What is Open Government? Open Data? Civic Technology?
Are these just buzzwords that don’t mean anything? No, they are buzzwords that DO mean something.
Open government promotes greater citizen participation, collaboration, and transparency in government.
This includes enabling government accountability via improved citizen access to public government information, decision-making, and representatives.
Resources: See the Federal open government directive and principles from the Open Government Partnership signed on by 63 nations. While open government has a wide range of definitions, the Open Minnesota proposal focuses on digitally enhancing open government.
Open data is data that can be freely used, reused and redistributed by anyone.
To avoid costly repeat information requests, leading governments are pro-actively publishing select open government data “sets” online (structured databases, spreadsheets, etc.) for public self-service and use. Private government data is never shared this way – only legally public government information is shared for convenient reuse.
The U.S. government defines open data as: publicly available data structured in a way that enables the data to be fully discoverable and usable by end users.
Resources: See What is Open Data from the Open Data Handbook, Data.Gov and the Open Data Policy Memorandum from the U.S. Federal government, and resources on Open Data Policy Guidelines, Principles, and legislation from the Sunlight Foundation. See image below.
Note: In terms of Minnesota government, open data, refers to a sub-set of legally public data placed pro-actively online in a structured format online by government units to encourage wide reuse. “Open data” cannot be private data classified under the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act. Nothing about embracing “open data” suggests that legally private government data on individuals will be released publicly in violation of the law. Privacy concerns related to the increased use of personally identifiable but legally public data or non-government data are policy issues best raised with the legislature and other officials. Open Minnesota will direct the public to the proper channels as we expect discussions about openness to generate questions about privacy.
Civic technology seeks to make the communities where we live better. It focuses digital innovation on generating societal and economic benefits to solve public problems.
This includes software development, design, open data use, etc. leading to mobile apps, web services, data analysis and visualization, better public services, innovative start-ups, and more.
Note: The Knight Foundation’s review of civic technology start-up investments and nonprofit grants since 2011, found of the $700 million invested in civic technology, only 0.1% appears to have been invested in Minnesota via grants to E-Democracy.org. Minnesota’s few companies in this space like GovDelivery or Avenet’s GovOffice are not start-ups and non-profit Caring Bridge’s stellar use of individual donations means they do not show up in the Knight data because they operate on donations and not grants.
This image helps show open data from government in context: