Last week was a busy one for corruption hunters in New York. A Bronx assemblyman and Republican Party chairman were among those arrested for alleged dirty deeds.
“Over the past few days, there have been several charges brought against public officials,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday. “They span city and state government.”
So New York City prosecutors joined state officials at a press conference to announcing the Public Trust Act. The proposed legislation would lower the bar to proving bribery, stiffen corruption penalties and more.
Fraudulent conduct by those in power carries political, economic and environmental costs, according to The George Washington University. Corruption undermines confidence in the political system, erodes civil society and weakens the economy.
Open data initiatives could change that.
“Transparency, open data sets … daylight, you could call it,” pop star Bono said during his TED Talk in February. “And technology is really turbocharging this — it’s getting harder to hide if you’re doing bad stuff.”
And the stakes have never been higher. Metropolitan populations are growing faster than ever worldwide, so transparency would enhance infrastructure, improve services and stamp out corruption for unprecedented numbers of urban dwellers.
China went from 36 percent urban to 50 percent in a decade, SAP’s Sean Patrick O’Brien told Coffee Break with Game-Changers last month. And 85 percent of Latin America’s population will live in cities by 2025.
“The world is urbanizing,” O’Brien said. “And it’s urbanizing fast.”
Shining light into government can help restore citizens’ confidence in a recovering political system. And technology, as U2’s front man mentioned, can engage people in civil society as never before.
Best Run Cities
“Creating a best-run city is very challenging,” Theresa Pardo of the Albany-based Center for Technology in Government (CTG) told Coffee Break with Game-Changers last month. And each city’s needs are complex and challenging.
New York, Edmonton and other cities use cutting-edge resources to offer high levels of service and transparency. This enables municipalities and citizens to collaborate on solutions to critical problems.
Edmonton opened large volumes of traffic, construction and other data for co-creation and collaboration, interacting with citizens better than ever via dashboards, privately developed mobile applications and gamification. And New York set free its restaurant inspection data, empowering a privately-developed app featuring food reviews — and sanitation grades.
Best Run Cities like New York and Edmonton are proving that social and interactive approaches such as gamification will play a key role in this kind of city/citizen collaboration.
Open data helps private developers engage with their community through the burgeoning public service of cutting-edge apps, which in turn saves taxpayer money. And renewed civic engagement can drive a community-led technological watchdog, which flushing out corruption.
To Catch A Crook
Naturally, not everyone seems thrilled, not even with the Public Trust Act in New York. Obviously corrupt public officials aren’t happy, but neither are Cuomo’s political opponents.
“No legislation can prevent someone from committing a corrupt act,” State Senate Republican leader Dean Skelos said following the act’s unveiling. Even Cuomo conceded the point.
But open data and transparency initiatives have already surprised New Yorkers and other city folks around the world. These programs can make it easier than ever for authorities to catch corrupt officials, which will continue to build confidence in the political system and drive citizen engagement.
Follow Derek on Twitter: @DKlobucher
“Best-Run Cities: Urban Matters” on Coffee Break with Game-Changers
“Big Data Opens Governments and Fosters Innovation” on SAP Business Trends
“The Future of Open Data” in SAP.info