Wednesday, December 23, 2015

#357 / U.S.D.S.

An online article titled, "Open Data, Civic Engagement, and Delivery" alerted me to the United States Digital Service. Based in the White House, the U.S.D.S. seems to be a kind of "Peace Corps" for coders. If you'd like to sign up, click this link!

The article that attracted my attention said that "open government" wasn't really about making governmental documents available to the public. Doing that is certainly "necessary," but is not "sufficient;" that is what I think the author would say.

The author, by the way, is named Abhi Nemani, and he recently served as the Chief Data Officer for the City of Los Angeles. His point, well taken, is that citizens most often interact with their government as they try to do something that requires some sort of governmental sign-off, or that is involved with their personal relationship with some agency of government. Making all governmental information accessible as "digital" data, and utilizing the kind of programs that commercial firms use to make it easy to do things by utilizing online applications, would help to "open up" government in a way that our government isn't "open" now.

I thought Nemani's article was engaging, and that it is worthwhile reading.

I do have a caution, however. Government is not, in the end, the set of systems that administer us; it is our way to make fundamental choices about what sort of world we want to create.

Digital access is helpful, even "necessary," but it's not "sufficient."

Our personal engagement and participation in the political process is what's "necessary." Let's not let a good app divert our attention from that fundamental fact.

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