NYC BigApps: Rethinking Data and the Public/Private Divide

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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 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.

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