U.S. citizens increasingly are developing mobile applications that rely on a wealth of publicly available municipal data. For example, Portland, Ore., has developed PDX Bus, a free open source iPhone app that delivers bus and train arrival times by tapping transit data, including global positioning system data that is built into city buses.
This movement was sparked in 2008 by the Obama administration's Open Government Initiative, which led to the release of vast amounts of federal data. Many state and local governments have followed the federal trend. "Those municipalities that have made strides in making data sets available are moving in the right direction, and that's worth applauding," says National Freedom of Information Coalition director Kenneth Bunting.
Chicago citizen activists recently launched CivicLab, a nonprofit dedicated to building, distributing, and encouraging the use of new tools for civic engagement and government accountability. One of the group's first projects is the Tax Increment Finance Report, which aims to apply visualization tools to government data.
Meanwhile, Code for America teams volunteer developers with municipalities looking to create new apps and services for their data. Code for America so far has partnered with 11 U.S. cities to develop and brainstorm new apps.
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