30 March 2010


I attended OpenGovWest last week.  Thought leaders and innovators of the western provinces of Canada and the western states of the USA came together to share ideas and collaborate around the topic of open government.  The conference was hosted by the City of Seattle and Knowledge as Power and was held in the beautiful Seattle City Hall.

Counted among the 200+ attendees were government leaders, public servants, analyists, software developers, university students, and private citizens, engaged and sharing ideas, issues, strategies and best practices in the open government space.  Our own BC made a huge contribution in terms of talent and participation, a tribute to the passion we have for our province.

Momentum at the grass roots level is building fast both here in BC and in the US.  The conference had a very engaged group and there was a lot of participation from most of the attendees, which in my experience is uncommon.  O'Reilly has their Gov 2.0 conference coming up in May in DC and I am sure it will be excellent and I think that perhaps many of us westerners would like to go but the expense of going to DC is hard for some to justify.  Going to Seattle was a great option.

Some of the topics discussed at OpenGovWest:

  • citizen engagement
  • public servant engagement
  • the barriers to opengov including: culture, fear, silos, legislation, status quo, lawsuits, excuses, etc..
  • how humans tend to focus on risk but ignore opportunity, the cost of "no"
  • open data licensing
  • open data structure, formats and accessibility
  • telling the story

I will be writing more about my thoughts in these areas in upcoming posts.  You can find other's opinions here and here and here.  Check out the ogw tag on twitter to see some of the ideas in raw form.

For those who are thinking that they might like to contribute but who think perhaps they can't make a difference, I would encourage you to get involved and take part in the discussions both online and at these conferences.  There are amazing people to meet and work with and it's an exciting time to be involved.

24 March 2010

Going to OpenGovWest

Heading to OpenGovWest this week.  I have been working on Open Data ideas for several months and have been watching the amazing progress the Sunlight Foundation has been making over the years.  Although I instinctively know that Open Data is the way of the future and that it will radically transform how governments at all levels operate (for the better) I still have trouble articulating that to others in tangible ways.  A worthy quest.  I will attend the conference this week to see if I can become more eloquent in describing the value that open data offers so that I can do my part here in BC to enroll others in the opportunity of open up BC data.

I suppose that ferreting out the business models for open data will take a while.  Look how long it took us to figure out how to make money from open source.  Learning from open source though, one can imagine, that the viable business models around open data, won't be around distributing the open data.  The winners  will be the folks who can add value to that data, to make that data consumable to others who can get more value from that data.  And that means understanding the data and the technology required to manipulate it.

So, in other words, it's a good time to be a geek.

13 March 2010

Book: I.O.U.

As part of my current effort to become more informed about the state of the country, economy and markets I recently finished reading I.O.U. by John Lanchester.  While Life Inc. described the nature of the corporation and the devastating effects it is having on humanity across the board, I.O.U. focuses specifically on the global financial crisis precipitated mostly by Wall Street and enabled by many others.

It's very comprehensible delve into the antics of modern banking and a "wake up call" to anyone who thinks the banks are 1) taking care of your money, or 2) care about your portfolio.  Your deposits are leverage for the real money, lending.

I highly recommend this book and though I think there are other ways to get this material this one is particularly good at showing how bizarre the financial world has become.