Make Web Not War announces a cross-Canada motorcycle Open Government Tour

Canada is a big country – stretching about 4,000 miles from coast to coast. That’s a lot of ground to cover, so you can only imagine how difficult it is to bring together information from all the federal, provincial and municipal governments in-between. But this summer, Richard Pietro, a member of the Make Web Not War Community (MWNW), is going on the road for a 90-day motorcycle trek across Canada to raise civic awareness and engagement through an Open Government Tour. On Wednesday, a new MWNW engagement platform launches that will serve as both a hub for that journey and as a way for Canadians to better engage with their elected officials and public services.

“Make Web Not War has always had the goal of building an open data super site for Canada because the challenge we have is there’s so much information out there, but there’s not one place where we can find everything we need to know in Canada,” says Keith Loo, a Strategy Lead for Microsoft’s Openness team in Canada, and the driving force behind Make Web Not War. “So the goal is to put everything in one place, and the Open Gov tour does that.”

The tour is another layer on top of building an open data super site for all the datasets available in Canada, linking to it and generating interest in it. The Canadian Federated site for Open Data on Socrata, powered by Microsoft Azure, will allow concerned constituents to dive into the data catalog. It’s a one stop shop for all their data needs.

MWNW is a community-driven open source and open government initiative supported by Microsoft that has been pivotal in bringing stakeholders – such as public servants, community activists, developers and designers – together. In February, they helped organize Open Data Day in Toronto that brought together more than 300 people for all-day workshops and hackathons. These activities build on the foundation of open government and open data, which is a movement that uses technology to make public institutions more accountable, transparent and collaborative.

“There are a lot of fragmented conversations around open data and open government. The Make Web Not War site and the engagement tool they’ve created is an attempt at bringing these conversations together,” says Richard Pietro, a founding member of CitizenBridge and MWNW community member, who will be the long-haul rider on that motorcycle.

The tour begins in Toronto in July, but people all over Canada and the governments that represent them are invited to get involved now through the website, which will also track Pietro’s 12,427-mile journey. (Since he’s not going in a straight line from coast to coast, he’s racking up a lot more miles.)

Richard Pietro, who will embark on the Open Government Tour on a motorcycle in July

The Toronto resident advocates for open data through educational sessions and government consults seven days a week while paying the bills as a restaurant server three days a week. While he’s on the road this summer, MWNW’s organizers will join him and help make the connections and start the relationships necessary for the free flow of information.

“Citizens can follow and join the conversation from the platform. This is really to whet the appetite for open government, open data,” says Bruce Chau, an Open Source Community Manager with the MWNW team. “People can continue on with a training component to learn more about how to use open data.”

The site features a map that shows where Pietro is going to be on specific dates and gives users the ability to add suggestions for talk topics. While Pietro already has almost 20 events scheduled, he’s also going to be available to drop in between towns to do quick open government talks. He welcomes input from locals.

Toronto-based digital agency People&Code is partnering with MWNW and Pietro to build the interface on opengov.webnotwar.ca. They are known as influential players in the city’s developer community. In addition to MWNW, they also run the MobileStartupsTO community.

“It’s not just open data. Open dialogue is a very big piece and this tour helps to foster it,” Chau says.

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Athima Chansanchai
Microsoft News Center Staff