CityCamp Honolulu Advances Open Government Vision
Nearly 150 people — including both city and state government officials and employees, as well as local programmers, designers, artists, and activists — were drawn to CityCamp Honolulu on Saturday. Even though it was the weekend, and even though there was a UH home game on the calendar, it was heartening to see so many people willing to spend the day at a pretty geeky gathering. The objective was to explore ways the government and the community and pool their talents to improve government services and transparency, and grow civic awareness and engagement.
The event adds Honolulu to a growing international roster of 20 other cities around the world. CityCamp is an "unconference," where all attendees are encouraged and expected to participate and contribute. While there were a few speeches and panels, the heart and soul of the gathering were the breakout sessions, the networking, the early prototypes, and ambitious planning for the future.
The agenda was set collectively, with topics suggested and voted up online, with the final slate chosen on site. Sessions included tracking TheBus, publicizing bike paths, improving bulky item pickup by incorporating "freecycling," and creating a unified system for city alerts, reminders, and renewals.
Underlying many of these conversations, a need to catalog all the data sets available throughout the city, and the need for support at the policy level. And citing DataSF and San Francisco's open data law, local entrepreneurs Dave Kozuki and Peter Kay were strong advocates of passing an ordinance that would require that all city data be made available via APIs.
Notable participants included Alissa Black (Code for America), Jason Hibbets (OpenSource.com), Steve Bretches (IBM), Sanjeev "Sonny" Bhagowalia (Hawaii State CIO), Gordon Bruce (City IT Director), Douglas Chin (City Managing Director), and even mayor Peter Carlisle put in an appearance.
The energy, creativity, and commitment was impressive. There was a lot of great conversation, and there were countless great ideas shared — an almost overwhelming amount to process. Fortunately, volunteer students from the UH School of Communications were deployed at every session to take notes, and organizer Burt Lum vows that all information coming out of CityCamp Honolulu will be made available on the official site.
There's also a Facebook page and a Twitter account to provide updates.
This was just the first CityCamp Honolulu, and it serves as a prelude to next year's Code For America engagement, and the next event will be a "hackathon" in January to further develop the ideas explored on Saturday. Meanwhile, city deputy director of IT Forest Frizzell has committed to monthly meetups that will keep the momentum going and to introduce individual city departments to the community.
I've posted a video documenting the day on YouTube, and a gallery of photos on Flickr:
Restoring trust in government (Jason Hibbets, OpenSource.com)