Writing: Seeing open government & civic innovation as drivers of economic development

Today I wrote an article for the Illinois Science & Technology Coalition’s Catalyst publication. Seeing open government & civic innovation as drivers of economic development. Snip:

Yesterday was a big day in Illinois for open government and innovation. The Illinois Innovation Network website was launched, the second quarterly Illinois Innovation Index revealed new data on STEM education and employment, and Gov. Pat Quinn announced the four winning entries of the Illinois Open Technology Challenge. The Smart Chicago Collaborative has worked over the last few months with the Illinois Science and Technology Coalition to run the Illinois Open Technology Challenge in order to bring governments, developers, and communities together in a common mission to use public data and create digital tools that will serve today’s civic needs and promote economic development.

There has been a lot of action in the open data space in the Chicago area, going back at least to the Apps For Metro Chicago competition where the State, County, and City governments collaborated to publish data and award prizes for apps.

But before we launched this project, there was no sustained effort to encourage this work in the rest of the great state of Illinois.

In many cases, like the South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association, there was already a wealth of published data. In others like Belleville, we were doing greenfields open data work with great city employees who were eager to get involved. We met tech people in Rockford who were already doing great things around civic apps and connected with the robust incubator community at the Research Park in Champaign.

We spent months traveling around the state, organizing events and connecting people. The common thread, everywhere we went, was a thirst to use technology to make lives better inside communities.

We tried to direct that energy into apps and websites that could support the formation of businesses and stimulate the state economy. The civic technology sector of the technology industry is a burgeoning field, and we have the talent, focus, and policies for it to continue to be centered here in Illinois.