Last night I spoke at Ignite Where2.0. The community and ecosystem of Where2.0 continues to utilize cutting-edge technology to provide consumer and business services and needs. You can locate activities, friends, stores, media and more and have it integrated into mobile lives and online personas.
These are all great advancements, and are blurring the lines between the online digital data and our interaction with the real world. However it’s vital that we realize the real potential application of these technologies and what our legacy is on the entire world. How can we engage with global citizens, understand their needs and desires, and collaborate on building channels of information and tools that serve our individual and collective goals.
Almost two years ago I moved from Michigan, with stints in California, to Washington, DC. I moved at an auspicious time in our nation as the highly contentious presidential election approached at the same time concerns on transparent monitoring of democratic elections and process loomed. Social media and streams such as twitter, smartphones, voice technology and visualization provided the components to demonstrate how we can enable citizens to share their experiences, their problems, and for us to openly see problems and victories as they occurred.
This same concept applies just a well around the world. Open platforms such as Ushahidi have helped bring citizen reporting in elections in India, Libya, Iraq, and Afghanistan – each to different outcomes – but still in a way that harbinges a more open and transparent government process.
Now through my experiences with CrisisCommons, working with multinational organizations such as the World Bank and the United Nations, and the federal and local governments, it’s clear to see how the leading edge of the Where2.0 community can have an amazing and unparalleled impact in providing understanding and change in global and local issues: Environment change, food security, humanitarian development, education, and disaster response.
In looking at the various open government initiatives, the questions arise in looking past the press release to the realized value of sharing data with businesses and citizens. I was struck my the foresight of the Arkansas AGIO team in the realization of how sharing data as broad and wide as possibly helps mitigate their vulnerability to disaster by enabling responders open access to vital information that would assist in response.
This concept is apparent in how OpenStreetMap was successful in Haiti. With the lack of official, government supplied data the best solution was to crowd-source the information from varied sources and rebuild the national data infrastructure, external to the government itself. While it has been unpredictably successful, the value continues to be the open access of the data by any and all organizations, and the eventual adoption by the government itself in rebuilding its capacity. The hope is that the government continues to openly collaborate with the global community in managing and maintaining this data so that the situation doesn’t need to reoccur.
In summary, the community is making a difference. The tools we develop in WhereCamp, IRC, open-source communities, and from companies are changing the capabilities of crisis response and development. My message is to urge the larger community to continue to think how their solutions can have a more broad impact.
If your technology can help a consumer find a great $4 latte, that’s good for your business. If it can also help a child find clean water near their village, that’s good for the world.