Open Government: Developers Wanted

Following the success of Project Madison, a platform to crowdsource alternative legislation to failed copyright bills SOPA and PIPA, Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA) announced an expanded online platform for online democracy this week at Personal Democracy Forum.

Open Gov, carries on the open government ideals that Project Madison sprang up around -- that transparency and wide participation are key to a successful democratic society. The platform is still in development, which Rep. Issa hopes to partially crowdsource. "People deserve to participate in an open, accountable government that works for them. The recent fight to keep the web open proved that technology can give people that power. OpenGov is dedicated to getting tools like Madison developed and deployed so individuals can be heard and meaningfully contribute to building the better government they deserve,” the congressman told Engine.

The site lists the projects “big ideas” -- the first of which is to expand Project Madison in order to spark debate and crowdsource ideas and bill text for other legislative measures. This means illuminating government data that has traditionally been kept from the public, and allowing user-generated amendments and additions to proposed legislation. Other ideas include building a searchable database of “living legislation” that encourages debate and participation, and a plan to educate and inform government about technology called ECHO -- Everyone Can Help Out.

The platform aims to bridge the knowledge gap many in the Beltway have when it comes to technology. "Government struggles and often fails in its response to new technology and innovation. The ongoing SOPA/PIPA/TPP/ACTA fight shows that unless the internet, innovation and developer communities get involved, government won't get better and we'll all pay the price. OpenGov is a place for those communities
to get engaged and help however they can to build a smarter government,” said Rep. Issa. 

As Gregory Ferenstein from TechCrunch notes, the suggestions crowdsourced for Open Act got pretty “wonky”. The congressman’s willingness to engage the people who know the technology best is encouraging.

In the spirit of the program’s aims, congressman Issa is calling out for input on how to make these big ideas into reality, from strategic suggestions to ideas on how to develop the technology needed to actually build them. There’s also an open call for more ideas, with an open invite to “jam” on tech, democracy, and open government.

Though the project is young, the opportunities here are very exciting. This is a chance for those that are affected by internet policy to bring their innovative ideas and technical savvy to the table, and really engage with a government that is beginning to understand that they can’t ignore the internet.