Do You Want to be a Citizen CIO?

Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos
Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos

What do you get when you combine open data (data freely available to everyone) and local government? A superhero looking to save the day. Citizens are stepping up to help government services decide which technology best suits their needs. It is a wave of technological resources aimed at improving the base function of local municipalities and, subsequently, the way of life for all. Look at some ways citizen CIOs are making a difference.


OpenOakland, part of non-partisan group Code for America, did its part recently by helping the city of Oakland, California implement a new IT platform that uses both open source and crowd-sourcing. The result was an interactive question and answer website titled Oakland Answers. This new project allows anyone to ask a question online. The program searches and presents corresponding answers.


OpenColorado enticed the government to enhance its current website so the site is more open to citizens. A team composed of local talent and government employees created the transparent program to keep residents informed. The group developed partnerships with city and county government to include them in the creative process. Now Colorado’s open-data catalog contains 800 datasets coming from more than 10 different organizations.

Raleigh Code for America

The Code for America group in North Carolina stepped up to help the city of Raleigh clean up its bus shelters. The current system bogged the program manager down, providing routine information over the phone. The Adopt-a-Shelter application allows interested parties to go online and see which shelters are still looking for a benefactor. The code for the program came directly from an open-source project.

How To Be a Citizen CIO

Most local governments can use a helping hand when it comes to IT. That is when civic-minded geeks step forward and put their talents to work.

Reach out – Contact the paid CIO for your local government or a community organization and ask him or her what you can do to help. Chances are that there is a role for a person with IT skills. They may have an advisory board that deals with technological innovation.

Talk to Code for America – Code for America runs a brigade program that is expanding throughout the country. You can start one in your area to get the ball rolling.

Go to CityCamp – Similar to Code for America, CityCamp focuses on improving local government.