September 28th, 2009
Mayor Sam Adams and the City of Portland to open source, open data, and transparency communities: Let’s make this official
You may remember a couple of months back—during the Open Source Bridge conference—that Portland Mayor Sam Adams made a commitment to turn Portland into a “hub for open source.”
But conversing about a topic, as they say, is relatively easy. Or to put it more bluntly: talk is cheap.
That’s why it’s incredibly heartening to see the City moving to get something on the books with a resolution that is designed to officially make Portland a more open city. And if you care about open source—even remotely—it would be great to see you at the City Council meeting this Wednesday during the testimony and voting on the resolution.
“Bottom line: the city government has unnecessarily been closed in proprietary software and has been a a laggard in using open source software,” said Adams during his Open Source Bridge talk.
Now, the City is working to change that. How? Well, they’ve put together a resolution that formalizes their commitment to be more open—both with their data and the systems they use to manage the municipality. If the resolution passes, not only will they work to make their efforts more transparent by opening City data to the outside world, they’ll also make sure that open source choices are given consideration during purchasing decisions.
That, my friends, is a big deal. And a step that will have Portland putting its money where its proverbial mouth is in regards to open source. And making this step official—by making it a matter of public record—takes it out of “yeah, Portland is kind of an open sourcey town” to “The City of Portland officially recognizes and strives to support the open source community.”
And if the resolution passes, it becomes that official.
Wait a second. What I am doing paraphrasing for you? You’re a sharp cookie. Let’s just take a look at exactly what the resolution says.
The content of the resolution is as follows (or you can download a PDF of the resolution):
Mobilize and expand the regional technology community of software, hardware and service professionals by promoting open and transparent government, open data, and partnership opportunities between the public, private and non-profit sectors, academia and labor
WHEREAS, the City of Portland is committed to engaging the community by working with citizens, soliciting their ideas, input, and creative energy; and
WHEREAS, the City of Portland is committed to using technology to foster open, transparent, and accessible government; and
WHEREAS, by sharing data freely, the City of Portland seeks to develop opportunities for economic development, commerce, increased investment, and civic engagement for Citizens of the Portland region; and
WHEREAS, publishing structured standardized data in machine readable formats creates new opportunities for information from different sources to be combined and visualized in new and unexpected ways, for niche markets to be identified and developed, and for Citizens to browse, interpret and draw attention to trends or issues with greater efficiency; and
WHEREAS the adoption of open standards improves transparency, access to public information, and improved coordination and efficiencies among bureaus and partner organizations across the public, non-profit and private sectors; and
WHEREAS, the City of Portland seeks to encourage the local software community to develop software applications and tools to collect, organize, and share public data in new and innovative ways; and
WHEREAS, Software applications and tools that enable Citizens to access, visualize, and analyze public information will promote greater civic engagement and encourage Citizens to provide feedback on local issues; and
WHEREAS, the Portland region is a global leader of the Open Source Software industry, with leading foundations, businesses, and professionals located in and around Portland; and
WHEREAS, supporting and encouraging the development of Open Source Software curricula in Portland area educational institutions will result in a “Culture of Openness” that will enable Portland to increase the momentum behind its efforts for the foreseeable future; and
WHEREAS, Open Source Software can enable the City of Portland to use, copy, customize and redistribute software it deploys for government services; and
WHEREAS, the City of Portland will consider Open Source Software as a potential alternative to existing commercial software solutions in its purchasing and contracting decisions; and
WHEREAS, the City will promote the creation and continued evolution of innovative Open Source Software solutions to meet civic needs;
NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the Council of the City of Portland:
- Directs the Bureau of Technology Services to:
- Enter into agreements with our regional partners to publish and maintain public datasets that are open and freely available while respecting privacy and security concerns as identified by the City Attorney;
- Develop a strategy to adopt prevailing open standards for data, documents, maps, and other formats of media;
- Organize a regional contest to encourage the development of software applications to collect, organize, and share public data;
- Establish best practices for analysis of business requirements in software review and selection processes, identify existing commercial software systems with licenses that are scheduled to expire in the near future, and encourage the consideration of Open Source Software in the review, replacement and continual improvement of business solutions;
- Work with Travel Portland and regional partners to promote Portland as a host city for leading Open Source Software conferences and related technology events, such as LinuxCon, Innotech, etc;
- Directs the City’s Purchasing Agent to notify and distribute all formal technology related purchasing and contract opportunities for publication and distribution by the Software Association of Oregon, Oregon Entrepreneurs Network and the open source community in addition to those public notice requirements required under Portland City Code 5.33.300.
Show your support for open source
Even if you disagree with portions of the resolution, I think you’ll have to agree that it’s a good start. And a step in the right direction.
What’s more, I think it’s an even stronger commitment to the open source community than the Portland Economic Development Strategy about which I was raving—because it names specific actions the City will take to resolve the issues.
Want to support it? Well, you’re invited to the City Council meeting this Wednesday, September 30, around 10:30 AM to witness the discussion of the resolution—and if you’d like to provide testimony there might even be the opportunity to do that.
I’m going to try to be there. And I’d love to see you there. Where we can all keep our fingers crossed, together, that the City makes this commitment to open source and open data less lip service and more of a reality.