My Open Data Christmas Wishlist

Dear Santa,

The Education and Healthcare data sets that I’d like to see exposed in a standard, machine readable format include the following:

  1. K-12 student satisfaction surveys
  2. Emergency room wait times

Student Satisfaction Surveys

As a parent of two boys, I’m interested in know what the student satisfaction survey results are for the schools in my area. Student satisfaction is a good indication of engagement, and engagement is a good indicator of learning. Having worked for the Ministry of Education in the past and seeing the rolled up results of student satisfaction for the Province of British Columbia, I know that data is interesting. I saw, for example, how students on the whole are very engaged from kindergarten to grade 5 or 6 (about 4.5 out of 5). In grade 7 the engagement declines and it bottoms out around grade 10. (Its been a while since I’ve seen this data, but this is my best recollection and it coincides with my own educational experience).

What I envision is the student satisfaction survey mashed up with mapping data so that I have an app that shows the schools in my neighborhood with the student satisfaction for each grade. An even better indication of the school performance would be provided if data from the Fraser Institute’s report card on elementary schools (based on Grade 4 and Grade 7 Foundation Skills Assessment results) is included.

Santa school

Santas at School

Emergency Room Wait Times

The other idea also stems from being a parent. Imagine the unwanted scenario where your your child has somehow hurt themselves playing in the yard. You look at them and realize that you need to take them to emergency. You pull out your smart phone and go to the ER Wait Time app. This app shows all of the hospitals in your area with driving times (maybe even considering traffic data). The app will also show you the wait times. Hospital A has a wait time of 6 hours. Hospital B, although it is 20 minutes further to drive there, has 3 emergency physicians and a wait time of only 20 minutes. I know which one I want to go to. The app can also provide you with a report card on hospital procedures, medical conditions, and medical conditions related to childbirth. The app would be customizable to allow people to evaluate hospitals on quality measures important to them. It may also include patient ratings of hospital performance.

Thanks Santa! Keep up the good work. Every year, we are getting more and more data sets. We sure appreciate all the great work you and your elves do exposing data, stimulating the digital economy and helping government be more transparent and to provide better services outcomes.

Merry Christmas!

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Government 2.0: Breaking Down the Walls

On the weekend, I had the good fortune of watching Roger Water’s The Wall at BC Place Stadium in Vancouver. The show was absolutely amazing with the largest projection surface (500 feet wide) ever toured in live entertainment. The images of oppression, war, and the building (and destruction) of the wall accompanied by Pink Floyd’s hauntingly powerful music and lyrics was a feast for the eyes and ears.

After the show, I began to think about the power of Web 2.0, Government 2.0 and Open Government in breaking down the walls that society has built over the millennia. We struggle in our organizations and other societal institutions (such as education and health care) with the rigid structures and hierarchies that constrain creativity, responsiveness, communication, autonomy, purpose, individuality and community. These institutions have evolved to mold us human beings into human automatons and cogs in a machine so that we fit in the industrialized processes, hierarchies and confines of order.They are products of the human mind. Scientific management was an approach to management that analyzed and synthesized workflows to improve economic efficiency. In our attempts to become more efficient and effective, we risk losing touch with our humanity and what Daniel Pink  characterizes as the key ingredients of human motivation: autonomy, mastery and purpose.

The social, inter-active web provides a platform to break down the barriers of traditional organizational silos and open up new possibilities for human organization, interaction and commerce. In government, it enables us to communicate and collaborate across traditional boundaries. It breaks down the walls of silos, hierarchy and compartmentalization. The diagram below is an oversimplification. Of course, there are walls within the ministries themselves, between divisions, between branches and between organizational hierarchical layers within the organizations. These walls are not only found in government; they are also prevalent in private organizations.

Government 2.0 can break down these walls. But they will not break without a fight. We all have a vested interest in protecting our traditional silos. We hoard information, because information is power. We fight tooth and nail to keep our data, protect our organizational boundaries and maintain the status quo. We must learn to be more open, sharing, and accepting of new ideas, of ourselves and of each other. It is a struggle, but the benefits will be enormous. “All and all its just another brick in the wall.”

Roger Waters says the following on his website: “I believe we have at least a chance to aspire to something better than the dog eat dog ritual slaughter that is our current response to our institutionalized fear of each other.” What do you think?