By Mark Headd
The way that governments deliver services is undergoing dramatic change.
This change will be widespread and is no less significant than the way the government service delivery was transformed by the proliferation of the Internet.
It is being driven by a confluence of different factors-a perfect storm of developments that are opening new opportunities for governments to deliver services cheaper, quicker and more efficiently.
In the last several years, with the implementation of government data repositories and the increasing frequency of "hackathons" and app contests, governments are becoming intimately aware of thevalue of their data to outside users. New data platforms like Socrata, BuzzData and Junar, and open source platforms like CKAN, have made the once laborious job of staging government data foroutside users quick and easy.
In parallel with this awakening inside government to the value of data, a revolution is occurring outside in the technology for using data to build sophisticated and powerful applications. Once expensive and complicated, a staggeringly large number of powerful new tools are available to even casual users of data. The pace at which new tools reach the mainstream market is accelerating,enabling an increasingly wider audience to consume large, complex data sets and create powerful applications.
With more and more government data within easy reach, and with powerful new tools to use, a new generation of civic activists is charting the path to the future of government service delivery. These"civic hackers" are using government data and information to build applications that help citizens track what is happening in city councils, where their bus or train is, when their garbage will be pickedup, how well their neighborhood school is doing, to report a pothole and countless other things.
Big governments with more resources and larger populations are discovering ways to leverage this growing civic hacker community, to generate new ideas and build useful new servicesand applications.But the lessons learned by these large cities can be applied anywhere-to governments big and small-as a way to deliver services more efficiently.Sharing the lessons of open data and the apps it drives is an effective way for any government to bootstrap its way into the civic hacking movement. Every government has valuable data that can be used to engage a growing army of collaborators outside government to help them do their jobs better.
More and more, the services and information people get from government will be provided through applications and services that are developed outside government. Those governments thatincorporate the principles of open data into their everyday practices will be the ones to realize the benefits more quickly and more deeply.
Mark is a writer, speaker and thought leader on communication technologies and open government. In August 2012, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter selected Mark as the City's first ever Chief Data Officer to oversee open data and transparency initiatives. He served for three years as the chief policy and budget advisor for the State of Delaware's Department of Technology and Information.