As part of a Google fellowship that I received on behalf of Public Performance Systems, I spent the last two days at the Personal Democracy Forum up in New York. I’ll finish up our discussion on a Performance Management Framework in the next few days but I wanted to first report on a number of fascinating highlights and initiatives from the conference which is meant to be a confluence of government, politics, and technology. Perhaps the most notable observation is that many people who were involved in using technology to bring Obama to the masses and to victory have transitioned into developing tools for governing, now that the election is over. It was a well attended conference and there’s clearly a lot of interest in this space.
Several initiatives were launched or revised at the conference on both the Federal level from the likes of Vivek Kundra as well as from Mayor Bloomberg in NYC. New York will launch their Big Apps competition in the Fall in order to encourage developers to come up with interesting utilities to assist the city in providing its vast data sets to the public. Additionally, Kundra announced revisions to the data.gov website and highlighted updates including usaspending.gov and the new dashboard at it.usaspending.gov. The latter is a slick application and looks nice, although I’ve always contended that there is no shortage of dashboarding software out there and the truly difficult part in presenting information is improving data quality and feedback. Nevertheless, these were all great initiatives.
Another interesting set of initiatives are occurring at blog.ostp.gov and mixedink.com/opengov which are both meant to foster discussion from citizens on policy ideas. While these sites are limited to IT policy discussions, the question was raised whether we’re moving in this direction for more general policy formulation (think policy formed through wiki by citizens). This may be a little farfetched, but it was well received by the technology community who are clearly excited about playing a role in government initiatives that impact the use of data in government transparency.
While it wasn’t discussed as much, government accountability was a major theme and I had discussions with several people about what exactly this means. Surprisingly few of them had much experience with performance management but after making my own case several agreed that some level of gathering metrics to assess performance would be useful. Many were more focused on taking various disparate public data feeds and turning them into something useful. My own interest still lies in assisting governments in building those data sets to begin with.
It was a great experience and I hope to attend again next year. For a replay of some of the activities, check out personaldemocracy.com.
Originally posted on 6/30/09 on my blog, measuresmatter.blogspot.com