Building an open source city

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opensourcecitiesJason Hibbets is an open source advocate, and the author of a book on building an open source city. An open source city is a place that applies the culture and philosophies of the open source movement.

In the book, he outlines five characteristics that help to make a city ‘open source’.

  1. Citizen participation – this is arguably the hardest part, as traditionally citizens have had a passive involvement in how their town and cities have been governed.  Areas such as participative budgeting show what can be achieved however, with the rise of civic crowdfunding another pointer to the future.
  2. Open government - transparency is expected of our governments now, even more so given the news of state sponsored spying via Prism.  If people are to participate more then transparency has to be a given.
  3. Open data – as of course does the ready availability of data.  #2 and #3 really go hand in hand.
  4. Frequent collaboration – Hibbert recommends the frequent hosting of events and conferences to allow like-minded people to gather around their passions.  Whilst physically gathering together is great, it’s interesting that he doesn’t touch on online events and fora much at all.
  5. Open source economy policies – last but not least, he advocates having strategies to build a local economy that includes open source companies.  He believes that these companies can help encourage innovation, with the open government and data policies from earlier tied into helping develop the startup economy.

Whilst it’s undoubtably an interesting theory, I’m inclined to think he gets a little bogged down in the open source economy aspect of it.  We’ve seen from clusters in other niches that there are typically but a few of these in any country, and indeed even over a wider area.  So there must be doubts over how many cities can become open source hubs in this sense.  That aside though, I think the principles of open and participative governance are very much on the rise, and hopefully that’s a trend that will continue.

4 thoughts on “Building an open source city

  1. Interesting. I think this further underlines the importance of community management as a profession. Local governments should be heavily investing in this area as they attempt to bind together their communities and get them more involved in the governance of their town.

    • It's going to require a big shift in attitude I suspect. Right now many in local government view people in a transactional sense rather than in any kind of community or collaborative way. Whilst there are plenty of tools to make it easy to build communities, the mentality will need to change imo.

  2. Is it really realistic to expect small/medium size towns to be a hive of conferences and events around hot topics? I can't think of many examples of that happening.

    • In a traditional sense, I agree, but conferences don't have to be big, grand affairs. It is essentially meetings of minds to help collaborate and support one another. That doesn't require large numbers in grand venues, it can be done very locally, or indeed online.

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