Combating duplication with open government

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The second CityCamp Colorado started off with two speakers from the City of Denver setting the stage for the day’s theme: enhancing access to government. Held at the Jefferson County Administration and Courts Facility on October 28, 2011, more than 70 people gathered to participate, learn, and advance the open government movement. After Tom Downey, talked about the power shift in open government, Deputy Chief of Staff Stephanie O'Malley for Denver Mayor Michael Hancock explained the importance for citizens of knowing how to find government information.

This mentality is a directive that she works to achieve everyday, and the mayor of Denver is dedicated to transparency and openness, believing citizens should know what's happening in their city.

One of the most obvious challenges for Denver is their budget limitations. O'Malley mentioned that the IT department has more than $10 million in requests, both internal and external, but can fund only $2 million. The city realizes that data is very powerful, and like other cities, they struggle with how to respond to the volume of requests with limited resources. The decisions made are based on priorities from the mayor and maximizing the return on investment.

One of Denver’s biggest challenges is duplication. Not only does duplication include the city agencies who want to do great things, but it also applies to other municipalities in the surrounding area. O'Malley sees an opportunity to break down the silos and consolidate efforts, both internally and across the region. She also sees an opportunity for regional collaboration. "Cities need to be more willing to share information and not put up barriers to it," she said. Based on the participants who were at CityCamp Colorado, Denver County is primed to take advantage of regional collaboration.

O'Malley thinks the transition to open source solutions and more open government initiatives will make data more accessible. The power of a regional open government is an untapped opportunity, but change takes time and effort. "Folks are accustomed to doing business in a more tech-savvy way," she said. "It will take a lot of conversation and it will take time. That's why we're here today."

CityCamp is a great way to get stakeholders from different municipalities talking about issues they face and exploring potential solutions. There is too much duplicated effort between federal, state, county, city, and town municipal districts around the United States and perhaps around the world. We need more regional collaboration to save taxpayer dollars and development time and effort.

How can we accelarate this and start sharing solutions across regions in an open source way?

Jason Hibbets is a Community Director at Red Hat with the Digital Communities team. He works with the Enable Architect, Enable Sysadmin, Enterprisers Project, and community publications.

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Consider partnering with other organizations and their sites. Links to government services don't have to only be placed on a government owned web site. Start a campaign to encourage them to post links to government services on their sites. Have Veterans organizations, Rotary, Lions Club, Utility companies, etc. post pages or links to government services.

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