+OpenDataSoft participated in the celebration that was 8 years in the making at the White House. Yesterday, for the first time, the White House held the 2016 Open Data Innovation Summit. I work for OpenDataSoft as the Open Data Evangelist. I was asked to introduce the White House Agenda and then to speak on Civic Innovation regarding Open Data. What I said and what I wanted to say were different.
The event was full of excitement and also of reflection Megan Smith and Tony Scott kicked off the event touting the 200k datasets that had been released through Data.Gov. Certainly this is refreshing from even a decade ago when serious effort and even lawsuits were required to make data available to the public.
That all was not good and could be better was brought up by +Alex Howard from the Sunlight Foundation. Alex noted that HTML and PDFs were counted among the "datasets" being released. Note that while HTML and PDFs are indeed 1 star out of 5 on the Tim Berners-Lee scale of Open Data, we can do better and Alex pointed that out.
I was on the Civic Innovation Panel that came on after Alex and Mrs. Brewer. The moderator introduced me and there was an awkward pause. I was by myself on the stage, the other panelists were not present. I looked at the moderator waiting for a question. He then said, "tell me about how you have engaged with citizens" or something to that effect.
I talked about the 300 cups of coffee I had with Raleigh residents, I talked about reaching out to faith based communities in Durham. I basically talked about going to where citizens are having conversations and meeting them on their own turf. This is not easy. a quote from a previous panel put it best: "5% of my time is spent dealing with technology, 95% of my time is spent building trust within and outside organizations". That is probably more true on the local level than the federal level.
What I wanted to say is what I said was the past. We are beyond one on one conversations with the same civic activists that show up to every civic data event. What I wanted to to say is data literacy and computational literacy are vital for the growth of the data movement in government at all levels. My time spent in Durham working for the School District had one goal, gauge the residents on a Bond issue. It worked, the Bond money was repurposed but I don't think we created a meaningful dialog with the people. I think I know why and this is what I wanted to share: Those that govern rarely have the stomach to have frank conversation with the governed. That is where closing the data literacy gap and where closing the computational literacy gap makes sense. This makes sense on both the governance side, where I consult, and on the business side, where I make a living.
To conclude, I am bringing the messaging from the White House. I am bringing +Joel Gurin, +David Portnoy, +Hudson Hollister, +Caroline Sullivan, +Andreas Addison, +Anthony Fung and +Sam McClenney to share the post mortem from 8 years of this administration's attempts to bring data to US citizens. We will learn how this will affect local government and look at future opportunities for all levels of government. This will happen at the All Things Open Lunch Time Panel.
I was honored to be able to speak and participate in a room full of like minded individuals.