Video of my October 2010 presentation at TEDxGotham about how we can engender a new era of efficiency in government by building share platforms. Inspired by the concepts in Lisa Gansky’s new book The Mesh.
I’ll be giving a number of invited presentations this Fall, focusing on what we’ve learned by executing our Open Senate initiatives in New York State, and how these lessons apply to the potential to open up and streamline other government entities. Broadly relevant themes and lessons learned relate to use of Gov 2.0 technologies, open-source software, cloud computing, open data publishing standards, and more efficient management and sharing of information assets intra- andinter-government.
Sept 10th, Startup Weekend NYC, “Start Gov 2.0 Startups!”
Oct. 15th, TEDxGotham: “Mesh Government to the Rescue”
Oct 26th, Open Data Working Summit, “Open Senate”
Oct 27th, GOSCON, The Government Open-Source Convention: Executive Open Data Round Table: The State of Open Government (keynote)
Oct 27th, GOSCON, The Government Open-Source Convention: “How to Root Your Agency”
Nov 3rd, GovLoop New York City “GovUp”
Nov 5th, New York City Technology Forum: “Crowdsourcing and Social Collaboration Tools”
Nov 7th, The Great Urban Hack: “Let Them Eat Data: Creating Civic Benefit from Open Government Data”
Nov 9th: Drupal Business Summit, New York: “Using Drupal to Open Up the New York State Senate”
Nov 16th: NYS Forum Cloud Computing Working Group Kickoff Meeting (co-Chair)
Nov 17th: US GSA International Open Data Conference: “Open Government Sites – Where Have We Been and Where We Are Going”
Nov 18th: Drupal Business Summit, Washington DC: “Using Drupal to Open Up the New York State Senate”
A lot of people are asking us these days for a comprehensive stem-to-stern overview of how we accomplished our open government work in the New York State Senate, which made me realize that we’ve never published the entire story in one place So, in hopes that it is useful to our peers inside and outside of government, here goes:
New York State Senate “Open Senate” Initiative
Open Senate is an online “Gov 2.0” program intended to make the Senate one of the most transparent, efficient, and participatory legislative bodies in the nation. Open Senate is comprised of multiple sub-projects led by the Office of the Chief Information Officer in the New York State Senate, ranging from migrating to cost effective, open-source software solutions, to developing and sharing original web services providing access to government transparency data, to promoting the use of social networks and online citizen engagement. Participatory websites were developed for all 62 Senators and more than 40 Senate Committees, and integrated with social networking tools; data portals for publishing and receiving public comment on all administrative and legislative data were deployed; use of open-source software, open data standards, and cloud-based-hosting services minimized the cost of these innovations. Open Senate won Best of New York “Visionary” and “Project Excellence” awards in 2010 from the Center for Technology in Government. Key elements of Open Senate include:
NYSenate.gov – NYSenate.gov serves both as an accessible repository of all legislative and institutional administrative data, and well as a leading “Gov 2.0” portal comprised of websites for all 62 Senators and more than 40 Senate Committees that support citizens in interacting directly with their elected officials and the legislative process.
Open Administrative Data – Prior to 2009, most legislative and administrative data either needed to be FOIL’d or had not been available at all. Examples include live and archived video of committee meetings and public hearings, payroll and expenditure reports in spreadsheet format, committee votes, and floor votes.
Open Legislation – “OpenLeg” is a website and an Application Programming Interface (API) that makes legislative data available to the public in a way that it can easily be searched, commented upon, and shared socially with others. Some of this legislative information, such as Committee Votes, was not available anywhere online (not even on the Assembly website or in the paid version of the Legislative Bill Drafting Commission’s Legislative Research Service) until its publication on the Open Leg website, pursuant to new Senate Rules passed in July of 2009. All data is available in industry standard open formats as “feeds,” and the publicly accessible API allows the data to be integrated directly into web applications by third-parties. The data that is available on the OpenLegislation website is also leveraged for internal software applications. CIO-STS is currently working to leverage that information in internal legislative applications to help both central staff and member offices.
Mobile — NYSenate Mobile, comprised of custom applications developed specifically for iPhones, iPads, and Android phones, as well as a full Senate website optimized for any mobile web browser, is the first mobile application in the nation developed by a legislative body. These apps pull together information from across the Senate – all 62 Senator offices, all 32 Legislative Committees allowing citizens, staff, and journalists to search for bill information, contact Senators, review event calendars, read Senator’s blogs, watch archived video of Senate Session, Committee Meetings and Public Hearings, and even submit Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) requests. Those with devices that have built in GPS can even use the application to identify the Senator that represents the region that the user is currently in while running the look up.
Open Source — NYSenate.gov and Open Legislation exclusively use open-source software, so the Senate does not owe any license fees for their maintenance; furthermore, all software code for the projects is published online and freely available under open-source BSD and GPLv3 licenses for re-use by peers in government and any other third-party, thus increasing the anticipated ROI of our investment in these projects.
Open Standards & APIs — All data and other content used in NYSenate.gov and Open Legislation is also published as data feeds in open standards formats such as XML, CSV, and JSON, and there is also a freely available Application Programming Interface (API). This empowers third-parties to do much of our work for us, developing applications that provide access to Senate data in a variety of value-added forms such as interactive voice response (IVR) telephony, at no additional cost to the taxpayer, thus again increasing the anticipated ROI of our investment in these projects.
Open Content — NYSenate.gov has also garnered national attention for its progressive content licensing policies, as the first State website that has copyrighted its content under a “Creative Commons” license, which affirms the public right to freely reuse content under the stipulation that it not be used for political fundraising purposes.
Yesterday the national Technology CEO Council just released a plan for how to save $1 trillion via technology-enabled government streamlining at the Federal level. The plan is credible, and it’s great that it’s making the rounds at the White House this week. They didn’t say it in the report, but there is a virtuous circle between open government work happening at the Federal and State levels, and this tech-enabled government streamlining called for in this plan. I believe that technology-enabled streamlining of government needs to be conducted iteratively in the context of and in parallel with comprehensive technology-enabled open government reforms. Here’s why:
- Streamlined digital information management will make it easier to publish government open data, for purposes of government transparency and also to make these considerable digital assets that we have all paid for with our tax dollars available to the private sector and the rest of the public sector.
- The Council’s streamlining plan relies on identifying inefficiencies (e.g.: business processes that can readily be streamlined) and fraud in government spending; these needles in haystacks can best be found by publishing the underlying data publicly, so that as many actors as possible– including you and I as citizens– can spend our collecting time identifying these inefficient and fraudulent needles in a haystack, rather than relying on government itself to find them. This requires comprehensive timely publishing of open data, and in some cases the crowdsourcing of the work required to clean and structure the data, so that this analysis can be carried out.
- This technology streamlining effort will doubtless involve giving new government technology contracts to commercial vendors, some of whom sit on the Council itself; in order to ensure that streamlining proposals don’t themselves become encumbered by the bias of business opportunity, timely intuitive availability of government technology contracting data is also necessary to keep the vendors honest in this process.
Finally, a natural next question is, what is the municipal and State level version of this plan, and how much could be saved in aggregate at the local and State levels, if analogous streamlining were undertaking across many cities, counties and States in parallel with this streamlining effort at the State level… Could the aggregate savings therein amount to $1.5 Trillion? $5 Trillion?
Whether at the local, State, or Federal level, I expect that we’ll see the greatest potential upside in terms of realized savings if technology-enabled government streamlining plan are carried out in close coordination with corollary comprehensive open government plans.
Andrew Cuomo today released his “OpenNY” plan, part of his expanded “Clean Up Albany: Make It Work” agenda. The plan has three major components, which apparently will be instantiated through a central OpenNY website, as well as new OpenNY websites for each New York State Agency and Authority.
- Open Information, a commitment to proactively publishing a massive trove of government data online on a central website; think of this as the Data.gov of New York;
- Open Government for Performance, a commitment to make the State’s budget and spending (including contracts, grants and subsidies) more transparent and intuitive online; think of this as usaspending.gov for New York.
- Open Collaboration, a commitment to engage New Yorkers hands-on, online in the process of governing, including through expanded us of social media; this could be a combination of efforts like Challenge.gov, Open For Questions, and effective cross-Agency use of the major social networking platforms.
While the document is more of a call to action and a set of high-level commitments than an executable plan, I believe those details will come, and I’m thrilled that a likely next Chief Executive of my State is putting these three important stakes in the ground.
I know of lot of people inside New York State government today, as well as a lot of cynical citizens outside of government, who would be inspired and re-engaged if these commitments were acted on seriously by the next Governor. I further believe that, if done right, OpenNY can help New York State improve government services while saving the State significant money in the bargain, by helping to modernize how the State manages its data, and by empowering citizens to take a more active hands-on role in their government, thus reducing the workload of government itself.
Kudos to the Cuomo campaign for this worthy beginning. I hope we’ll now see groups of New Yorkers committed to better government heed this call, begin to self-organize, and prepare to help in planning, implementing, and engaging in a new era of open, efficient, participatory government in New York State.
Read the OpenNY plan below, or the full Clean Up Albany: Make It Work on the Cuomo campaign website.
Video of my interview with Joshua Hoffman at the Gov 2.0 Summit today in DC: