Open data might prevent fraud, says Vision board member

Post by Mike Klassen in

3 comments


Vision Vancouver board member David Eaves gives that old time open data religion

Back in May 2009 Councillor Andrea Reimer brought forward a motion that she had written with the help of Vision Vancouver director David Eaves. The City's Open Data Initiative was begun forthwith. Of course, no one batted an eye when a member of Vision Vancouver's board actually was helping to set policy for city council. I expect that if the same thing had happened under the NPA we'd never hear the end of it.

Eaves is an open data evangelist. He's part of a movement to open up data systems to allow more public and entrepreneurial access to information from governments. There is a lot of merit in the idea, provided it doesn't rob limited resources away from other important priorities. TheTyee recently wrote about the initiative, referring to it as "an experiment," but one worth exploring.

While some of the data sets gathered from the initiative, such as info on garbage delivery dates, border on the banal, I've no doubt that there can be valuable applications generated. New York City and other governments worldwide are also getting into the open data field.

Eaves speaks to this initiative and in the video above he gives a number of examples of how open data can empower groups. At the 3m 38s mark of the video he speaks about a friend who discovered the scope of charity fraud taking place in the City of Toronto. Apparently in Canada up to $3.2 billion of tax revenue is lost in bogus charities, and it's tools like the open data initiative that might help to weed out waste in government.

What it might also do for us is weed out a lot of bad charities. Knowing that we're getting soaked because of some non-compliant charity is handing out tax receipts is not very comforting at all. We'll have some more discussion on charities here at CityCaucus.com in the days to come.

- post by Mike

3 Comments

I remember my office-mate and I, who are both open-information/open-data geeks, being pretty excited when this was first announced. Although I think I read about it on slashdot.org, not a mainstream news source, as most people couldn't care less about this.

Of course my first thought was about writing iPhone apps and such for showing things like garbage days and road closures, etc. Interesting idea about using future data feeds to mine for illegal activity, that could be fun as well.

I'd like to see more open data in civic governments. Would be useful for citizens, ngo's businesses, reporters, bloggers etc.

I'd also like to see Vancouver area municipalities to create an open data type database that would help citizens and journalists find out how their politicians voted on specific bills.

Would be nice to tie it to who donated to the politicians ie by name, company, industry, so citizens and journalists can cross reference the data easily.

It would increase trust, and reduce cynicism in the political process, and possibly help more people get involved in politics. I.e., harder for someone to claim that all politicians are all the same and they're all corrupt if you can point them to their actual voting and donations records.

It's already being done at the federal level i.e.,

1. How'd They Vote? a resource for political accountability for your MP http://howdtheyvote.ca/

2. See what your MP's are saying, and what laws they're proposing. http://openparliament.ca/

and in the US done

1. At the governmental level http://www.govtrack.us/

2. At the NGO level

http://www.opensecrets.org/

http://www.maplight.org

and http://www.opencongress.org/ where you can track not only votes but the money trail.

Why can't Canadians get the same amount of data on their politicians as Americans?

"it's tools like the open data initiative that might help to weed out waste in government."

The key word here is "might". Realistically, this wouldn't happen.

The only information the pubic would ever be allowed to see in an open data system would be on par with garbage delivery dates.

The idea of a government creating an open portal straight to the citizenry which might allow itself to be scrutinized to the point of displaying its own corruption is utopian and silly.

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