This Christmas, the open government data elves have been busy.
They’ve been building useful applications with data sets from municipal governments, open source software and multi-channel communication platforms like Tropo.
With all of the data that is being released by municipal governments, there are increasing opportunities to build useful and interesting applications that can help people and make their communities better.
Sometimes, however, the format of the data that is released doesn’t always lend itself to easy use.
For example, many governments release geographic data sets in shapefile format – this can be a bit of a hinderance for some developers to work with, particularly if they don’t use it often or don’t know much about this type of format.
Fortunately, there are a growing number of open source tool available that make working with geographic data in general, and shapefiles in particular, much easier.
The video below demonstrates how to quickly create a powerful communication application for citizens in New York City to find library locations near their homes.
This demo application uses data from the New York City Data Mine, GeoCouch, a fork of CouchDB that support geospatial queries of CouchDB documents, shp2geocouch, a Ruby gem developed by Max Ogden to convert ESRI shapefiles into CouchDB databases and the Tropo Scripting platform.
This project – completed in just a few hours – demonstrates the power of Tropo to quickly build sophisticated cloud-based communication applications that can be used on a number of different channels to deliver useful government information to citizens. (Note – this demo application can easily be adapted for use with one of a half dozen different IM networks, Twitter, SMS and even voice.)
Best of all, if you’re interested in working on a project like this yourself, all of the source code for the Tropo scripting application that powers this demonstration is available on GitHub.
As more and more government begin to release geographic data in shapefile format, the opportunities to build useful applications will continue to grow.
With powerful tools like CouchDB, shp2geocouch and Tropo, developers will be limited only by their imaginations in how the use this data to make their communities better.
- Hacking Open Government in Philadelphia
- Tropo’s Open Government Tinkerstorm Halfway Point
- Random Hacks of Kindness and International Open Data Hackathon
- Introducing OpenVoice. Your number, Open Source.
- Build an Open Government app at Gnomedex and win prizes