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Building an open source city

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Building an open source city

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Jason 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.


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