Recap: Open City Workshop

Saturday’s Open City Workshop at the Art Gallery of Alberta was a fantastic event! Excellent turnout, great discussions, and lots of enthusiasm for the open data/open government movement here in Edmonton. We started the day with some opening remarks from Councillor Don Iveson, CIO Chris Moore, and FusedLogic’s Walter Schwabe. I really liked Don’s key values: transparency, empowerment, and collaboration.

Open City WorkshopOpen City Workshop

Next up was the panel, featuring David Eaves, Nick Charney, Mark Kuznicki, and Alayne Sinclair. They talked about what open government meant to them, took an odd detour into voting, and took some questions from the audience as well. Here are a few of the key things that stood out for me:

  • The idea of government as a platform is not new!
  • It’s about empowering citizens to make the city their own, enabling them to go after their passions.
  • Engagement is often a sign that you need to do something differently, not necessarily that you’re doing something right.
  • Civil servants are citizens too!
  • Open government is part of a broader cultural shift, and citizens have a responsibility to become participants.

I really enjoyed the panel – it was the highlight of the day for me. It was great to finally meet David, Nick, and Mark in person too.

After some forced networking and a break for lunch, the unconference part of the day got underway. We broke into smaller groups to discuss things like the role of journalism and storytelling in open data, the digital divide, thinking beyond technology solutions, and timelines/deliverables.

Open City WorkshopOpen City Workshop

Open City WorkshopOpen City Workshop

I attended the role of journalism and storytelling first, and we seemed to reach the consensus that storytelling is vital for open data/open government to succeed. We need everyone to tell stories, so that we achieve a diverse range of views. We also felt that journalism has a role to play in bridging the gap that exists between those who “get it” and those who don’t. The second session I attended was on engaging residents not familiar with technology. We ended up talking a lot about deliberative dialogue, and I was left with a lot to think about – how will access to open data affect the way a citizen looks at the world? We’re naturally selective, does open data change anything in that regard? For some thoughts on the other two sessions, check out Stella’s recap.

Open City WorkshopOpen City Workshop

Another really great aspect of the day was that it was streamed live online by FusedLogic in both English and French. There were dozens of people participating virtually, from Edmonton and around the world! I understand that they even held their own breakout discussion in the afternoon! Kudos to the FusedLogic team for taking on such a big task, and making it work so well.

At the end of the day, Chris Moore took the stage once again to make a few announcements:

  • An RFP has gone out for the design and implementation of the next generation of productivity technologies at the City of Edmonton.
  • The City of Edmonton is partnering on open311.org, to bring open standards for 311.
  • On April 19, the City of Edmonton is planning to launch an iPhone app called CityWatch, developed by local company Touchmetric.
  • The City of Edmonton is calling for the creation of a “Code for Canada” organization, modeled after Code for America.
  • There will be an Apps4Edmonton app contest in the near future, with the prizes and winners to be showcased at GTEC2010 in October.

Exciting stuff! Congrats to Chris and his team for putting on a great event.

Stay tuned to the #openyeg and #yegdata hashtags on Twitter for updates, as well as the City of Edmonton’s open city page. You can see the rest of my photos here, and you can see the City’s photoset here. You can see a list of the attendees on Twitter here.

I’ll leave you with this TED video of Tim Berners-Lee talking about open data:

Bring on the data!

9 thoughts on “Recap: Open City Workshop

  1. Hey Mack, great post and photos. Thanks for the mention, we appreciate it. As stated, a big congratulations out to the City of Edmonton and the IT/Communications planning committee for doing such a great job.

  2. I might not be understanding the RFP that’s been put out. Are they looking for someone to create a new system or just implement an existing one? Creating one would kind of be contrary to what OpenCity is trying to establish since the tools are already out there.

  3. Eric, we are looking forward to moving off of our current Office Productivity suite, licensed per computer, for all aspects of the suite. We are moving to an open document format, and to a suite of software that is purchased as a service. If you need more information it would be best to secure the details of the RFP.

  4. Good overview on the day – excellent recap, as always! I echo your kudos to the Fusedlogic team; never have I seen so many compliments about video, video cutting and translation for a web-enabled conference! Also, really appreciate your role in continuing to move your local government forward. You demonstrate what’s best in responsible citizenship.

    One comment: I disagree with your off-handed description of the discussion on voting as an “odd detour” in a workshop on open government. Isn’t voting a fundamental element of democracy, a tenet of open government? And isn’t much of people’s frustration with government based on their votes being the only guaranteed input in government, but which cannot translate into input on a wide range of issues between elections? I would think an open government workshop exploring the potential for transparency, participation and collaboration would be an appropriate place for discussion of votes in the context of other potential forms of input. And it was good discussion – I was happy it didn’t descend to simplistic debate about online voting as a solution to “voter apathy.”
    Just commenting because your other observations are always painfully on target (like the “bring on the data”). 🙂

  5. Thanks for the comment Jas.

    I agree with you, voting is an important part of the discussion, and I didn’t mean to suggest that the thoughts shared by the panelists on the topic were a waste of time. I found them quite enlightening, actually.

    All I meant was that the discussion seemed to take a leap or two when it moved from “government as a platform” to “issues with voting”. Maybe it was just me, but I felt at the time like I missed a huge transition or something!

  6. Thanks for the summary. I wish I could have stayed for the whole day.

    And thanks for posting that TED video. That’s a great set of examples of how open data can be used and even built upon.

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