Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Civic Commons and IT Budgets

There is really no local government department that is unable to benefit from a shared environment. Ken Price, information services director for the city of Littleton, Colo., points to public safety,roads and bridges, parks, libraries and museums, among others, that can have technological components — often costly— that are ripe for sharing.

Read about the Civic Commons in the report, Capitalizing on Collaboration: How Shared Services are Saving Local Government Budgets The newly formed Civic Commons group is an organization that aims to empower governments to share technology for the public good. Civic Commons is the brainchild of the nonprofits Code for America, a Teach for America-inspired program for the technology-minded, and OpenPlans, a group focused on civic engagement and open source government software.
The organizations teamed up with Washington, D.C., Chief Technology Officer Bryan Sivak to create Civic Commons — essentially a repository of open civic code for governments to access. “We consistently heard exactly the same thing — we’re all working on the same projects,” Sivak said. So they decided to create a place where these shared projects can be viewed and discussed — the ommons.
A main section of the Commons is the “civic stack,” a shared body of software and protocols for civic entities, built on open standards. Currently included in the stack are iPhone applications like Citizen Reports, an app for reporting and requesting service calls regarding city infrastructure, contributed by Portland, Ore. Also there is an App Store from Washington, D.C.,where people can download or submit applications that use government data — things like parking meter locations,emergency information and historic data. The group has U.S. Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra on board; he has approved providing the Federal IT Dashboard to the stack.
Jennifer Pahlka, executive director of Code for America, described Civic Commons as a way to help governments share software they have developed, and thereby reduce IT costs, foster collaboration and spur innovation."

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