More data for the people

Mind = blown

The kids these days with their open-sourcing, and their applications and whatnot. It’s all so much. Actually, it’s part of a larger trend towards a more informal and user-friendly approach to public data, and it’s extremely rad. The basic idea: information wants to be free, and when you let it out into the world, smart people come up with brilliant ideas that you never would have expected. It’s the public-sector equivalent to the Urban Spoons and Zillows of the world, and the potential it presents is massive.

The New York Times has a pretty good summation of what sort of brilliance is popping up around the country. The service really run the gamut, from how to calculate the safest route home in San Francisco to identifying types of trees in New York City.

They don’t get a shout in the article, but local folks made good Front Seat are on the, uh, front seat of this movement, specifically with their Walk Score program. With the increasing prevalence of mobile handhelds, and the proliferation of applications for the iPhone, the Droid, and the various Blackberries, there’s every reason to think we’re only at the tip of the iceberg.

It’s a pretty basic concept: open up the information, and let the public do good with it. It would be interesting to see what a broader application of this idea would mean – just imagine if more government actions were opensourced, and what that would do to many of the final policy outcomes we see. Interesting. And potentially, as we say, massive.

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December 2009
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