The planning for our fire station health centers would never have been possible without transparent and open government. The Fire Department and D.C. City Council have publically published thousands of pages of documents related to the operations of the department. In the future, cities will become even more connected to what is called the "internet of things". Everything from the street lights to the garbage may one day collect data. On one hand, if this information was kept private it could lead to these so-called "smart cities" becoming real life recreations of 1984. But what if that information was made public? What if anyone could access it to solve problems?
If the future of cities is the internet of things, it could lead to a transformation in the way the public engages with their local government. Local college students could create new startups with government data to solve pressing problems. Civic associations could use the information to advocate intelligently for new policies. Hospitals and healthcare nonprofits could use it to assign extra staff during peak EMS transport times.
Sadly, most of this information is currently either not public or buried in lengthly PDF reports that the average citizen will not find easily on a city website. If city governments truly want to innovate their services, they should make their data open and let their citizens propose solutions. Washington, D.C. is the most educated metro region in the entire country. Imagine what could happen if the District government pushed its citizens to join with it in solving municipal problems.
However, we should not let ourselves assume that when we are armed with city data that we can somehow solve every problem. At the end of the day, community building and collaboration will always be needed. That's why our company aims to create a service with open government data, but we seek to truly launch it with the support of nonprofits, civic associations, local politicians, and empowered citizens. Our website is not static, it welcomes your input, encourages you to become apart of our movement, or even sign up your community group for a training seminar. Healthcare shouldn't be just about the visit to the urgent care center or emergency room, it should be a community building experience.