It’s impossible for us not to be excited by the NYC BigApps competition. The initiative itself is great – a competition that rewards creative, meaningful, and effective development of applications using the City of New York’s NYC.gov Data Mine – but what it represents is significantly innovative: government providing transparency into data, and soliciting solutions based around that data from the private sector, including start-ups, companies, and citizen developers.
The NYC Data Mine is already a compelling step in the right direction. Along with several other city, state, and federal initiatives, the Data Mine increases open access to data collected by various government agencies. But – as our panel discussion on personal informatics touched upon – such data is meaningless unless there’s a way to process, understand, and visualize it. That’s where app development comes in – and that’s the true power of supporting private/citizen development.
While (of course!) we need government agencies themselves to analyze and develop solutions based on a wide range of data, a dynamic cycle that solicits more robust data from citizens and then gives them power to channel that data for community change – or even to make more informed decisions – has provocative implications for the future.