Government Perspective Panel
I’m among the first to arrive at CityCamp Raleigh
, a gathering of folks interested in technology and Gov2.0 (see GovFresh)
. I’ve heard of these things, and had some curiosity about it, and being a former state government employ and devote of the Web 2.0 conversation — well I’m here.
The impression that I have, at this point, is that government 2.0 is about accomplishing a better civil existence through the richness of new conversations made possible by contemporary technologies.
So I’ll sit for a bit, listen, and jot down ideas that cling to me. Until they start, they’ve got Neal Young and Cat Stevens playing through the speakers from someplace decades ago.
I took notes during the two panel discussions (Government & Business Perspectives) on XMind, and that PDF file is available here.
A couple of things did cling to me that I’d like to briefly post here, and I’ll mention that I was quite gratified by the amount of discussion about education that seemed to naturally emerge out of the Gov 2.0 conversation. Here is a link to the Twitter thread for CityCamp Raleigh.
First, there was a story, told by Jimmy Goodmon, of WRAL. As a point of context, WRAL (Capital Broadcasting) is a local TV Station and an Internet pioneer. They where among the very first public ISPs in North Carolina, along with the Raleigh News & Observer (anyone remember Nando.net?). Goodmon has a son who is approaching school age, and he wanted to collect some data on schools that are available.
He said, “So I got the files, and they were PDFs,” followed by a rift of laughter in the audience. But — and here is my point — how many of this year’s graduating high school seniors would get that joke?
Here’s the problem. A PDF file is essentially a paper publication that’s printed on your computer screen. You can read it and it looks just like the paper-printed version. There are important advantages to this type of file, but the drawback that nicked the audience’s funny bone is that you can do very little with the information. It can be searched. But you can’t sort or filter the school data by any particular criteria. You can just read it, but you can’t work it.
The preferred file format would be XLS or CSV, both of which can easily be imported into MicroSoft Excel and other spreadsheet programs. From here, the data can be analyzed deeply, the best schools surfacing to the top and the more worrisome schools sinking to the bottom.
This conference is largely about data, and how, with free access to workable public data, citizens can understand, discuss, and ultimately improve their civil environment be generating new solutions to local problems. But this requires an understand of data and how to use it as a raw material.
I’ve written before that all of this talk about data driven decision making is good. But I think it would be better if it actually became a part of what we help children learn.
So again, how many graduating seniors know what they can do with a CSV file? How many Wake County teachers understand that knowing this is important?
The other point that I’d like to share was actually a personal thread of thought that went through my mind during one of the panels. It’s about open source. I am by no means an expert on open source. But we, in education, tend to light-up when we hear about open source software, because we learn that it’s free. But what makes a piece of software open source is not that it’s free, it’s that it is free to be improved.
So if we were to carry this idea through to government, or a school —
What does a local government look like that is free to be improved?
What does a school look like that’s free to be improved?