Earlier this spring, the United States released community health information to provision healthcare apps and drive better policy.
Now, scientists and policy makers will explore the potential for climate data services to inform citizens and government, enabling both to make better decisions for communities and businesses alike.
Can open government lead to greater awareness or action around the existential issue climate change? Posting open data online in of itself is not enough, although there’s no question that publishing scientific data where it can be publicly accessed, validated or stored is a huge step forward with respect to transparency.
Socializing open health data was necessary to build a better government platform at the National Institute of Medicine, where open data and innovation led to an innovative means to identity pills.
Is collaborative innovation in open government possible in Canada? On the one hand, Canadian open data consultant David Eaves bluntly pointed out some of the challenges extant because of culture: Collaborate? ‘Governments don’t do that’.
Collaborative innovation, however, may be another matter, as many governments, large and small, are experimenting with websites crowdsourcing citizen ideas.
Enter the Apps for Climate Action Contest, which challenged Canadian software developers to raise awareness and inspire action by using open data in Web and mobile applications. The open data itself came from the government of British Columbia, which created a catalogue of climate and greenhouse gas emission data at Data.gov.bc.ca.
So who won?
Best Web App – VELO
The app allows organizations to compare against peers internally and externally, enabling businesses to monitor and compare benchmarks for carbon emissions continually rather than annually.
Best Mobile App – MathTappers: Carbon Choices
“The MathTappers: Carbon Choices App is designed to help students examine the effects of their personal choices on climate change. As students track their choices their impact is assessed in terms of annualized kg of CO2 equivalents generated.”
Best of B.C. – Waterly
This app is designed to help people to use less water on their lawns.
People’s Choice – VanTrash
“VanTrash scrapes pickup schedules from City of Vancouver websites and combines it with GIS data from data.vancouver.ca. In turn, VanTrash exposes this scraped data in a clean RESTful API for other citizens to build and innovate on.” The idea here is that the app will help residents to remember to take their recycling, organic waste and other garbage out.
Will any of these apps make a difference in a global context? The jury is out on that count. Notably, several of the winners empower citizens with more lightweight access to information about local services or awareness of commodities usage. Canada may be one of the world leader’s in sheer volume of clean water but that doesn’t mean minimization of transport or use doesn’t make sense. I could certainly use a trash and recycling reminder here in Washington; maybe Octo Labs will work with a good developer if the data is available.
A gallery of all the climate change apps is online.
Climate Services and Open Data in the US
In the United States, using data as a climate change agent is part of the big idea behind Climate.gov, where public climate data from NOAA and NASA could spur better decisions and a more informed society.
Amidst varied hopes for open data and open government, enabling better data-driven decisions in both the private and public sector rank high. One of the existential challenges for humanity will be addressing climate change, particularly in countries where scientific resources are scant or even non-existent.
In February, the Obama administration proposed a climate service that would provide projections on climate change in much the same way that the National Ocean and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) provides weather information. Earlier this summer, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) published new research, “Earth Observation for Climate Change,” and hosted a forum on leveraging climate data services to manage climate change. The video from the forum is embedded below: