In 2015, CCLP launched an initiative to examine the intersection of technology, citizenship, and government. Civic Tech USC is a group of researchers and civic hackers exploring how new technologies can help to reimagine civic life and engage everyday people in improving their communities. We study and develop technologies that promote civic responsibility, transparency, fairness, and participation. In partnership with the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy, Civic Tech USC released a report entitled Empowering the Public Through Open Data: Findings and Recommendations for City Leaders in Los Angeles County.
Over the past year, Civic Tech USC’s research team investigated what cities in Los Angeles County are doing to make their government data easily accessible to the public. Cities already collect vast troves of information, such as crime stats, budgets/financial expenditures, code violations, transportation stats, property information, campaign contributions, and more. Open data is a movement that has grown over the past few years to make all that information freely accessible in digital, machine-readable formats so that it can be used, modified, reused, and shared by anyone for any purpose. This, in turn, has the potential to increase transparency, encourage citizen participation, attract new business, and improve government efficiency. The report contains findings and recommendations for city leaders and other open data advocates based on survey responses from 51 of the county’s 88 cities; in-depth interviews with officials from 10 local jurisdictions; a review of existing research about open data from academic, public, and private sectors; and criteria from the U.S. City Open Data Census.
Going forward, Civic Tech USC plans to meet with city officials from across the county to share best practices related to open data, and to launch new investigations into areas of data that are typically left out of open data initiatives and discussions, such as criminal justice, to explore how crime and justice data can be collected and shared in ways that lead to better public policy outcomes. Other Civic Tech USC projects include expanding political participation by helping bridge the gap between civic engagement and voting technology. The first proposal is to study the online voting pilot being run by the Los Angeles Neighborhood Councils in 2016.