Mon 13 Apr 2015 2:28AM

Panel: Open Data --> Open Gov't - The government should open source everything! Hosted by SilverStripe

AI Alanna Irving Public Seen by 441

"The Government should open source everything" is not strictly about technology, it is talking about open source not as a product, rather as a process. This will thus include ideas of open data, open democracy, open source policy creation, open security etc. We will ensure there is a good mix of social and technology questions.

This panel is being hosted by SilverStripe.

We want to hear from you - what are your burning questions open open data and open government? What would you like to ask the speakers below?

Bene Anderson, Senior Product Manager, The Department of Internal Affairs
Bene manages the New Zealand Government’s Common Web Platform (CWP), which is an open source platform-as-a-service offering for the creation and hosting of government websites. Bene comes from a web and digital background, and prior to joining Internal Affairs, spent five years as a web project manager and information architect in the private sector.

Ben Balter, Head of Open Government, GitHub
Named one of the top 25 most influential people in government and technology, Fed 50’s Disruptor of the Year, and described by the US Chief Technology Officer as one of “the baddest of the badass innovators,” Ben Balter is the Government Evangelist at GitHub.

Laura O'Connell Rapira, ActionStation
Laura O’Connell-Rapira is the Campaigns Director of ActionStation focusing on membership engagement. She’s been doing amazing things with RockEnrol and Oxfam.

Cam Findlay, Community Awesomeness Manager, SilverStripe
Cam looks after the SilverStripe open source community ensuring it is a valuable, collaborative environment where participants can share knowledge and create great open source software. He has a cross-discipline background with over a decade working as a web developer and more recently completing a business degree in information systems, with a focus on communities as social knowledge systems. Communities are of great interest to Cam, both in practice and academically. He has interest in the ideas of social learning and how communities act as an informal, living store of knowledge often co-existing alongside commercial organisations. Having worked in private organisations, advising public sector and as an independent consultant, he brings a wide range of experience technically, and on the people side of the IT industry to the SilverStripe community.

Pete Herlihy, Product manager, UK Government Digital Service
Pete is one of the founding members of the acclaimed UK Government Digital Service (GDS). He is responsible for the delivery of a number of high profile, innovative digital services including: e-petitions, online voter registration and the UK Government’s award winning single domain website www.gov.uk. He works extensively with a number of governments all around the world (including NZ), swapping knowledge and expertise, both informally and through networks such as the D5.


Alanna Irving Mon 13 Apr 2015 2:29AM

@camfindlay1, @benbalter, Bene, Laura, and Pete are looking forward to your questions!


Cam Findlay Mon 13 Apr 2015 3:08AM

Looking forward to your questions everyone :)


Andre Bate Mon 13 Apr 2015 4:36AM

Hi there, I'm interested in making election campaign contributions more transparent, so that journalists and the public can easily see who is giving money to politicians and how that's affecting their decisions.

I'm at the early stage of exploring this area and am keen to know of places I should look and people I should talk to. Thanks = )


Cam Findlay Mon 13 Apr 2015 10:30PM

Interesting @andrebate - I think there is policy around disclosure of such things via the electoral commission site (including some spreadsheet data files). Is there a way you can frame the above as more of a panel type question?

Or we can play the "5 whys" game... @andrebate why is it important to see how decisions are affected (potentially) by campaign funding?


Marianne Elliott Mon 13 Apr 2015 11:02PM

Can I invite Laura to this group? Or can only admins do that?


Cam Findlay Mon 13 Apr 2015 11:04PM

@marianneelliott I believe the group can be joined by anyone - does Laura have a Loomio account? :)


Genevieve Parkes Mon 13 Apr 2015 11:13PM

Hi there, on this panel I'm interested to know what savings in government expenditure you each envision might result if the government were to open source everything. What financial and empirical arguments can we make for the above motion? Thanks.


Andre Bate Mon 13 Apr 2015 11:19PM

Thanks @camfindlay1 - A few thoughts:

  • Was asking the question since I’m wanting to develop some kind of website across a few countries showing where politicians get their funding from. I’m aware of NZ Herald’s recent crowd sourcing project to make the Electoral Commission’s info more easily accessible. Not sure if this is a panel question, but rather seeing if anyone can point me in the right direction with what’s happening in this space.

  • The why: Politicians are more likely to serve special interests where they’re getting campaign funding from special interests, and where its hard for the public to see who’s funding them. Here’s an attempt at further exploring the why. Politicans sometimes put in place policies that serve those who fund them, at the expense of the broader public. Why: 1) because extra electoral funding helps them win elections. 2) Because if its hard for people to see that money’s influencing their decisions there’s little political downside. Drilling down on on point 2, making financing more transparent increases the political risk of losing votes from the public for a policy that helps special interests and not the public. There are a few things that could help, including more public financing of elections, spending caps, lowering the cap for donations to be disclosed, the public caring more about policies which serve special, rather than public interests.



Alanna Irving Mon 13 Apr 2015 11:32PM

This is an open public group, anyone can join


Theodore Taptiklis Mon 13 Apr 2015 11:51PM

I have a couple of questions:

  1. A powerful theme in government is contestability. In the political arena and in public forums, this often deteriorates into adversarial and even just needlessly bad behaviour, for example in parliament. Can open-sourcing create a meta-conversation that calls out the bad stuff and promotes more productive behaviours of tolerance and respect?
  2. Public participation in policy-setting and political decision-making relies on the mechanism of submissions made by individuals and groups without knowledge of one another. These are easily picked off and dismissed one by one by decision-making committees and other bodies. Can open-sourcing build collaborative submission-crafting and therefore tilt the power balance back towards citizens?

Cam Findlay Tue 14 Apr 2015 4:17AM

@theodoretaptiklis I remember reading some of @benbalter 's work on public policy consultation and participation via GitHub. I imagine he'll be able to chime in on these points :)


Cam Findlay Tue 14 Apr 2015 4:22AM

@andrebate I'm going to play my 2nd "why" on your points above... Why do you think parties (or the people within them) believe that making financing more transparent increases the political risk of losing votes? (I'm trying to drill down to a core question we can play with on the panel ;) )


Stephen Olsen Tue 14 Apr 2015 6:24AM

I'm interested in the roles that independent statutory agencies charged with oversight play allied to NGO projects like the Project On Government Oversight http://www.pogo.org in the US and difficulties in sourcing official information regardless of the enabling legislation to make that happen (OIA, FOI...)

A leading question: Shouldn't sites like https://www.fyi.org.nz have been an initiative sustained as part of a public service (government) responsibility?


Nicole Williams Tue 14 Apr 2015 8:59PM

I'm interested in hearing what the panelists think are the biggest barriers to the NZ govt taking an open by default approach to code. Also what international governments should we be looking to as examples of best practice? How have they overcome these barriers?


Andre Bate Tue 14 Apr 2015 9:53PM

Thanks @camfindlay1 My thought on your second "why" question is that parties would see a risk of losing votes if the public don't vote for them after seeing politicians/parties serving special interests rather than general interests (especially after being influenced by funding from special interests). If a sufficient number of voters don't learn about what's happening and care, then making data more transparent wouldn't help. One other thought is that open data could help a healthy public service to be more effective, even if the public don't care. So I guess that a thing for the panel to discuss could be how you can get the public to engage with open data enough that it'd influence decision makers.


Cam Findlay Tue 14 Apr 2015 10:02PM

@andrebate yes! that is a good question.


Connor Boyle Tue 14 Apr 2015 10:25PM

Excellent questions regarding use of Open processes and platforms to engender a more accountable and transparent public service, very keen to hear the ideas in these areas.

While there is talk of both opening data between government departments to improve efficiency, and opening government data to the public for the myriad reasons listed here, I'm very excited about the intersection of these two concepts. In particular I'm interested in what could be enabled by linking the enormous, rich datasets of government, and already open data, with spatial data.

What could giving access to interrelated ministry's data attached to spatial data do for public, private and institutional research? Sure, the headaches of managing privacy to create such a system are significant, but the potential is quite incredible.


Connor Boyle Tue 14 Apr 2015 10:31PM

Another line of questioning that burns my brain in this area is how the potential for open gov data could re-conceptualise privacy and responsibility.

Currently we keep the vast majority of gov data private for the sake of protecting the individual. E.g. in the case of education data we keep truancy data private in order to protect the child or family, however if we accept that the concept that the concept of The Family as being the most important social unit to be fundamentally problematic in terms of fostering the greatest benefit to the individual, family, community and society, then perhaps we can look at how giving access to such data to the community within which that child lives we can enable a shift towards community responsibility for the individual, as opposed to that responsibility being solely on the family. If it takes a village to raise a child, then how can open gov data enable the creation of better villages and better villagers?


Maya Meyer Fri 17 Apr 2015 12:27AM

on embracing our storytellers (Laura O'Connell). we need people to interpret complex language to share the data on policy making. making it accessible, simple and compelling. (indeed it is a case of relating to all sorts of humans)


Maya Meyer Fri 17 Apr 2015 12:33AM

Q to Pete Herlihy; maybe Open means to change the way government data is CLASSIFIED? What is the classification system based on ? if it is interconnected with a capitalistic mentality, this needs to shift. There was mention of concerns of Damaging info, which must include financial survival and protecting private data, but this is part of the fear which must change first. Is there info on who, why and how often the classification system is monitored?


Jaco van der Merwe Fri 17 Apr 2015 1:11AM

@mayameyer - I'm really starting to appreciate the value of stories & their teller of late, and the vital function they play in 'selling' the message - something that has been lacking in FLOSS for a very long time


Maya Meyer Fri 17 Apr 2015 1:22AM

what is FLOSS? @jacovandermerwe


Jaco van der Merwe Fri 17 Apr 2015 1:36AM

"Free, Libre Open Source Software".
I am bias to the term "Libre", rather than "Free", as I'm multilingual & "Free" primarily implies "Gratis" ($0, no value) rather that "Freedom" (aka "Liberty").
It's more intuitive to convey concepts supporting Liberty & Freedon, rather than saying "'Free Software'. Oh, no, I didn't mean freeware or shareware", etc.
1st impressions