Even Cities Are Jumping On The Open Source Bandwagon

Alyssa Hertig | Motherboard | August 7, 2014

When most people think “open source” they think of software Github projects and hackers determined to code for the Greater Good. But it’s also a wholesale philosophy that can be applied to many aspects of society—like running a city.  The basic principle behind open source code—that it’s available to anyone to use, modify, and build off of—translates to politics in the form of transparent governments, open, readily available data, and encouraging citizens to engage in the political process. Think of a city like a Wikipedia page, where residents are free to suggest edits and changes.

This method of governance may sound alien today, but open government is an old idea, dating back to the Enlightenment, when attitudes shifted toward transparency and handing citizens more influence in politics. Open source governance is sort of an modern-day version of these perennial ideals, updated with smartphones and the internet in mind.

In the early 2000s, an open source governance movement budded in Canada, and hitched up to the local Green Party. The campaign since morphed into OpenPolitics.ca—a group which champions mass intelligence and proudly casts aside “politics as usual.” The leaderless Occupy Wall Street had many of these principles in mind and was often branded an open source movement. A handful of scattered governments, like Helsinki, Melbourne, and Vancouver, use openly editable wiki tools to promote civic engagement...