Apps for Democracy


Vivek Kundra, the District of Columbia’s CTO, isn’t just talking about transparent government and participative democracy, he’s working hard to make DC’s massive data stores transparent and inviting your participation.

I first heard about Vivek’s push for transparency when he spoke at an Intelligence Community Conference in September (I just happened to be speaking on a panel thanks to a twitter-induced serendipitous introduction to one of the conference organizers – @immunity). He was there in sort of “one government entity to another” role to demonstrate that data could be shared and that it is valuable to do it.

I was impressed with the risks he was taking to push hard for the “democratization of data” and for what he was calling The Digital Public Square. What came through really clearly was that he didn’t just view this as a technology exercise, but as a way for citizens to participate in real ways and to increase government accountability. It was an engaging and refreshing talk.

It’s not exactly news at this point that he came up with $20,000 to offer prizes for the best applications to be built on top of the district’s data. After all, the submissions have been long closed and the winners have already been announced. However, I thought it might be worth pointing out that you still have until tomorrow to vote for the two people’s choice award winners.

I thought it was kind of fun to just poke around in the list of submissions and see what people came up with. As you can imagine many of them are geo-spatial display’s of district stores, but there are some other ideas in there as well. Take a look, see what you think, and get your people’s choice vote in.

And just because the contest is over doesn’t mean it’s too late to build something. Take a look at the catalog of data and see what comes to mind. This is just the beginning (Mayor Nutter of Philly, I’m looking at you…).

  • Thank you for the shout out. I continually become amazed at the growing networking value for business twitter has become for me. I was very honored for your time to come out to attend and share your thoughts on our conference. We hope to do it again in 2009.

    I was also impressed at the kick butt and taking names sense I got from Vivek. His slides showing us the value of time and money saved by taxpayers is astonishing. So it only makes sense to me that this contest happened.

    I voted on a few of the nominated APPS for the people’s choice awards and hope to see that those that did not win or come in first continue to develop their applications. There is great value to be had. Especially the parking meter notification in Adams Morgan. Now that IS valuable to me, to have that possibly pop up on my GPS and phone is taking it to the next level of the user-generated web awesomeness.

  • You may find my essay The Coming Digital Presidency of interest:

    The NY Times’ David Carr wrote an article related to my essay:

  • I think this is an incredibly progressive move by Vivek and the City of DC. I hope that other cities will take notice and adopt similar programs.