This website is meant to facilitate an international effort to build open interoperable systems that allow citizens to more directly interact with their cities. Many 311 systems provide a broad range of information and services, but currently the primary focus here is coordinating a standardized, open-access, read/write model for citizens to report non-emergency issues.
The Open 311 community is emerging during two exciting developments: One is the nearly complete Apps for Democracy Contest (Community Edition) which is guiding the trial-by-fire development of Washington D.C.’s Open 311 API. D.C. is the first municipality in the U.S. to develop an open 311 system. Secondly, several New York City council members have proposed legislation that would mandate open [read] access to most of the city’s data in a standardized or raw form, as feeds if possible. NYC has the largest 311 system, so this change could really catalyze innovation around 311 services. As law, this would be a first for a U.S. city, but it follows the lead of Vancouver B.C. and the precedent set on the U.S. Federal level with data.gov. Even without mandates, we’ve seen this on the state level with open.nysenate.gov and of course the model Vivek Kundra spearheaded in D.C. by demonstrating the innovative value and cost-savings of open data. On Monday, June 29th there will be the first public hearing for New York City’s proposed open data law. Two days later on July 1st the Apps for Democracy contest concludes initial development with D.C.’s Open 311 API. This is an exciting time.
While much of this work has just begun, it’s important to acknowledge what’s already been done to demonstrate the importance of open 311 systems. MySociety’s FixMyStreet in the UK was the first to really push this model into the world. The same source code has also been recently put to use in Canada with FixMyStreet.ca. A similar approach has been making an impact in the U.S. with SeeClickFix which recently provided a draft of their API and a demo that interfaces with D.C.’s API. There’s even an effort to apply this model with bug tracking software like Trac, see GeoTrac.
Open311.org provides the basic toolset for collaboratively building an open standard: mailing list, wiki, and blog. The mailing list was actually started a few weeks ago and there’s already some useful information on the wiki (like NYC’s 311 usage stats). Please ask questions, provide suggestions, and get involved.
Additionally, on June 27 (tomorrow) ParticipationCamp in NYC will be hosting a code sprint for 311 projects. Considering the timing, the focus will mainly be on contributing to the last leg of the Apps for Democracy contest. Please join us if you can.