Portland launches City Sync to increase government transparency | Opensource.com

Portland launches City Sync to increase government transparency

Posted 23 Jun 2011 by 

Ruth Suehle (Red Hat)
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Today in his Open Source Bridge keynote, Mayor Sam Adams of Portland, OR announced Project City Sync, the next step in making local and regional governments more transparent.

Adams called on the attendees to help put coherence to city work, to help link up governments, and to put some framework to those interactions through the new project, which is currently live in beta.

"What we're pursuing in City Sync is how to go from data sets to achieving strategic goals," he said, going on to cite a University of Chicago study that demonstrated that regardless of the turnover of residents in a neighborhood, crime and safety in that neighborhood are directly related to the percentage of neighbors who know each other well. "That is something that through our collective efforts we can begin to facilitate," he said.

The new site follows successful efforts over the last year and a half with CivicApps, which was awarded with the first Freedom Award from the Society of Professional Journalists.

"Our goal is for this to take our growing partnership and our growing understanding of the opportunities for public, private, academic, and others and begin to focus it in a way that will be very compelling to Portlanders and beyond," said Adams.

Portland's Economic Development Strategy centers around four clusters of job growth to increase competitiveness in specific industries: advanced manufacturing, athletic and outdoor, clean technology, and software and digital design. Many efforts around the latter have been taking off.

Towards one effort, later today Open Source Bridge attendees will have the opportunity to start working on using data to improve farmers markets around the city, both to improve nutrition and health as well as business for the farmers. "We need an app that connects the farmers to the markets and talks about what they're bringing in that day," Adams said. "An app to help farmers sell more and help the Portland Plan create more neighbors and neighborhoods eating better food."

Portland's Economic Development Strategy aims to create 10,000 jobs in five years in the world's most sustainable economy. And sometimes they do it with a sense of humor--PDX11 is another technology effort in Portland, with the self-defined goal of making the city "the most awesome place in the world to start and run your software business," so named because "who doesn't want to turn it up to 11?"

Running under all of these technology programs is the city's work for broadband access. Yesterday, Mary Beth Henry, the city's Deputy Director of the Office of Cable Communications and Franchise Management, spoke on its Broadband Strategic Plan, called Connecting to our Future. "Because broadband has become a necessity, critical infrastructure key to Portland's future and quality of life," she said.

When electricity was introduced, it changed the world in ways we didn't foresee; now broadband is powering another global transformation shift. We can't yet know its full impact. But we do know it's necessary for the future.

"I think it's important that communities develop their own broadband strategic plans," Henry said. "The national broadband plan came out, and we realized that was the 35,000 foot level. We needed something on the ground here in Portland."

It will also be critical to meeting those job growth goals. Eighty-eight percent of Portland's business community is small businesses, and they employ 53% of the workforce. More than half of residents with Internet access use it for work or employment activities. If businesses and jobs are going to grow, ubiquitous access is a necessity.

"The US is 16th in broadband in the world. Portland doesn't have to be," Henry said. "We can jump ahead and create our broadband future."

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