Community Spotlight: Andrew Krzmarzick, enabling open source and empowering citizens in government

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Five questions

As the Community Manager of GovLoop—a highly active online community connecting more than 50,000 public sector professionals—Andrew Krzmarzick suspects his role is pretty similar to leading an open source project.

The open source way guides the company's decisions, communications, and interactions. And open source solutions enable them to empower citizens around the country (and the world!) who don't want to wait for their cities to make updates to a page or build apps and resources that makes their lives easier.

Hear Andrew speak more on this at the 2012 National Conference for Government Webmasters this year on September 11th in Kansas City. He will discuss citizen generated initiatives—Hackathons, CityCamps, LocalWiki and Facebook pages—that provide the community with much needed, easy to navigate, web-based resources.

The basics

  • Name: Andrew Krzmarzick
  • username: Andrew Krzmarzick
  • Location: Durham, NC
  • Occupation: GovLoop, Director of Community Engagement
  • Open source connection: Audacity 
  • Favorite open source tool or application: Wordpress
  • Favorite channel: Government!

Community Spotlight

Open up to us.

Every day, I support government employees, and others who are interested in making government better, as they transparently share their knowledge and experience with each other, striving to be good stewards of our tax dollars on behalf of the common good. More than just finding information and insights in our community, GovLoop members discover colleagues who are passionate about government and work collaboratively to solve society's toughest problems.

We're building both a real-time resource and a vast repository of government knowledge. In turn, we're curating and coalescing that "data" into guides and tools, including apps, that expedite the completion of common activities performed by government.

One of our signature projects that builds on open source data is our Per Diem Calculator, which mashes up General Services Administration (GSA) per diem rates with geographic and Yelp data to help anyone traveling on government business to know the most efficient way to enjoy their official duty location. The site itself is built on Wordpress.

Another GovLoop project we're building on Wordpress is a site that curates Federal jobs information from and combines the results with personalized LinkedIn data that reveals who in your network is employed at a particular agency.

We're also about to roll out a salary calculator that makes it easy to crunch Federal salary data and determine your potential take home pay should you land that prospective job.

What open tools and data help you get things done, and how do they help you?

My first encounter with open source was through Audacity—the podcasting and audio production tool. I remember searching "free podcast management tool" and finding it on Source Forge. I started using it to record and edit podcasts, then starting teaching others how to use it in my "Social Media for Government" workshops. What I loved about it for government audiences who are strapped for cash (especially three years ago when so many agencies were hesitant to put resources into social media) was that the tools could be used at no cost to them. A tool like Audacity enables them to easily put their toes in the water and learn without the risk of a significant upfront expenditure. That's one of the biggest values of open source for government in my mind. And why I'm a big fan.

Otherwise, I know it's debatable whether or not Android and Chrome are open source given their affiliations with Google, but those are probably the most important tools fueling my productivity on a daily basis.

What do you wish were more open?

Government! Transparency initiatives that seek to make government information more discoverable, mostly by the press, are nothing new. What is novel about the present Open Government Initiative is it's focus on citizen engagement—whether that's crowdsourcing a budget process or people reporting potholes from their smart phones or making it easier to access public transit information while on the go.

There's a significant culture shift happening right now in government that seeks to not just make data more available, but to transform it into accessible, mobile applications that make a huge difference in the quality of life for citizens. Moreover, GovLoop is evidence that public sector professionals are becoming more and more open to working with each other, breaking down traditional silos between and even within agencies and across levels of government (Federal, state, and local) to accelerate replication of best practices.

What are the biggest challenges to openness that you encounter, either at work or in your life?

Trust is still the biggest barrier to openness that I see as it pertains to government. Citizens need to trust that government is working on their behalf to innovate and improve the functions and services of government, and government needs to trust that the risks of being more open and transparent will result in a net gain. Or better yet, a force multiplier that keeps our nation competitive in the 21st century.

Why choose the open source way?

In the "Open Government Memo" that President Obama issued on his first day in office, he shares three core principles that would mark his Administration: transparency, participation and collaboration. Relevant excerpts from that memo reinforce an "open" way of being: 

Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government. Transparency promotes accountability and provides information for citizens about what their Government is doing. Information maintained by the Federal Government is a national asset. Participation enhances the Government's effectiveness and improves the quality of its decisions. Knowledge is widely dispersed in society, and public officials benefit from having access to that dispersed knowledge. Executive departments and agencies should offer Americans increased opportunities to participate in policymaking and to provide their Government with the benefits of their collective expertise and information. Collaboration actively engages Americans in the work of their Government. Executive departments and agencies should use innovative tools, methods, and systems to cooperate among themselves, across all levels of Government, and with nonprofit organizations, businesses, and individuals in the private sector. Executive departments and agencies should solicit public feedback to assess and improve their level of collaboration and to identify new opportunities for cooperation.

That is open government, and that is what we strive to reinforce everyday at GovLoop.

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Jen leads a team of community managers for the Digital Communities team at Red Hat. She lives in Raleigh with her husband and daughters, June and Jewel.

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