AMSTERDAM, The Netherlands — This city might not have become a global hub of the “sharing economy” today if 2009 hadn’t been such a lousy year for Daan Weddepohl.
In short time, Weddepohl lost his job, his girlfriend walked out on him, and his apartment went up in flames. He was left without any possessions and had to ask people for help. To Weddepohl, now 33, showing vulnerability wasn’t easy in the era of Facebook, where everybody seems to lead cheerful and happy lives. But it led him to an interesting discovery.
The participants I heard are still addressing technical challenges in standardizing and sharing basic, well-defined information like voting precincts (Anthea Strong, Google) and municipal financial data presented in Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports (CAFRs) (Marcus Joffe Public Sector Credit Solutions). The economic development field, by and large, does not have anything nearly so well-defined or standardized, especially across multiple jurisdictions.
Technology tools are promising, but there first needs to be some taxonomy or standardization to make the information useful for opengov and public interest objectives.
Data-driven innovations offer enormous opportunities to advance important societal goals. However, to take advantage of these opportunities, individuals must have access to high-quality data about themselves and their communities. If certain groups routinely do not have data collected about them, their problems may be overlooked and their communities held back in spite of progress elsewhere. Given this risk, policymakers should begin a concerted effort to address the “data divide”—the social and economic inequalities that may result from a lack of collection or use of data about individuals or communities.
Almost all movement in a major city now begins with a phone. Mobile apps and interfaces help people do everything from sort through route options to locate an approaching bus or hail a taxi or for-hire vehicle. While cities and transportation regulators have released data and encouraged innovation through contests and hackathons, no U.S. city has aggressively pursued development of an integrated app that enables users to plan, book, and pay for trips across multiple travel modes. Instead, it's the likes of Uber and Google Maps and CityMapper and RideScout that have demonstrated what is possible, and controlled the movement market to date.
Dear Library of Congress and Government Printing Office,
For decades, you have jointly published a handy compendium that explains the U.S. Constitution as it has been interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court. It took a couple of letters from the Senate (and repeated nudging from the public interest community—2009, 2010,2011, 2012, 2013) to move you to publish the Constitution Annotatedonline more than once a decade, but you still do not regularly publish it online in a structured-data format. Instead, the Constitution Annotated is published as a PDF, which has not been updated in 15 months.