I had never really thought about it, but it does make sense for our local government to draw upon the highly talented tech workforce in the area. And for that tech workforce to create systems to help citizens who are passionate about a particular topic (e.g. transit) to connect to their government.
I wonder if this community supporting City of Ottawa could be connected with the Federal Government Web 2.0 initiative.
Via an ad (which I didn't click on, but googled about) I happened to find
Ottawa builds online community out of Igloo - Igloo PR - October 14, 2008
which led me to
Cities that want to jazz up their citizen interactions with social media tools, but have shoestring budgets to work with, should look to the City of Ottawa for inspiration.
In June, Ottawa introduced a social media site to engage citizens in city planning at earlier stages of the process...
Developed by Igloo Software, a social media platform provider based in Kitchener, Ont., the site was set up by a group of high-tech volunteers in just a few weeks, says Rob Collins, chairman of the City of Ottawa's task force and former CIO of Cognos, a business intelligence vendor acquired by IBM this year.
"We went to the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance and said, 'We want to develop this site but we have no money - but you have a few bucks and you can use this as a forum to show off what your members can do. Igloo offered to put in the time and energy to help us.'"
The project is part of a larger initiative by the City of Ottawa to tap into its high-tech community to find ways to squeeze more benefits with the strategic use of technology, he adds.
Current city planning processes don't encourage citizen involvement and are ripe for improvement with social media, he says. Citizens must travel to a specific meeting place at a particular time to comment on plans that have often already been cast in stone and are difficult to change. "You have to debate ideas long before they become firm plans," says Collins.
Ottawa builds online community out of Igloo - InterGovWorld.com - October 14, 2008
Unfortunately the article doesn't provide an actual link to the site (a common failing of many news articles).
Some more googling turns up OpenOttawa.org
OpenOttawa.org is a volunteer organization with that builds websites that give people simple, tangible benefits in the civic and community areas of their lives.
Based on the posting Mayor’s Taskforce Report on E-Government, I guess the Igloo-powered site is
There are lots of other interesting pointers in the OpenOttawa blog as well, including this presentation about Metronauts and the Toronto Transit Camp from mesh 2008. (Note to self: Try to go to mesh in Toronto in April 2009.)
The Ottawa online transit consultation (now closed) used different software from Igloo, the system is called eDeliberative, from Nanos.
I don't know if there is an equivalent of the Toronto Transit community in Ottawa, the main place I've seen it discussed is on SkyscraperPage.com, in the Ottawa-Gatineau forum.
As the next step in the Government of Canada's Web 2.0 initiative is to set up a social network for government employees, it will be interesting to see what technology they choose, and whether they connect to the OpenOttawa community.