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Alex B. Howard: What Can Open Government Learn From Open Source, Data, Innovation.
I’m writing about Alex B. Howard’s cybercast for the Berkman Center. The subject of this cybercast was “What Can Open Government Learn From Open Source, Data, Innovation.” I learned a lot about openness on the internet, and one word that I feel could not be used enough, “transparency.” When Alex talked about transparency online he used a lot of good examples I had a few favorites. Number 1 Favorite was “Chicago Shovels.” Chicago shovels utilized open sourcing during a large snow blizzard. They created an application that showed where they had shoveled, this included video, pictures, and they were all placed on an interactive map where people could post more photos of their streets. I’ve lived in Massachusetts for over 10 years and have had constant trouble with roads that need to be cleared. Specifically in high school, when the school district decided it was a good idea to not cancel classes after one foot of snow fell the evening before. In situations like this, I was up to an hour late to class trying to navigate what roads were shoveled. Its complete insanity! I’m surprised someone hasn’t created an app like this for Boston at least. Another example I liked was an application that showed where homicides were occurring most often. As a very petite person living in the city, it would be nice to know what streets to avoid if I’m coming home late from work. I would like to see open source government get involved in problems like this. A mapping of high crime areas would be very useful for girls like me. This was another problem Alex talked about, the lack of transparency in the government. If they released more information, there would be a lot more potential for useful and creative apps for American citizens.
Another example Alex examined was the use of open source medical records. In his example there were open source medical records available to vetrans with cognitive disabilities (aka trouble remembering things). I am epileptic, and though it has little affect on me cognitively, I am constantly going to doctor to doctor. This requires me to visit more than one medical center. If I had the option to visit a website, click a button and bring my medical records to a new hospital, my life would be significantly easier.
One example that Alex did not mention is one of my favorite uses of open source government resources. This app shows where registered sex offenders live and provides a picture of said offender. This app was useful to me because I use to be the nanny for three young girls and they loved the outdoors! But, when exploring to find a new and fun playground, it was nice to have the option to see where the sex offenders were located and know the faces to be afraid of/avoid. In my line of work, protecting children is my #1 priority always and applications like these help me do just that.
In conclusion, I’m pro open source data and believe it would make everyone’s lives easier and help educate the public on subjects they might not have looked into without the data being published.
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