"Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom, must, like [citizens], undergo the fatigue of supporting it."
- Thomas Paine: Patriot, Founding Father, Data Liberation Rockstar
On a day set aside to reflect on what our country means to us, reflect on that one word we wield with such power and pride, freedom. We're calling on all Americans to think about what they can freely do to make our cities better.
To celebrate this day of independence Code for America is launching a campaign for data freedom and citizen independence: Open Impact.
Why? Because we want governments that respond quicker and don't require us to stand in line for hours. We want governments that allow us to do our civic business online. Governments that freely share information with us, ask for our feedback and engage us using the tools and channels where we are already active participants. We realize that this past half of the decade has been tough. The demand for local public services has skyrocketed while city budgets and city staffs continue to dwindle. It's not easy being a public servant these days -- far from it.
Being techies and tech lovers, we think that one answer to the challenges that our cities face is open government. Open governments can save resources and money, improve local services, and build a community of trust and civic participation.
Open governments harnesses the creative potential of programmers, non-profits, and community members to develop valuable civic tools powered by public data.
Open governments promote collaborative problem-solving by encouraging city departments to share information with fellow departments, citizens, community groups, and other cities.
Open governments leverage technology to ensure accountability and promote citizen engagement in government decision-making.
In short, open governments help us help them.
Open Impact encourages city government to think big about ways to institutionalize policies that make government, data and communication open, by default.
There are many ways governments can get this process started and many great civic leaders to turn to for examples -- Philadelphia's Mayor Nutter, San Francisco's Mayor Lee, New York's Mayor Bloomberg -- each of these mayor's is committed to finding new and innovative ways to serve their communities. Each mayor wielding their arsenal of new applications, social media platforms, and civic hackers to combat the constraints of bureaucracy and old ways of doing things. But they can't do it alone, nor should they.
So, today with our own arsenal of freedom and liberty at the ready, let's redefine what it means to be an American.
The famous patriot and founding father, Thomas Paine, once said that citizens who want freedom to bloom need to sweat for it. At Code for America, we see citizens stepping up all across the country through our Brigade program to volunteer their talents and their time to make their cities better.
Each and every American has the potential to change the way their city works. Each and every American has the power to create a better community. Weather you can deploy a civic app, liberate and organize civic data, ask your mayor to work towards open government (here's a toolkit for your use), offer an alternative opinion to the proposed park redesign, or pick up the litter left from your BBQ this afternoon, you're helping.
So on this day of great patriotism as we look up to the heavens in awe and amazement, gasping at what is now a fixture of the day but was centuries ago a great innovation, let's ask not what our cities can do for us, but what we can do for our cities.
Together, let's make an Open Impact.