Just came out of the first Montreal Ouvert open meeting.
I was pleasantly surprised to see so many interested people showing up, and from so many different backgrounds. Developers, entrepreneurs, municipal employees, students, journalists, and more that I forgot about of course.
In the end they were all just citizens, enthusiastic about the possibilities of open data, ready to put in some grey matter and some work to help make it a reality. For some the work began some time ago, as much as a few years back.
And the possibilities of open data are many: availability of fresh, constantly updated data leads to increased government transparency, increasing its accountability and usefulness. It also means more tools for the population to get involved in the process and take informed action, making democracy work better.
Having data available in open, documented formats will tremendously benefit the city itself, as its own employees often struggle to obtain data from silo-ed, undocumented and not always fresh data.
And open data by the way is not only about having the government publish the data it has, it’s also about the free flow of data in general, as much as practically/legally possible, in both directions. Quality data exists out there which could complement what the government is producing, potentially making it more aware of what’s happening, sooner, making it again more responsive and relevant.
And last but not least, the economic consequences are real and tangible. Head over to Montreal Ouvert’s blog and you’ll find multiple reports of other cities that are going through the process and reaping the benefits. The numbers are just staggering, both in the form of savings and local business generated.
So this first meeting brought all these different people together, and provided a space for a discussion to happen. All kinds of ideas where exchanged on how to make it happen, information about what has worked for other cities, about the realities and limitations of those and in the end, what would be the best things to do to make it work in the interest of all parties.
All in all, very exciting!
Montreal Ouvert as a collective is already pretty focused, and I’m sure there was enough material tonight to help it gather even more steam. At the very least, tonight’s meeting will have served to rally all sorts of isolated efforts, thus increasing greatly the potential power to make change happen, in the interest of everyone.
So, make sure you follow their blog, and contribute your ideas and comments wherever you can.