I am fond of reminding people who recall the last economic crash that this time, it’s not the web industry’s fault. In fact, this time around, tech is the way out of the mess we’re in. There are many ways to see this, including the efficiency gains of adopting 2.0 tools and practices still latent within our businesses, and many folks have rightly pointed out that innovative startups will be needed if we are to reinvent our economy. In the broadest sense, however, we’re talking about a way of thinking that centers around participation, transparency and openness. In retrospect, these were the assets that have been in the shortest supply in recent years.
But if you’re not keen on launching a banking 2.0 start-up at the moment, what’s one easy way a developer can start building the new economy and society we sorely need? Participate in the Open Government movement. A growing number of talented coders and designers are taking advantage of the data the government is beginning to make available and mashing it up in ways that make it accessible, useful, and meaningful to citizens, lawmakers, and any constituent you can imagine. Tim O’Reilly wrote about the significance of this trend here. Vivek Kundra, who was recently named the US Federal CIO but who previously served as the CTO of the District of Columbia, famously sponsored an innovation contest called Apps for Democracy, which invited hackers to mash up DC’s data. Sunlight Labs (the development arm of the Sunlight Foundation, which “uses the power of the Internet to shine a light on the interplay of money, lobbying, influence and government in Washington”) has extended this concept with Apps for America, which is taking submissions now through March 31st. Expect more opportunities to build utility out of government data as this movement builds.
But Sunlight is also coming to Web 2.0 Expo! We believe that the more smart people we can get involved in this movement, the better, so we’ve invited the great folks at Sunlight to come out and run a Hackathon at the Expo this year. There are a dozen odd projects currently on listed on their website; we invite you to go vote for the one you’d most like to contribute to, or suggest a new one. The one that gets the most interest will be chosen as the project for Web 2.0 Expo, and attendees can come by the hackroom and help build the app and meet some great people during the event.
You know you want to. Work on stuff that matters!