Opendata & Opencities: Proposed panel for SXSWi

panel pickerOver the past year I’ve been inspired by the fact that an increasing number of cities are thinking about how to more effectively share the data they generate with their citizens.

As most readers of this blog are probably aware, I’ve been engrossed advising the Mayor’s Office here in Vancouver on the subject and am excited about the progress being made on the City’s open data project.

Since there is so much energy around this topic across North America I thought there might be interest among SXSWers on the opportunities, challenges and benefits surrounding open data.

Here’s my proposed panel, and if you think it is a good idea I’d be elated if you took the time to head over to the panel picker website and voted for it!


OpenData: Creating Cities That Think Like the Web




Community / Online Community, Government and Technology, Social Issues, User Generated Content, Web Apps / Widgets


  1. What is open data?
  2. How can I effectively mobilize people to get my local government to share data?
  3. How can open data be shared most effectively?
  4. What are the benefits of open data?
  5. What business models are emerging around municipal open data?
  6. How can citizens/citizen coders help government bureaucracies share open data?
  7. How do government bureaucracies centered on secrecy and security shift to being interested in open?
  8. How is open data changing the role of government?
  9. How is open data changing the relationship between citizens and government?


Across North America municipal governments are opening up their data and encouraging citizens to create online applications, mash-ups and tools to improve city services and foster engagement. Panelists from cities leading this open movement will discuss the challenges, lessons, benefits and opportunities of open data and open government.

Some of the people I’d love to have as panelists include:

Kelly Pretzer (@kellypretzer) Is a City of SF employee who has been working with a team on an open data initiative with the city of SF. You can track their work here.

Peter Corbett (@corbett3000) is CEO of iStrategyLabs. iStrategy Labs is the organization that ran the Apps for Democracy competition in Washington DC. If Peter can’t make it, we’d hope iStrategy could send a representative.

Ryan Merkley (@ryanmerkley) Political advisor to the Mayor of Toronto and helping oversee the open Toronto Initiative.

Myself! (@david_a_eaves) I’ve been advising the Mayor of Vancouver on open government and open data and co-drafted the Open Motion, passed by the City of Vancouver on May 21st.

It would, of course, be nice to have Vivek Kundra, but I’ll confess, I’m not sure I have that kind of pull…

3 thoughts on “Opendata & Opencities: Proposed panel for SXSWi

  1. Pingback: From Word To Word » Blog Archive » On Meeting Face to Face

  2. ranXerox

    This is interesting and a provocative idea – but I'm curious to understand how it makes democratic processes stronger.It should be understood that I am somewhere in between a geek and a newbie when it comes to technology. I've done some programming using PHP and mySQL etc, but I'm deeply skeptical of technological answers necessarily making things “better”.What concerns me most after having watched the Apps for Democracy presentation is the heavy utilization of the tools to “describe” crime or nuisance behaviour, without any contextual means of understanding “why” – I love maps and data as much as the next guy, but looking at a map of auto thefts won't provide me with the motives for it having occurred. I really don't understand how this informs any other policy other than “let's pour money and resources into this or that”. The fact that car thefts or break-ins occur in a particular district more often than others would, in all likelihood, simply move the problem somewhere else after enough resources had been applied. And you're back to square one… In other words, what this application seems to enable is a way of biasing data.My second objection (or if you prefer, “source of skepticism”) is that technology is *not* readily available to all citizens. For those of a certain minimum class, technology is ubiquitous, but there are a great number of people who don't have access. It costs money to have Internet access. It costs money to have a computer or a cell phone. Democracy does not require money to participate – you have a vote based on your citizenry – and Mr Campbell's and Mr Harper's steadily applied erosion of these rights notwithstanding, it remains a central facet of democracy.This project would seem to establish yet another (and higher) minimum standard of access – based largely on income level – and that is in no way democratic. Poor people already have problems involving themselves politically when they're forced to work at decade-old wages; can it reasonably be expected they will suddenly find the time to develop applications pleading their case for a higher minimum wage? Is a pie chart showing how the working poor's children suffer in all realms of societal engagement possible with this application?How does this tool help us understand the damage of provincial policies which treat municipalities like unruly, wholly dependant children? (See translink, etc) How do we use this application to express the disgust we feel when political leaders simply lop off scholarship programs… am sincere when I state that I do believe that technology can be useful in the political sphere – but if it's use is moving us towards a more segregated society and a more inequitable one, I think we're better off taking a step back and looking at these developments cautiously – though frankly, I doubt that will happen, due in no small part to the rampant techno-fetishism our society seems to have. I'd appreciate hearing responses to these concerns.

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