10 tools to help open source cities maintain transparency

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Today, transparency is a critical aspect in all areas of government. With Internet access, citizens are looking for more information about what is going on in their cities and are looking for more ways to hold their government representatives accountable. One of the best ways to provide transparency and make it easier for citizens to obtain the city services they require is to become an open source city. An open source city is one that uses a variety of new tools, including apps, to make information availble to citizens and interact with them as well.

Following are 10 tools to help open source cities maintain transparency.

  1. CitySourced – This important tool is an app helps citizens report civic issues, including environmental issues and public safety concerns. The use of this app saves time and money for city governments and improves the level of government accountability.
  2. FixMyStreet – One of the biggest issues in any city is the state of its streets. In many cities, though, citizens don’t know how to make reports to ask for the city for help. With this powerful open source app, citizens can quickly and easily report potholes, collapsed drains, blocked street signs and other issues to the proper authorities.
  3. OpenPlans – OpenPlans is a company that strives to create useful transportation and planning tools for cities that wish to utilize open source technology. While this technology is most often used in larger cities, OpenPlans strives to make their services available to smaller cities as well, offering affordable ways to create transparency and make citizens’ interactions with the government easier.
  4. Electorate.Me – This website is designed to give people a voice in their area’s political and social issues. Open source cities can encourage their citizens to use this website to ensure their problems are addressed by the right government departments in a timely manner.
  5. NationBuilder – NationBuilder allows communities to build websites, social networks and other online features to allow government agencies and citizens to interact seamlessly. The organized tools available include maps, surveys, Q&A sections and real-time updates on happenings within the community.
  6. OpenPublic – This application is one of the only open source content management systems available to cities to help them reach out to the public. Cities can create websites using responsive design and, provide information to citizens. Sites are customizable and secure, and the cost is much less than buying proprietary software.
  7. Open311 – Open311 opens the doors to cities that wish to more effectively track civic issues. It also offers citizens an easier method for reporting issues or concerns to the city. These open channels of communication give citizens more control over their cities as well as peace of mind that the government cares about their input.
  8. Granicus – Granicus offers city governments the tools they need to manage and broadcast media online and through mobile solutions. By providing cloud storage for media, Granicus helps governments fulfill the needs of their citizens without spending a lot of money on individual storage options.
  9. SeeClickFix – SeeClickFix is another app open source cities can use to encourage their citizens to report problems in their neighborhoods so the appropriate government agencies can take steps to resolve any issues. In addition to providing citizens with reporting tools, this app can also send out alerts to citizens in specific areas to enhance communication and safety.
  10. Open City – Open City consists of a group of volunteers who create apps and other programs in open source formats to encourage transparency in city governments. Cities can request apps for any purpose to engage their citizens and help them get involved.While the first open source cities may have been large cities, these important tools can make implementing open source policies into smaller cities affordable.

Learn more about how these and other tools can improve communication with city governments from MPA@UNC’s Guide to Open Government.

Originally posted on the Engaging Cities blog. Resposted using Creative Commons.

Logan Harper is a digital strategist for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s MPA@UNC: Online MPA and MBA@UNC: Online MBA programs. In addition to higher education, he is also passionate about travel, cooking, and international politics. Follow him on Twitter @harperlogan.


How is nation builder good for building os cities, when the tool itself is not on an open source license? in light of current spying, is it even advisable to use an app that has DMCAs all over it and hosted in "the land of the free"?

I would also include use of open source technologies for web access and the use of open source technologies in schools. Also include open, non-encumbered data formats.

Governments MUST provide open and accessible data to their citizens in formats that we the citizens can access, process, and utilize. Often information or data provided by governments is closed, restricted, or requires proprietary software to access (even WORD documents).

Technology has taken us so far from the normal way of life and from nature too. Many changed are taking place ad here is another one!

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