Is the Civic Cloud the Next Big (er, Small) Thing?

Avatar of Mike Barton Mike Barton posted on WIRED ⋅ March 26, 2012 2:30 pm

Is the civic cloud the next big thing? Photo: opensourceway/Flickr


A move by Illinois and two regional governments in the Chicago area to a public data “convergence cloud” is being championed by officials as a way to be more transparent and user-friendly. But it could also be a way for municipalities — like companies — to cut IT costs. Could this seeming next big thing actually make the government smaller?

“This unprecedented initiative will foster innovation, economic development, and more efficient delivery of services,” Mayor Rham Emanuel said in a blog post on the Cook County site. “When we break down bureaucracies and our governments work together, we open new doors for our constituents.”

The cloud is many things to many people, but to end users it’s all about making previously arduous tasks as easy as Dropbox is compared with previous methods for storing and sharing files online and between any device. With low approval ratings for the government spanning local, state and federal, it seems the cloud is set to deliver some good will.

The site delivers some warm fuzzies by sorting public date by topics: healthcare, public safety, housing, and education. Socrata, which delivers the Illinois’ “convergence cloud,” makes search key by indexing all the data. And with Socrata’s Open Data API, third-parties can deliver apps based on the data.

The Obama administration’s site has been a showcase of what an open government can look like. With sections such as “The Semantic Web,” it seems ultra-hip for a government site. And a handful of states have followed suit with open government initiatives. The feds are also big on the cloud. But is different in that it taps the cloud for one thing it is really good at, bridging the divide between data (in this case Chicago area jurisdictions.)

The openness move is to be applauded in general, and the cloud, as we see with Chicago’s move, is set to break down more barriers. And on the cloud as budget friend, AmazonGoogle and Microsoft are all pitching to their cost-effective cloud services to the government.


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