@JoelGurin talked about making data accessible, and I think along with accessibility needs to go interactivity. People need to be able to see the data evolve as they influence it. When people feel a part of a process, I believe they are more likely to trust that process. Or at least, take ownership and responsibility for that process.
Data has that potential to empower people, if used properly. Making the data accessible is a good first step, but it’s not the last step. It certainly can’t be seen as the biggest step, either. Data has the ability to give people an identity. A project like Map Kibera allows citizens to map their neighborhoods. If a process like this could be used to generate data that government agencies could use to map issues and keep people updated as to how they were working towards solving those issues, then you create a system of active data and active civic participation. How you generate the data is just as important as what you do with it.
In his lecture, Joel brought up a chart identifying 5 stakeholders who need to be connected: data holders (government), application developers (tech), consumers (average citizen), industry (product), and subject matter experts. He argued that we need to find ways to bring these stakeholders together to create a better flow of information. The line between government, citizens, and industry is the triangle I think we should focus on, with subject experts and developers sprinkling in ways to create that flow. Bringing citizens into the equation is the hardest and most important part of that process.
Maybe we need an OrgPedia for government agencies. A place where people could filter through various agencies, see what processes are currently happening, places they could involve themselves, and create an interactive directory. If government agencies were able to attach a singular person as a point of contact, people would be far more receptive to interacting with that agency. In my experience working for a NYC agency, most people I encountered just had no idea who to talk to. I spent 3 years connecting people to different agents around the City, most of the time just by pulling up someone’s public number that was buried underneath a hard to navigate government website. If there was a clear, easy to use website or app – like OrgPedia – for government agencies, then people could reach out and develop those relationships that are being forgotten about.
That space could also be a place for industry to involve itself, and create a place for user feedback to influence a running set of data. Developers and subject experts could insert themselves in providing the tools and the relevant questions needed to keep those data sets moving and current. Two way communication is the key in every arrow we draw from one stakeholder to the next.