October 30, 2008
Please go vote for CivicSquared to get funding to bring such a great idea to reality.
The Knight News Challenge is a contest where $5 million worth of projects will be funded. The projects are those with a focus "on neighborhood and community- focused projects, services, and programs".
The CivicSquared project goal is essentially opening up government:
"The same prudence, which, in private life, would forbid our paying our money for unexplained projects, forbids it in the disposition of public moneys." -- Thomas Jefferson
CivicSquared is social software that helps communities obtain and discuss information about local legislation, tax allocation, and elected officials' voting records. It will be released as an open source Django application.
Most citizens do not know how their local taxes are spent. While it is true that citizens can voice opinions at the public meetings where these decisions are made, there are enormous barriers to effective participation. Some of these barriers include advance access to agendas, to information about issues, and to past deliberations on those issues. Even when agendas are posted in advance, there are often questions, and the impact of legislation on a community is often unclear without a public dialogue. One cannot assume that local media will offer multiple perspectives and unbiased views due to a lack of diversity in media ownership at the local level. Something needs to be done to make the process more inclusive.
CivicSquared seeks to address these problems via services far beyond basic access to public meeting records. Our goal is to provide communities the simple, powerful tools to be aware of public meetings, comment on upcoming legislation, track that legislation and who voted for it, and see how their tax dollars are being spent.
With CivicSquared, we aim to address all the principles of Open Government and will work with the OpenGov community to follow, implement, and produce standard formats for storing and sharing this data in a structured and semantic way.
This is beyond really cool. It's vitally important for our democracy. So with voting on everyone's mind (at least here in the US), please go vote for this awesome project.