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So, in line with my recent posts on the future of textbooks (e.g. iPads and interactive multimedia devices), I just made a follow up post and about 30 seconds later this story comes on CNN about "Code for America". It points out how us have changed the world over the last 20 years, but they have not really changed government. But now that is starting to change.

Here is the webpage tag line...

CfA is working to change the way cities work through technology and public service. You can give a year, a few months, or just a few minutes, but you can make a difference.

they call it a Peace Core for Local Gov.

Geeks from the public and places like Google are donating their time to make local governments more efficient. (This was one of my arguments for the price of textbooks coming down or going to zero once they become electronic).

Example 1: Detroit has people drive around and survey communities, that data is then sent of to and expert or company somewhere for compilation into reports and databases. So code for America came up with an app called "LocalData" that any non-technical person could interact with. They can define their surveys and then the people collecting data input it directly into the app. Now data crunching and reporting and overlaying with maps that took 9 months (and $$$), now takes 2 days.

Chicago gov Rahm Emanuel wants to create an open and transparent government. He wants a "customer relationship management" model like FedEx. If you find a pothole and report it on the app/website, it then creates a tracking history that you or anyone can follow. Has it been verified, has it been schedule, has it been filled? Etc. I imagine you can sign up for e-mail or text alerts like at FedEx.

My sidenote:
This is the kind of paradigm shift that will give the government back to the people. This is the kind of thought process that will make our schools better for teachers and students. This is were free e-books and material for the classroom will come from. This is a future I envision.

I remember a story about a city that had a "hackathon" where they gave out the GPS database of they bus system (buses had GPS trackers on them). They asked the crowd to use the data to create and app that would let smartphone users track the bus and know when it was arriving at their stop. By the end of the lunch break, a number of teams had already created a working app. With a few tweaks the city started using it and it made a huge difference to the rider community. One donut shop even displayed the live data for the bus stop outside their door as a benefit to their customers. It turns out that their sales when way up because people that used to leave early so they would not miss the bus, could now stay in the shop and order more food. All for free from the geek community. Crowd sourcing. This type of thinking can be applied in some many places, including schools. Get ready for it!

Another example from show. Philly wants to plan their city into the future. They want interaction and feedback from residents. How are public spaces used? How should they change. Typically, they hold some public meetings, usually in the evening. (think PTA) This of course limits the people that can go as well as the capacity of the meeting. Very time and resource intensive and can be expensive. Limits how much data you can collect. So CFA created a text message system (since 92% of residents have access to it). They put up posters all over the city that asked citizens to text in answers to the 3 main questions (about how you use the public spaces). The response was great. The app is now open source and people can make changes for their own cities. It is now used in a growing number of cities. (Think about parent surveys for our schools, our districts, our states. Think about how this can easily evolve to meet particular needs. Think about how supplemental teaching aids can be created with open source, how a brilliant idea in California, can be almost immediately used in North Dakota, or anywhere.)

Discover BPS example from the show. Boston parents were very frustrated on how difficult it was to get their kids assigned to the right public school. The city was publishing a 28 page document describing the different public schools. But you could not figure out which ones your kid was eligible for. CFA created the app in 2.5 months. Type in your home address, age of kids, siblings in other schools and you are instantly shown a map with every eligible schools. It has the little flags like on Google maps and you can click to get more info.
The city said if they had outsourced this using regular channels, it would have cost $2 million and taken 2 years. That is money that can now go to schools, teachers, playgrounds, etc.

here it is...

Welcome to the future!
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