Tag Archives: open

Open Data: An Example of the Long Tail of Public Policy at Work

VancouverGraffiti_AnalysisAs many readers know, Vancouver passed what has locally been termed the Open3 motion a year ago and has had a open data portal up and running for several months.

Around the world much of the focus of open data initiatives have focused on the development of applications like Vancouver’s Vantrash, Washington DC’s Stumble Safely or Toronto’s Childcare locator. But the other use of data portals is to actually better understand and analyze phenomena in a city – all of which can potentially lead to a broader diversity of perspectives, better public policy and a more informed public and/or decision makers.

I was thus pleased to find out about another example of what I’ve been calling the Long Tail of Public Policy when I received an email from Victor Ngo, a student at the University of British Columbia who just completed his 2nd year in the Human Geography program with an Urban Studies focus (He’s also a co-op student looking for a summer job – nudge to the City of Vancouver).

It turns out that last month, he and two classmates did a project on graffiti occurrence and its relationship to land use, crime rates, and socio-economic variables. As Victor shared with me:

It was a group project I did with two other members in March/April. It was for an introductory GIS class and given our knowledge, our analysis was certainly not as robust and refined as it could have been. But having been responsible for GIS analysis part of the project, I’m proud of what we accomplished.

The “Graffiti sites” shapefile was very instrumental to my project. I’m a big fan of the site and I’ll be using it more in the future as I continue my studies.

So here we have University students in Vancouver using real city data to work on projects that could provide some insights, all while learning. This is another small example of why open data matters. This is the future of public policy development. Today Victor may be a student, less certain about the quality of his work (don’t underestimate yourself, Victor) but tomorrow he could be working for government, a think tank, a consulting firm, an insurance company or a citizen advocacy group. But wherever he is, the open data portal will be a resource he will want to turn to.

With Victor’s permission I’ve uploaded his report, Graffiti in the Urban Everyday – Comparing Graffiti Occurrence with Crime Rates, Land Use, and Socio-Economic Indicators in Vancouver, to my site so anyone can download it. Victor has said he’d love to get people’s feedback on it.

And what was the main drawback of using the open data? There wasn’t enough of it.

…one thing I would have liked was better crime statistics, in particular, the data for the actual location of crime occurrence. It would have certainly made our analysis more refined. The weekly Crime Maps that the VPD publishes is an example of what I mean:


You’re able to see the actual location where the crime was committed. We had to tabulate data from summary tables found at:


To translate: essentially the city releases this information in a non-machine-readable format, meaning that citizens, public servants at other levels of government and (I’m willing to wager) City of Vancouver public servants outside the police department have to recreate the data in a digital format. What a colossal waste of time and energy. Why not just share the data in a structured digital way? The city already makes it public, why not make it useful as well? This is what Washington DC (search crime) and San Francisco have done.

I hope that more apps get created in Vancouver, but as a public policy geek, I’m also hoping that more reports like these (and the one Bing Thom architects published on the future of Vancouver also using data from the open data catalog) get published. Ultimately, more people learning, thinking, writing and seeking solutions to our challenges will create a smarter, more vibrant and more successful city. Isn’t that what you’d want your city government (or any government, really…) to do?

Opening Parliament and other big announcements

This is going to be an exciting week for online activists seeking to make government more open and engaged.

First off, openparliament.ca launched yesterday. This is a fantastic site with a lot going for it – go check it out (after reading my other updates!). And huge kudos to its creator Michael Mulley. Just another great example of how our democratic institutions can be hacked to better serve our needs – to make them more open, accessible and engaging. There is a ton of stuff that could be built on top of Michael’s and others – like Howdtheyvote, sites. I’ve written more about this in a piece on the Globe’s website titled If You Won’t Tell Us About Our MPs Well Do It For You.

Second, as follow on to the launch of openparliament.ca, I’ve been meaning to share for some time that I’ve been having conversations with the House of Parliament IT staff over the past couple of months. About a month ago parliament IT staff agreed to start sharing the Hansard, MP’s bios, committee calendars and a range of other information via XML (sorry for not sharing this sooner, things have been a little crazy). They informed me that they would start doing this before the year is over – so I suspect it won’t happen in the next couple of months, but will happen at some point in the next 6 months. This is a huge step forward for the house and hopefully not the last (also, there is no movement on the senate as of yet). There are still a ton more ways that information about the proceedings of Canada’s democracy could be made more easily available, but we have some important momentum with great sites like those listed above, and internal recognition to share more data. I’ll be having further conversations with some of the staff over the coming months so will try to update people on progress as I find out.

Finally, I am gearing up to launch datadotgc.ca. This is a project I’ve been working on for quite some time with a number of old and new allies. Sadly, the Canadian government does not have an open data policy and there is no political effort to create a data.gc.ca like that created by the Obama administration (http://www.data.gov/) or of the British Government (http://data.gov.uk/). So, I along with a few friends have decided to create one for them. I’ll have an official post on this tomorrow. Needless to same, I’m excited. We are still looking for people to help us populate the site with open government data sets – and have even located some that we need help scraping – so if you are interested in contributing feel free to join the datadotgc.ca google group and we can get you password access to the site.

Vancouver Open Data Version 2: New Apps to create

Wow, wow, wow.

The City of Vancouver has just launched version 2 of its open data portal. A number of new data sets have been added to the site which is very exciting. Better still previously released data sets have been released in new formats.

Given that at 5pm tomorrow (Tuesday. Jan 26th) there will be the third Open Data Hackathon at the city archives to which anyone is invited, I thought I’d share the 5 new open data apps I’d love to see:

1. Home Buyers App.

So at some point some smart real estate agent is going to figure out that there is a WEALTH of relevant information for home buyers in the open data catalogue. Perhaps someone might create this iPhone app and charge for it, perhaps a real estate group will pay for its creation (I know some coders who would be willing – drop me an email).

Imagine an iPhone app you use when shopping around for homes. Since the app knows where you are it can use open data to tell you: property assessment, the distance to the nearest park (and nearest park with off leash area), nearest school, school zone (elementary, plus secondary immersion and regular), distance to the local community centre, neighborhood name, nearest bus/subway stops and routes, closest libraries, nearest firehall among a host of other data. Having that type of information at your finger tips could be invaluable!

2. My Commute App:

One of the sexiest and most interesting data sets released in version 2 is a GeoRss feed of upcoming road closures (which you can also click and see as a map!). It would be great if a commuter could outline their normal drive or select their bus route and anytime the rss feed posts about roadwork that will occur on that route the user receives an email informing them of this fact. Allows you to plan an alternative route or know that you’re going to have to leave a little early.

3. Development Feedback App

There is always so much construction going on in Vancouver it is often hard to know what is going to happen next. The city, to its credit, requires developers to post a giant white board outlining the proposed development. Well now a data feed of planned developments is available on the data portal (it also can already be viewed in map form)! Imagine an iPhone app which shows you the nearest development applications (with details!) and heritage buildings so you can begin to understand how the neighbourhood is going to change. Then imagine a form you can fill in – right then(!) – that emails your concerns or support for that development to a councilor or relevant planning official…

For a city like Vancouver that obsesses about architecture and its neighborhoods, this feels like a winner.

4. MyPark App

We Vancouverites are an outdoorsey bunch. Why not an app that consolidates information about the cities parks into one place. You could have park locations, nearest park locator, nearest dog park locator, the Parks Boards most recent announcements and events RSS Feed. I’m hoping that in the near future Parks Board will release soccer/ultimate frisbee field conditions updates in a machine readable format.

5. VanTrash 2.0?

Interestingly Apartment recycling schedule zones was also released in the new version of the site. Might be interesting to see if we can incorporate it into the already successful Vantrash and so expand the user base.

I’m also thinking there could be some cool things one could do with Graffiti information (maybe around reporting? a 311 tie in?) and street lights (safest route home walking app?)

So there is a start. If you are interested in these – or have your own ideas for how the data could be used – let me know. Better yet, consider coming down to the City Archives tomorrow evening for the third open data hackathon. I’ll be there, it would be great to chat.

BC Government's blog on renewing the Water Act

On Friday the Government of British Columbia announced that it was beginning the process to renew the province’s water act. This is, in of itself, important and good.

More interesting however, is that the government has chosen to launch a blog to discuss ideas, prospective changes and generally engage the public on water issues.

It is, of course, early days. I’m not one to jump up and proclaim instant success nor pick apart the effort and find its faults after a single post. What I will say is that this type of experimentation in public engagement and policy development is long overdue. It is exciting to see a major government in Canada tentatively begin to explore how online technology and social media might enhance policy development as more (hopefully) than just a communication exercise. Even if it does not radically alter the process – or even if it does not go well – at least this government is experimenting and beginning learn what will work and what won’t. I hope and suspect other jurisdictions will be watching closely.

If you are such a government-type and are wondering what it is about the site that gives me hope… let me briefly list three things:

  1. Site design: Unlike most government websites which OVERWHELM you with information, menus and links, this one is (relatively) simple.
  2. Social media: A sidebar with recent comments! A tag cloud! RSS feed! Things that most blogs and website have had for years and yet… seem to elude government websites.
  3. An effective platform (bonus points for being open source): This may be the first time I’ve seen an official government website in Canada use wordpress (which, by the by, is free to download). When running a blog wordpress is certainly my choice (quite literally) and has been a godsend. The choice of wordpress also explains a lot of why point #2 is possible.

So… promising start. Now, what would I like to see happen around the government’s blog?

Well, if you want to engage the public why not give them data that you are using internally? It would be great to get recent and historic flow rate data from major rivers in BC. And what about water consumption rates by industry/sector but also perhaps by region and by city and dare we ask… by neighborhood? It would also be interesting to share the assumptions about future growth so that professors, thinktanks and those who care deeply about water issues could challenge and test them. Of course the government could share all this data on its upcoming Apps For Climate Change data portal (more on that soon). If we were really lucky, some web superstar like this guy, would create some cool visualization to help the public understand what is happening to water around the province and what the future holds.

In short, having a blog is a fantastic first start, but lets use it to share information so that citizens can do their own analysis using their own assumptions with the same data sets the government is using. That would certainly elevate the quality of the discussion on the site.

All in all, the potential for a site like this is significant. I hope the water geeks show up in force and are able to engage in a helpful manner.

My Unfinished Business Talk in Toronto

ocad logoI’m really pleased to share that I’ll be giving a talk at the Ontario College of Art & Design this January 14th, 2010. The talk is one I’ve been giving for government officials a fair bit of late – it is on how technology, open methodologies and social change are creating powerful pressures for reform within our government bureaucracies. The ideas in it also form the basis of a chapter I’ve written for the upcoming O’Reilly Media book on Open Government due out in January (in the US, assuming here in Canada too – more on this in a later post).

I completely thrilled to be giving a talk at OCAD and especially want to thank Michael Anton Dila for making this all happen. It was his idea, and he pushed me to make it happen. It is especially of Michael and OCAD since they have kept the talk free and open to the public.

The talk details are below and you can register here. More exciting has been the interest in the talk – I saw that 100 tickets disappeared in the first 4 hours yesterday – people care about government and policy!

We have much unfinished business with our government – look forward to digging into it.


The Unfinished Lecture is a monthly event hosted by the Strategic Innovation Lab at OCAD and sponsored by Torch Partnership. Part of the Unfinished Business initiative, the lectures are intended to generate an open conversation about strategic innovation in the business and design of commercial enterprises and public organizations.

AFTER THE COLLAPSE: Technology, Open and the Future of Government

What do Facebook, 911 and NASA all have in common? They all offer us a window into how our industrial era government may be redesigned for the digital age. In this lecture David Eaves will look at how open methodologies, technology and social change is reshaping the way public service and policy development will be organized and delivered in the future: more distributed, adaptive and useful to an increasingly tech savvy public. Whether a interested designer, a disruptive programmer, a restless public servant or a curious citizen David will push your thinking on what the future has in store for the one institution we all rely on: Government.
As a closing remark, I’d also like to thank Health Canada & Samara, both of who asked me to put my thoughts on this subject together into a single talk.
Hope to see you in Toronto.

Open Data – USA vs. Canada

open-data-300x224When it comes to Open Data in Canada and the United States, things appear to be similar. Both countries have several municipalities with Open Data portals: Washington, D.C., San Francisco, and now New York City in the US, Vancouver and Nanaimo in Canada with Toronto, Edmonton, Calgary and Ottawa thinking about or initiating plans.

But the similarities end there. In particular there is a real, yawning gap at the federal level. America has data.gov but here in Canada there is no movement on the Open Data front. There are some open data sets, but nothing comprehensive, and nothing that follows is dedicated to following the three laws of open data. No data.gc.ca in the works. Not even a discussion. Why is that?

As esoteric as it may sound, I believe the root of the issues lies in the country’s differing political philosophies. Let me explain.

It is important to remember that the United States was founded on the notion of popular sovereignty. As such its sovereignty lies with the people, or as Wikipedia nicely puts it:

The American Revolution marked a departure in the concept of popular sovereignty as it had been discussed and employed in the European historical context. With their Revolution, Americans substituted the sovereignty in the person of the English king, George III, with a collective sovereign—composed of the people. Henceforth, American revolutionaries by and large agreed and were committed to the principle that governments were legitimate only if they rested on popular sovereignty – that is, the sovereignty of the people. (italics are mine)

Thus data created by the US government is, quite literally, the people’s data. Yes, nothing legally prevents the US government from charging for information and data but the country’s organizing philosophy empowers citizens to stand up and say – this is our data, we’d like it please. In the United States the burden is on the government to explain why it is withholding that which the people own (a tradition that admittedly is hardly perfect as anyone alive from the years 2000-2008 will attest to).  But don’t underestimate the power of this norm. Its manifestations are everywhere, such as in the legal requirement that any document created by the United States government be published in the public domain (e.g. it cannot have any copyright restrictions placed on it) or in America’s vastly superior Freedom of Information laws.

This is very different notion of sovereignty than exists in Canada. This country never deviated from the European context described above. Sovereignty in Canada does not lie with the people, indeed, it resides in King George the III’s descendant, the present day Queen of England. The government’s data isn’t your, mine, or “our” data. It’s hers. Which means it is at her discretion, or more specifically, the discretion of her government servants, to decide when and if it should be shared. This is the (radically different) context under which our government (both the political and public service), and its expectations around disclosure, have evolved. As an example, note that government documents in Canada are not public domain, they are published under a Crown Copyright that, while less restrictive than copyright, nonetheless constrains reuse (no satire allowed!) and is a constant reminder of the fact that Canadian citizens don’t own what their tax dollars create. The Queen does.

The second reason why open data has a harder time taking root in Canada is because of the structure of our government. In America, new projects are easier to kick start because the executive welds greater control over the public service. The Open Data initiative that started in Washington, D.C. spread quickly to the White House because its champion and mastermind, the District’s of Columbia’s CTO Vivek Kundra, was appointed Federal CIO by President Obama. Yes, Open Data tapped into an instinctual reflex to disclose that (I believe) is stronger down south than here, but it was executed because America’s executive branch is able to appoint officials much deeper into government (for those who care, in Canada Deputy Ministers are often appointed, but in the United States appointments go much deeper, down into the Assistant Deputy and even into the Director General level). Both systems have merits, and this is not a critic of Canada’s approach, simply an observation. However, it does mean that a new priority, like open data, can be acted upon quickly and decisively in the US. (For more on these difference I recommend reading John Ibbitson’s book Open & Shut).

These difference have several powerful implications for open data in Canada.

As a first principle, if Canadians care about open data we will need to begin fostering norms in our government, among ourselves, and in our politicians, that support the idea that what our government creates (especially in terms of research and data) is ours and that we should not only have unfettered access to it, but the right to analyze and repurpose it. The point here isn’t just that this is a right, but that open data enhances democracy, increases participation and civic engagement and strengthens our economy. Enhancing this norm is a significant national challenge, one that will take years to succeed. But instilling it into the culture of our public service, our civic discourse and our political process is essential. In the end, we have to ask ourselves – in a way our American counterparts aren’t likely to (but need to) – do we want an open country?

This means that secondly, Canadians are going to have to engage in a level of education of – particularly senior – public servants on open data that is much broader and more comprehensive than our American counterparts had to. In the US, an executive fiat and appointment has so far smoothed the implementation of open data solutions. That will likely not work here. We have many, many, many allies in the public service who believe in open data (and who understand it is integral to public service sector renewal). The key is to spread that knowledge and support upwards, to educate senior decision-makers, especially those at the DG, ADM and DM level to whom both the technology and concept is essentially foreign. It is critical that these decision-makers become comfortable with and understand the benefits of open data quickly. If not we are unlikely to keep pace with (or even follow) our American counterparts, something, I believe is essential for our government and economy.

Second, Canadians are going to have to mobilize to push for open data as a political issue. Even if senior public servants get comfortable with the idea, it is unlikely there will be action unless politicians understand that Canadians want both greater transparency and the opportunity to build new services and applications on government data.

(I’d also argue that another reason why Open Data has taken root in the US more quickly than here is the nature of its economy. As a country that thrives on services and high tech, open data is the basic ingredient that helps drive growth and innovation. Consequently, there is increasing corporate support for open data. Canada, in contrast, with its emphasis on natural resources, does not have a corporate culture that recognizes these benefits as readily.)

The Three Laws of Open Government Data

Yesterday, at the Right To Know Week panel discussion – Conference for Parliamentarians: Transparency in the Digital Era – organized by the Office of the Information Commissioner I shared three laws for Open Government Data that I’d devised on the flight from Vancouver.

The Three Laws of Open Government Data:

  1. If it can’t be spidered or indexed, it doesn’t exist
  2. If it isn’t available in open and machine readable format, it can’t engage
  3. If a legal framework doesn’t allow it to be repurposed, it doesn’t empower

To explain, (1) basically means: Can I find it? If Google (and/or other search engines) can’t find it, it essentially doesn’t exist for most citizens. So you’d better ensure that you are optimized to be crawled by all sorts of search engine spiders.

After I’ve found it, (2) notes that, to be useful, I need to be able to play with the data. Consequently, I need to be able to pull or download it in a useful format (e.g. an API, subscription feed, or a documented file). Citizens need data in a form that lets them mash it up with Google Maps or other data sets, or analyze in Excel. This is essentially the difference between VanMaps (look, but don’t play) and the Vancouver Data Portal, (look, take and play!). Citizens who can’t play with information are citizens who are disengaged/marginalized from the discussion.

Finally, even if I can find it and play with it, (3) highlights that I need a legal framework that allows me to share what I’ve created, to mobilize other citizens, provide a new service or just point out an interesting fact. This is the difference between Canada’s House of Parliament’s information (which, due to crown copyright, you can take, play with, but don’t you dare share or re-publish) and say, Whitehouse.gov which “pursuant to federal law, government-produced materials appearing on this site are not copyright protected.”

Find, Play and Share. That’s want we want.

Of course, a brief scan of the internet has revealed that others have also been thinking about this as well. There is this excellent 8 Principle of Open Government Data that are more detailed, and admittedly better, especially for a CIO level and lower conversation.  But for talking to politicians (or Deputy Ministers or CEOs), like those in attendance during yesterday’s panel or, later that afternoon, the Speaker of the House, I found the simplicity of three resonated more strongly; it is a simpler list they can remember and demand.

Today: "right to know" panel for parliamentarians

Today from 10am-12am EST I’ll be a panelist for Conference for Parliamentarians: Transparency in the Digital Era a panel convened by the Office of the Information Commissioner as part of Right to Know Week. Apparently the Canadian School of Public Service will provide access to this conference as part of its Armchair Discussions (www.righttoknow.ca).

More on the panel:

This conference aims to engage Parliamentarians in a debate and reflection on the new paradigm that the digital world has introduced for the right to know. Greater transparency in the digital era requires more than sound information management and the use of state-of-the-art information technology. It calls for a fundamental change of attitudes from disclosing information on a need-to-know basis to managing information with the presumption of disclosure as the default mode. How can public institutions trigger and accelerate this change of attitudes for the benefit of Canadians?

For those who are interested you can see my slides (sans audio, I’m afraid) below.

Misunderstanding and understanding the Open Data Hype

On Wednesday Gartner’s Andrea Dimaio wrote an interesting blog post entitled Open Data and Application Contests: Government 2.0 at the Peak of Inflated Expectations which Peter Smith nicely linked to the Gartner’s Hype Cycle graph from Wikipedia. I want to break his post down into three components. Two – the bad and the good, I’m going to talk about today – the third, which I’ll tackle on Monday involves some mapping and fun.

The Bad

As someone whose been thinking about and working on Open Data and Gov 2.0 for several years now three things struck me as problematic about Andrea’s post. Firstly, he misunderstands the point of open data. While many people – self-included- talk about how it can empower citizens, citizens will not be its primary beneficiary. The biggest user of open data portals is going to be government employees. Indeed, Tim Wilson reminded me the other day of our conversation with Jason Birch, the thought leader who made much of Nanaimo’s geo-data public, where he talked about how he wasn’t actually tasked with sharing data publicly – he was tasked with making the data available to other Nanaimo city employees. Sharing it with citizens was a (relatively) cost free addition. These projects aren’t about serving some techo-literati, it is about getting a city to first and foremost talk to itself – having it talk to its citizens is an important (and democracy expanding) benefit.

Second, was this unfortunate anecdote:

Yesterday I was discussing with a British client over lunch and he told me how the publication of data may lead to requests for more data (through the Freedom of Information Act), in a never-ending cycle of information gathering which is likely to cost a lot to both government and taxpayers. Another client observed (as I said in a previous post) that there is no way people will be able to tell to what extent a mash up on an application actually uses official, trusted government data.

Could government become swamped with data requests? Who knows, but in theory… it shouldn’t. Making data available should reduce the amount of time public servants spend responding to requests by diverting requests to open data portals. But let’s say Andrea’s concerns are valid and that, as a result of open data, citizens become more actively concerned and interested in how government works and thus Freedom of Information Act requests increase. The horror… citizens are interested in government! Citizens want to know how decisions are made! Remind me again… why is this a problem?

The real problem here isn’t access to data, it’s that the Freedom of Information Act process is itself broken. If open data creates a further demand for more transparent government and pushes us to foster better mechanisms for sharing government information, this is a good consequence. As for concerns that people might misrepresent public data, well a) people can already do this and we haven’t had a rash of bad applications, but even if they tried… people will stop using their service pretty quick.

Finally, another nice thing about public data is that it tends to get very clean, very quickly. My concern isn’t that government data will be misrepresented… I’m concerned that government data is already wrong and isn’t being verified. Knowing that someone might actually look at a data set is one of the most powerful incentives for organization to improve its collection. (Something Clay Shirky noted in a talk he made the other day at a Bioinformatics conference I’m at).

(There is of course, one group who may not see these a good consequences as it will change how they work: British public servant like Andrea’s client’s who raised the objections… but then they pay Gartner’s bills, not you.)

The Good

The end of Andrea Dimiao’s piece is where we find common ground. I agree that the Apps for Democracy competitions run the risk of limiting the definition of “the public” to citizen coders.  We want broader participation – particularly once more complex data sets like budgets, procurement and crime data are released – from academics, citizens groups and NGOs. Here in Vancouver we’ve talked about focusing any Apps competition on the themes of homelessness, housing and the environment, since these have been the dominant concerns of citizens in recent years.

More importantly, I agree (and love) Dimiao’s concept of employee-centric government. Indeed, my chapter for Tim O’Reilly’s upcoming book on Open Government makes a parallel argument, that namely we should stop trying to teach an analogue government to talk to a digital public and instead focus on making government digital (ie. getting it “open,” networked and using web 2.0 internally) first.

And perhaps most importantly, I agree that government 2.0 risks being over-hyped. I still believe in the potential, but know that getting there is going to be a painful process (mind the gap!). Government 2.0 advocates should expect lots of resistance and adoption problems ahead – but then change is painful.

Garbage Collection now IS sexy: Introducing VanTrash

garbage-can_rgbA few months ago some of you will remember I blogged about How Open Data even makes Garbage collection sexier, easier and cheaper. I suggested that, with open data, coders could digitize the city’s garbage collection schedule and city maps and enable citizens to download it into their calendar or even set up a recurring email reminder.

The post went fairly viral being picked up places like here and here. As a result, two weeks later Luke Closs and Kevin Jones, two Vancouver based coders with a strong sense of fun and civic duty emailed me and said they’d actually scrapped the data and had created an alpha version of the site. I offered my (meagre) skills to help move the application forward and we began working on it.

Today, I’m pleased to say that VanTrash has been launched. If you live in Vancouver (or don’t) please do take a look at the website.

Our goal with VanTrash is twofold. First: we want a great service that leverages public data to helpmake our fellow citizens’ lives a little better or easier. Second: we’d like to sign up 3000 or more users.

Since there are about 260,000 households in Vancouver (although many have private contracted garbage pick up) 3000 users would represent between 1-2% of all households for whom the city collects their garbage. There are not that many services that citizens opt in for that get this market penetration – especially services created for virtually nothing. The more users we get, the stronger the message we send to government’s everywhere that government is a platform and that we need to let citizens built on top of it. More importantly, we demonstrate that great, and useful, things can be done for cheap, a lesson citizens and governments need to constantly relearn.

So if you live in Vancouver, and you think there service would be helpful to you (or perhaps to a forgetful or absent minded friend, family member or neighbour) please sign up or spread the word.