Information needs to be free

The magazine’s Rethink issue—Warning: sideways design may blow your mind—includes this story on the open data and open government movements. The ideas discussed there may or may not change everything.

For now, while everyone else is getting excited about the Twitter and the blogs (and maybe someday a new TV network featuring that guy who’s already on radio and that other guy who likes to shout about stuff), and could be the six most important (and, in a way, exciting) contributions to the political process, and the coverage and scrutiny of same, to appear in recent years.

And beyond those projects is what’s going on, or could be going on, within and around government.

David Eaves is the public guru of this stuff, but there would seem to be all sorts of very smart people working away in this regard. While Washington, DC would seem to be the standard bearer in this regard VancouverEdmontonToronto and Ottawa are all now pursuing open data initiatives. And so there is stuff like this, this, this, this, this, this and this. (Eaves has worked up a prototype for the federal government at

To get terribly excited about it right now requires a certain amount of imagination about what might be possible—as exciting as it may be that residents of Vancouver now have an easier way to remember when to take the trash out. But there would seem to be something here. Something within which you can almost imagine the most populist of conservatives and the most nanny statist of liberals finding great possibility. You can, if you crook your head to the right angle, see this as integral to a future in which government will be neither big nor small, but also kind of both.

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