Open-source problem solvers creating government 2.0

May 4, 2012 | Source: The Guardian
open source code

Where's My School Bus, a Code For America project, allows parents to access real-time bus information for Boston public schools (credit:

A new generation of civically engaged technologists are using their skills to tackle longstanding problems in government,” says Andrew Rasiej, founder of Personal Democracy Media and chairman of NY TechMeetup.


SeeClickFix, a location-based web platform based in New Haven, Connecticut, allows residents to document neighborhood concerns and suggest improvements.

With SeeClickFix, users can report quality-of-life concerns — garbage collection, graffiti, potholes — through service requests, timestamped with photos and location. Other residents and relevant city officials will then receive an alert. The city can then acknowledge the service request, transfer it to the proper department, and update residents once it’s been resolved.

Open311 is a similar partnership between several municipalities and coders that lets people lodge, publicize and track non-emergency complaints.

New York’s Big Apps offers cash and other prizes to software developers for the best new apps that use city-published data. For example, the ThinkUp web app was designed for agencies to better analyze their mentions across social networking sites. and Code for America, a San Francisco-based non-profit, helps governments work better for everyone by throwing its data open to enterprising programmers. They built the app, which asks parents for a set of data and calculates what school their kids are zoned for.

The new US Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which aims to make government more transparent, is quickly becoming a model of what government 2.0 might look like. It announced publicly: “We use open source software, and we do so because it helps us fulfil our mission.”