tech advocates convened to share ideas, give feedback, and pitch their latest projects. We attended the Oakland meeting, located in a great co-working space near downtown called the Hub. There must have been over 100 civic tech thinkers and entrepreneurs in attendance, clumped together in different working groups making progress on topics such as local wiki, security surveillance transparency, campaign donation tracking, open street mapping, and more. For our part, we found a couple free tables, posted up, set up a little card that read “Civinomics (civic engagement)” and started hacking away.
Soon enough we had a few people swing by. “What are you guys working on?” “I saw ‘civic engagement’, thought I’d drop by.” “What is Civinomics?” Over the course of the day, we had the opportunity to touch base with a number of people interested in the work we were doing, many of whom we anticipate following up with in the near future to explore possible partnerships.
Clearly, given its name, much of the focus of International Open Data Day was making use of information made public by governments at various levels to create useful new software. After all, one of the most powerful ways that government promote civic tech is simply by releasing swaths of the data it collects over the course of doing business, which then allows for developers to take the data and create useful apps. Case in point – President Obama’s former Chief Information Officer, Vivek Kundra, oversaw the creation of data.gov, a web portal to access the data that the federal government has made public. Subsequently, arising organically and through various contests, a series of apps were made that anyone can use. Some cities have even followed suit – take a look at the city of San Francisco’s data portal, which has led to the development of a whole collection of apps.
Civinomics definitely looks forward to playing an active role in the open data movement. Over the last week our awesome intern, Melanie, researched and made a compilation of the free wifi spots in Santa Cruz. We also recently changed our policy with regards to the iPad surveys we do. Previously, some of our contracts kept the data we collected exclusively in the hands of the client. Now, the results of all the studies we conduct will be made public on our website – when you work with Civinomics, you are working with an open data organization. We’ve already made public the results of a poll we conducted on the level of support for a plastic bag ban in the city of Scotts Valley – check out the infographic here. And in the coming weeks and months you can look forward to seeing what factors are influencing local tech workers to commute out of Santa Cruz into Silicon Valley and what it might take to keep them homeside, the results of a county-wide study on stormwater usage, and an upcoming study on the homeless population in Santa Cruz.
Equity and transparency are two of our core principles here at Civinomics. We see it as part of our mission to produce information that pertains to the civic realm, as well as advocate for the continued disclosure of data from governments. It was inspiring to see this past weekend that there is a corps of people out there, indeed across the world, who share similar aspirations as we do, and, in addition to getting some encouraging feedback about the work we have done thus far, we’re excited to continue collaborating within the broader civic tech movement.