Last Friday was the sixth installment of Social Media Breakfast Tech Valley, an event that continues to grow and attract smart and interesting people from the area to gather, talk and tweet about social media. I invited Noel Hidalgo and Ken Zalewski from the New York State Senate CIO’s office to share how they’re pulling state government out of the DOS-ages and into the world of participative, open government.
I’m not remotely wonky (at least when it comes to politics), so I wasn’t even sure if I was going to find the breakfast interesting. But, seeing as how Albany is a government town and many of the attendees work in state government, talking about how technology and social media are transforming what’s often thought of (and is) as a slow, stodgy bureaucracy seemed like it might generate some good discussion.
Noel and Ken didn’t disappoint.
I was fascinated during the entire presentation, which was much more technical and talked a lot more about software code and technology policy and a lot less about Facebook and Twitter than previous SMBTV events (which I think is a good thing). Noel shared the three components of open government:
- Transparent: Promotes accountability and provides information for citizens about what government is doing.
- Participatory: Should use innovative tools, methods and systems to cooperate among themselves. Should also solicit public input for how we can increase and improve opportunities for public participation.
- Collaborative: Actively engages New Yorkers in the work of their government.
In the New York State Senate, Noel and his team are working to make sure that all legislators have access to the same tools and can use technology to engage in two-way dialogue with constituents about important issues. They are using open-source software like Drupal to rebuild constituent management systems and open up data so that citizens can create applications to access information about their government.
The New York State Senate is the first state house to adopt Creative Commons license for all content it produces. Through the Open Legislation platform, all bills since 2009 are now online and searchable, and anyone can create applications that access information in this database – one resident developed an SMS short code app where anyone can text message a bill number and receive information back about the bill.
If you’re even remotely interested in how governments can and are using technology to more effectively reach citizens, I’d encourage you to watch the presentation. If you’re not, watch it anyway – I didn’t think I would be interested either!
Thanks again to Noel and Ken for speaking, and to EMPAC and their fantastic staff for hosting SMBTV 6.