What does Open Budget Oakland need? What do most civic tech groups need? OBO has got a coder, it’s got someone with political connections, it’s got a UX designer, and others. It still needs a better way to help people use the site. A storyteller.
An LCD display hanging in a neighborhood art project's entryway for any passerby mapped a neighborhood's parties. That posed a risk. But small as it was, did it offer a long term, unseen benefit?
To watch a meeting of developers and others building an air-quality related app is to see a snapshot of the civic tech movement today. Civic tech projects start out looking like it’s all about technology. But the more you look, the more you see that “civic” -- meaning the development team, the people who’ll use their app, and anyone who might someday find value in their work — swings way more weight than “tech” ever will.
If you were in ancient Rome looking for signs of the big fall, you wouldn't look in the headlines. You'd have to look closely for small signs, faint signals. You'd have to keep watching day after day and year after year. That's roughly what Eric Schnurer argues in a long comment to a recent article in The Atlantic on Rome's slow fall, "Why Local Innovation Is the Answer." Small things, he writes, often have "large-scale effects but play out on the level of individual grains of sand."
Louisville, Kentucky's chief technology officer works with the Code for America Brigade captain every day. That sounds to me like a good way to start building a smart city. But there's more to it than that. “My job is to help us chart the course forward” for what he sees as the new IT. If as the metaphor goes, data is the new oil, or technology is the new steam engine, or “smart” is the new “rich and famous,” Ed Blayney has just sprung the gate. This former second-in-command of an Army infantry company in Afghanistan says civic tech's not going away.