Monday, March 12, 2012

Class 9: Reusing public sector information

Our next guest speaker is Mark Headd who will join us on March 19, 2012. Mark Headd is the Senior Developer Evangelist at Voxeo Labs and Founder Civic Innovations. Mark is a Maxwell School alum and will talk about his experience designing web and smartphone applications that are using government data.

This class section is designed to move us into best practices and real-life applications of social media use in government. The session will include conversations about civic hackers, reuse of existing government data, but will also include issues around transparency in government.

Please check out Voxeo Labs and Civic Innovations, start to follow Mark on Twitter: @mheadd, and leave your questions for him here on the blog.


  1. After reading a little more about Open311, the following statement jumped out at me: "When appropriate, Open311 can even be used to manage volunteer efforts to help supplement government workers."
    It seems like a phenomenal idea to utilize this technology to promote volunteerism. Have you seen any examples of this technology being utilized for that purpose?

  2. It seems as though a major barrier for the development of applications that use government data is the lack of uniformity in data reporting.
    Given that there is so much variability in standards at every level of government, do you see a path forward for standardizing data so applications can be used across local, state and federal levels?

  3. From my recent experience traveling for a week and using my mobile for taking photos, connecting with friends and family, finding directions, schedules, free wifi locations, city info, weather, traffic issues all using social media and other mobile apps. Understand the power of data for so many things especially open government. From the practical side, however, in its future form, all this realistically requires a mobile device (phone, tablet or laptop) and access to the internet. All of this costs money and honestly on my phone, much data is hard to read and process on so small a screen. Won't all this progress create some pockets of second class citizens - poor, older etc who can't afford (or can't learn to use) neither the device nor the data access costs? How is this aspect of current technology developments being addressed?

    Also, what about the privacy concerns that occur when more sophisticated methods of data collection are in place? An example might be "Highlight" which tracks the locations of you and your friends. Such data could be misused or hacked. Recent examples are online banking caller ID and IRS info hacking. Are we heading toward a world where we all know everything about everyone. There has to be a downside. How do we protect against misuse of our data by government or business?

  4. Reading your article concerning the use of open transit data on "Civic Innovations", I understood the point on using open government data to increase the effectiveness of public service, especially when combined with social media tools. The problem would always be the range of application. I mean, to what extent should the government data be available for being used as open data? We may have some serios issues with this when it is related to the privacy protection or civil rights. For example, unlike the U.S., it is extremely restricted to include the suspect's personal information when publicizing the outline of any crime in my country. What would you do if you believe that some data that are access-restricted should be available for being used as open government data in order to increase the effectiveness of public service?

  5. My understanding about the role of developers of application using existing government data is that they connect the government as a creator of data and the citizens as a user of data. As intermidiaries, app developers could capture needs of the citizens about new kind of dataset or statistics from government. Is there any arrangement estabilished between the government and developers to share those demands or ideas of the citizens regarding the necessity of creating new data?

  6. There is a really great application that was just posted on GovLoop from opencity about the tier system for selective enrollment schools in Chicago. The blog mentions how the programmers who created the application struggled to understand the tier system, and had to do a lot of self education in order to understand how to make the application useful.
    Do you see a lot of this disconnect between people who are able to conceptualize how the data could be used and those who are able to actually create these applications? Do you have any thoughts on how to bridge the gap between specialized knowledge and technical skills?

  7. Especially in data related to services that are often opening and closing, changing locations and service hours (soup kitchens, farmers markets, etc.) is there a way to ensure that it remains up to date?
    My initial thought is that it would be maintained in the way Wikipedia and other open source information is, but is there enough capacity to maintain these data sets?