I presented Open311 and the need for a standard at the Gov 2.0 Expo and it turned out that providing 311-like services as platforms was a continuous thread throughout both the Expo and the Summit that followed. Ben Berkowitz also gave a presentation at the Gov 2.0 Expo talking about SeeClickFix.
Tim O’Reilly’s opening keynote emphasized the role of government as the provider of open platforms, platforms that we the people could build applications on top of:
Government as a platform means an end to the design of only complete, closed “applications.” Instead the government should provide fundamental services on which we, the people, (also known as “the market”) build the applications.
Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey mentioned his background in dispatch communications and cited the utility of something like Twitter for 311 services. When asked if there’s anything government does that could exploit Twitter, Jack responded:
I think we’re making some steps in the 311 services. You have people roaming all over these metropolises, all over this country, all over the world, reporting what they’re doing and what they’re seeing in front of them. And being able to quickly amass some narrative or some knowledge from those updates is really interesting. You have a pulse of what’s happening in very specific locations around very specific topic. And I think that’s one of the challenges of the developer community, of our users, and of the company to build something that really captures that and makes it intelligible.
Tom Steinberg of MySociety described the experience providing FixMyStreet in the UK, the very first instance of an open 311 service. Tom’s talk then went on to express the opportunity and the challenge of bringing this to the US:
Build FixMyStreet in this country. Your citizens deserve services that have that kind of usability of a single national service; that hides the splinter of federalism. And it’s challenging because of the federalism; which is precisely why you should do it. Because if you can overcome that you will have done something amazing and you will have a really simple example that will give legitimacy to investment in loads of other things. People understand potholes and getting them fixed. If you can make that measurably better so they say, “Do you remember the time before that?” then the likelihood that they’ll say, please can we have some more of that and that the money and the energy will flow in that direction just goes up a lot. You can even have the name FixMyStreet.gov if you want, we won’t sue.
Here’s the video of my presentation: