Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Open Victoria

I have been involved with getting Open Victoria up and running since the summer and I am very happy to see that it has reached this point where it has been launched and is endorsing a number of candidates for office in the City of Victoria.

I like Open Victoria because it is a different approach to politics.   It is not ideologically driven political party, but set of principles and philosophy about how to approach governance.

My political philosophy really is a politics of openness and engagement with the public.   I believe that the public needs to be given the information needed to be able to make informed comments to the elected officials.  I also believe that elected officials have to be proactive in seeking ways to get the public to engage on issues.   If the public is not actively taking part, this has to be seen by the politicians as a failure on their part.

Information needs to be available and easy to find.   Just putting on your website is not good enough if it is effectively hidden.   The City of Victoria website is not easy to find anything on and has a search function that more than useless.   The search of the Noise Bylaw does not give you the bylaw in the top results.  My search got 1240 results but none of the first page of results is for the noise bylaw.   If you browse the bylaw page, there is no link to the noise bylaw.   You click on page that lists all the bylaws for the city and then you have to click on a PDF link for the bylaw.   There is no reason why the bylaws are not all in html and easy to find.

As to the minutes of council, they are kept on the website in such a way that you have to individually download every PDF to find out what is within them.  

The site has been created to restrict public engagement.   Making it easy for the public was not on anyone's minds.  In fact you would be hard pressed to put information online and make it harder to find than how the City of Victoria does it.

Dave Meslin in Toronto really speaks well about redefining the idea of apathy.   The best part is at 1:10 of the video, it was one of those AH HA moments for me.

Open data and open government go together.    The more open data we have, the more people can analyse it and tell us more about what is happening, take a look at OpenDataBC for examples of what can be done.  
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