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Robertson wants citizens to lead way with city's open data

Vancouver's mayor says he doesn't know where his city's open-data policy will lead. He expects you and your fellow citizens to help show the way.

"The overall frame here is that we don't really know exactly where this is going and we shouldn't pretend to," said Gregor Robertson as part of a panel discussion today during Open Data + Culture Day at W2, the independent social media hub located in Vancouver's lower eastside. "We want to open it up, we want to make it possible for people to develop these next steps and encourage that."

The panel -- which included Coun. Andrea Reimer, techno-anthropologist Jon Husband and David Eaves, a technology blogger and mayoral advisor on open government -- was held to swap ideas on citizen engagement, digital media and remix culture.

Reimer proposed the city's open-data policy, approved in May, which among other things allows people access to certain city-collected data and city-created software.

Said Reimer: "The number one business of the city of Vancouver is collecting, analyzing and responding to data... If the tremendous collection of data, paid for by tax dollars, is inaccessible, expensive or unusable, "there is no way that you can run a representative democracy."

When citizens make use of information, the results may be minute, like setting up email reminders of garbage day, or momentous, like modelling sea level rise in Vancouver.

Eaves said it "isn't just about applications, it's also about citizens analyzing what their city is doing."

Tyee Video- From the panel: Jon Husband and David Eaves discuss the importance of Vancouver's Open Data Catalogue from Justin Langille on Vimeo.

All the panelists agreed that ordinary people can and should be involved in crafting solutions for the future. Mayor Robertson added that politicians must keep in mind the platforms on which citizens voted, striking an appropriate balance between elected leadership and community contribution.

This morning's panel discussion, however, was not opened up to the ordinary people in the audience, though some attendees did have questions.

"Who's collecting the data?" asked Gillian Young, who has been sleeping in the Olympic tent city nearby. She also wanted to know who and what was being counted, emphasizing the importance of collecting stories that inform hard numbers.

The Open Data + Culture Day began at 10 a.m. and caps off with an open-source-sensory mash-up party tonight.

The Tyee recently described W2 as "a red-hot node of influence and information, providing a space for non-accredited journalists, writers, tweeters and bloggers to expand the Olympics overview past the corporate hype."

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