Blog Beat #4: Why I’m fired up about OpenStreetMap

As the largest implementation of Participatory Budgeting wrapped up with the culminating vote in New York City, I realize yet again the power of OpenStreetMap (OSM) data. Integral to this process, hailed as a best practice for transparency and accountability by the World Bank and the United Nation, is the idea of local data and its impact on the community.

When citizens see projects contextualized in their districts on maps they are able to relate to place as both a citizen and advocate in new ways.  As I watched citizens vote and exert citizenship in an unprecedented way it is evident that having access to reliable data is critical. It is not just enough for citizens to be given this data – when citizens are able to go and get the data for themselves they are able to take ownership and responsibility for their communities.

Understanding the need for civic engagement surrounding open data underpins the importance of allowing citizens new entry points for transparency and accountability.  For example, Development Seed, is putting forth a proposal for new contribution tools to OpenStreetMap that will enable citizens more avenues to input hyper-localized data as another member of our network of practice, Mikel Maron articles here.

These new tools for open data are critical not just for those interested in the open data community, but also for those who care about deepening civic engagement and citizen participation in our community.  If we are to take any lessons from Participatory Budgeting migration from Brazil to North America , it is that we need to be looking holistically at democratic innovation and open data as two sides of the same important coin.  The more avenues for citizens to engage, such as those being proposed by OSM, the more we can work to bring about more just governance.

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