Part of promoting better broadband in Minnesota is promoting better uses of broadband and one of my favorite uses is civic technology – or creating greater opportunities for civic engagement using technology. The easy example (especially given our current winter!) is Adopt-a-Hydrant, a website where residents can sign up to take responsibility for making sure that their adopted hydrant remains accessible. Usually that means shoveling it out after a snowstorm. It’s a huge task for the city to take on shoveling out each hydrant. It’s not so difficult when citizens can volunteer to take on one hydrant. It’s the essence of crowdsourcing – or the old adage many hands make light work. But they only way Adopt-a-Hydrant works is when the developers the website have access to the location of each hydrant. Access to the open data opens the door to greater civic engagement. It’s just one example.
Open data becomes valuable when developers know it’s available and are able to create applications that make the data useful (as happened at the Capitol Code event a couple weekends ago) and when citizens know that the applications are available. There is legislation being introduced to promote and facilitate access to open data and understanding of open government applications.
Citizen leaders in Minnesota’s open government and civic technology movement are working with chief authors Rep. Steve Simon and Sen. Foung Hawj on legislation to create the statewide Open Minnesota educational outreach initiative.
Co-authors include the President of the Senate, Senate Finance Committee Chair, Senate Higher Education Committee Chair and the House Ethics Committee Chair. House co-authors are Winkler, Dorholt, Radinovich and Davnie. In the Senate, they are Schmit, Cohen, Bonoff, and Pappas.
1.1 A bill for an act
1.2 relating to state government; appropriating money for a grant for open
1.3 government, civic technology, and open data.
1.4 BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MINNESOTA:
1.5 Section 1. GRANT; OPEN GOVERNMENT, CIVIC TECHNOLOGY, AND
1.6 OPEN DATA.
1.7 $ ……. is appropriated from the general fund for the fiscal year beginning June
1.8 30, 2014, to the commissioner of administration for a grant to Minnesota E-Democracy
1.9 to implement and coordinate an Open Minnesota educational outreach initiative to
1.10 promote statewide adoption of open government strategies, the use of technology for civic
1.11 innovation, and the wide use of public data sets in the public and private sector. The
1.12 commissioner of administration may retain up to three percent of the grant amount for
1.13 costs associated with administering this grant, including obtaining advice from interested
1.14 government units on the grant terms and objectives.
The amount allocated will be determined by the legislature.
Specific initiative programing will be established in the grant terms in consultation with the many government units already connect with Open Twin Cities initiatives.
Minnesota’s $1.2 billion dollar budget surplus makes this a once in a generation opportunity to invest this new idea. It is expected that a portion of the tax increases adopted last session will be repealed and state rainy day fund bolstered post-recession.
If funded, we propose an initiative comparable with the scale of one of the world’s leading regional civic technology accelerators, the Smart Chicago Collaborative.
Broadband in and of itself isn’t very useful – it’s what we can do with it that makes it valuable to business, residents and government.