A City that thinks like the Web

The City of Toronto’s Web 2.0 Summit held November 26th and 27th will go down in history as the moment that Government 2.0 landed in Toronto.  The truly historical moment was Mark Surman’s keynote at lunch, with an audience that included Mayor David Miller.  Surman posed three challenges to the City:

  1. Open our data. transit. library catalogues. community centre schedules. maps. 311. expose it all so the people of Toronto can use it to make a better city. do it now.
  2. Crowdsource info gathering that helps the city.  somebody would have FixMyStreet.to up and running in a week if the Mayor promised to listen. encourage it.
  3. Ask for help creating a city that thinks like the web. copy Washington, DC’s contest strategy. launch it at BarCamp.

The Mayor responded immediately by pre-announcing that TTC routing data would be opened up in Google Transit format in June of 2009, and said that, while he couldn’t promise that the City would be ready to process the output, that Toronto’s web geeks should go ahead and do a Toronto version of FixMyStreet and that City would listen. This is huge.

The moment was the culmination of a lot of our hopes and dreams for a city that understands the power of open, the meaning of participation and a signal of a more effective and responsive government of and for the people of Toronto. Will Pate and I have offered our assistance to make this vision a reality and we hope others will join us.

Mark’s presentation was excellent and highly recommended.  I have embedded the slides here, but you should go to Mark’s blog for the full audio presentation (and audio of Mayor Miller’s response) for the full effect.

CRTC loses the plot on traffic-shaping

The CRTC CAIP-Bell Canada traffic shaping decision is in, and it’s not good. SaveOurNet.ca and Michael Geist have been active on the file, letting regular Canadians know what the impacts are to them.

It appears that the CRTC did not accept the anti-competitive argument, mainly because it did not observe a drop in the growth of 3rd party ISP’s business.

Based on the evidence before us, we found that the measures employed by Bell Canada to manage its network were not discriminatory. Bell Canada applied the same traffic-shaping practices to wholesale customers as it did to its own retail customers – Konrad von Finckenstein, Q.C., Chairman of the CRTC

The frame of this judgment is not about the discrimination of content.  This misses the main point of the net neutrality debate: the discrimination of content between individual users on a common carrier network that stems from certain kinds of traffic shaping practices.

This is just the first salvo, and CRTC is preparing itself for more consultations in July 2009 as the issue is not going to go away.

What can you do? Join a citizens movement for the open web! SaveOurNet.ca is front and centre on this file. Please send a letter to CRTC, donate to the campaign and volunteer to help organize digital citizens across the country.

You also might want to drop Bell and Rogers and go for a smart, engaged small company like TekSavvy for your internet service needs. They have amazing customer service. You may be confused at first if like most of us you have become accustomed to the maze of call centre hell that is the customer experience of the big boys. Bonus.

President-elect Obama is still a community organizer

Well Rudy Giuliani and Sarah Palin don’t get the last laugh. It turns out that the community organizer could kick the 9/11 hero’s ass and take down a helicopter-armed rogue moose-hunter for good measure. When Rudy and Palin scoffed at Obama’s background as a community organizer, I instinctively bristled.

Tuesday night showed what community organizing can do. Not only did Obama take the electoral college in a landslide, but the 50-state strategy made red states like North Carolina blue while turning many others purple. He did it with huge turnout, a dominant position among emerging voter blocks like youth and ethnic voters and with techniques learned from the trenches in Chicago.

Only a community organizer could pull this off.

The stories from the field about the Obama vs McCain ground game show the difference. Obama’s field offices were reported full and buzzing with volunteers from all over the country. McCain’s campaign offices were mostly empty and dull, or closed.

Then there’s the Obama campaign’s web strategy, which will go down in history as the first mass scale and most effective use of the social web for political or any other form of organization. But it’s just the beginning, and there is so much yet to be written!

Change.gov shows that Obama fully intends to take his massive email and sms lists, the lessons learned from the campaign and his community organizing instincts together with a new call and program around National Service to really transform the meaning of politics, community and country. The clues are there, and I just can’t help but stare in awe and amazement.

For those of us who dreamed of the potential of marrying bottom-up social movements with a new kind of leadership style, it’s hard to process that our moment may really truly be now. All of a sudden, the work of community organizing just got a new and rather Presidential luster. For those of us who work in the field where social web and real-world issues meet, it’s going to be a very busy time indeed.