Recently myself and 2011 Code for America fellow, Max Ogden (@maxogden) were in Buenos Aires for JSConf Argentina. While in town we visited friends of Code for America, Buenos Aires’ Open Government and Web departments (@GCBAData, @GCBA).
We met with about 15 or so young people excited about government, data, and the web — all of whom were government employees. I’d not been a room of government workers with such a young average age. I don’t have an age bias, but it’s quite uncommon here in the states.
Buenos Aires not only has a web team of excited, able, modern developers but they have Open Government and Open Government Culture departments as well. The Open Government department works to build apps with the city’s data so that the city’s choices are better informed and citizens can get to information easier. The department is encouraged to explore and try new ideas; absent is the idea that the government can’t try something and later decide to scrap it if it turns out to be less useful than anticipated. While this team is busy hacking data, the Open Government Culture department is working with other city departments to transition them into an open government state of mind. They’re also hosting hackathon’s on behalf of the city to engage the community in producing software that betters life in Buenos Aires.
Now halfway through my fellowship at Code for America, I’m quite aware of the many hurdles ahead for organizations like ours, and the open government movement in the states. I was thrilled and amazed to learn that these groups exist.
At Code for America, we hope that after a year with us the cities we work with will see the need for open government, open data, and make real changes in that direction. When we leave, we’d love to see these cities create departments like the those in Buenos Aires.
The meeting was great, both sides shared projects, and geeked out about potential applications and mapping projects. If you haven’t seen the city of Buenos Aires’ website, you should check it out, it’s built with open source software, Drupal, and may be one of the best looking government sites out there: http://www.buenosaires.gob.ar/.