But despite its allure, open data’s potential for fostering civic engagement and creating transparency and dialogue is plagued by issues of usability, access, and quality control. New York City has been at the forefront of opening government data for analysis and use by the public thanks in large part to the support of pro-technology officials, such as Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and NYC’s Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications’ Director of GIS Colin Reilly, and civic tech advocacy groups like BetaNYC, Code For America, and Open Plans. Such groups aim to make this data actionable to the benefit of both the general public and local governments, some of which lack the capacity or foresight to develop their own tools that do so.
But for the promise of open governance, we actually know very little about its true impact, and about the conditions and contingencies required for institutional innovation to really work. Even less is known about the capabilities that institutions must develop in order to be able to take advantage of new technologies and innovative practices. The lack of evidence is holding back positive change. It is limiting our ability to improve people’s lives.
The MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Opening Governance seeks to address these shortcomings. Convened and organized by the GovLab, and made possible by a three-year, $5 million grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Network seeks to build an empirical foundation that will help us understand how democratic institutions are being (and should be) redesigned, and how this in turn influences governance. At its broadest level, the Network seeks to create a new science of institutional innovation.
The Tuesday, May 12 #Hack4Congress awards ceremony at the House of Representatives’ majestic Judiciary Committee hearing room was the culmination of a 6 month long effort to engage technologically savvy members of the public with making Congress more open and efficient. The three winners of congressional data hackathons in Cambridge, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. presented their projects to three members of Congress, a bipartisan array of senior congressional staff, and a packed gallery filled with journalists, advocates, staff, academics, and others.
The Good Government Divide has nothing to do with intentions – the elected officials and staff members in both Digitopolis and Stressville want to govern well on behalf of their citizens. Instead, the divide has to do with resources. Too many small and medium-sized local governments in the U.S. believe they don’t have the budgets to harness state-of-the-art technology that would foster greater and much-needed efficiency and transparency for residents.
And money is truly at the heart of the matter here.
I’ve known Edmund Pendleton from the University of Maryland as the Director of the D.C. National Science Foundation (NSF) I-Corps Node (a collaboration among the University of Maryland, Virginia Tech...