My company Buzzr just announced our participation in Civic Dynamics, a new company and platform providing breakthrough tools for publishing and analyzing the reams of open government data most municipalities produce, plus a content management system (Buzzr) to publish and display the data and ant associated websites. A critical piece of the platform will enable users to mix, match and manipulate the data sets in greater depth than has ever been possible before. Under the hood is very advanced semantic technology called the Open Semantic Framework.
Buzzr will be providing the front end for the platform as well as an optional turn-key, hosted content management systems for local governments that wish to choose a 360 degree integrated solution for all their website needs, including website design, CMS, cloud hosting, and ongoing support. The Buzzr CMS piece is built on open source Drupal 7.
You can see a pilot version of the semantic platform at work in a neighborhood portal for the city of Winnepeg, Canada, called NOW, and in “community indicator system” built for the United Way of Winnepeg and the Internation Institute for Sustained Development, called PEG.
The project, and the new company, Civic Dynamics, are the brainchild of Structured Dynamics, a firm with deep experience in bringing semantic technology to very large volumes of data. Structured Dynamic created the Open Sematic Framework. The open source project was engineered by Structured Dynamics CTO Frederick Glasson and Mike Bergman, the Structured Dynamics CEO, both brainiacs of the highest order.
The Open Semantic Framework integrates and manages all types of content — unstructured documents, semi-structured files, spreadsheets, and structured databases — using a variety of best-of-breed engines. All external content is converted to the canonical RDF data model, enabling common tools and methods for tagging and managing all content.
Ontologies provide the schema and common vocabularies for integrating across diverse datasets. These capabilities can be layered over existing information assets for unprecedented levels of integration and connectivity. All information within OSF may be searched and faceted with powerful tools, with results datasets available for export in a variety of formats and as linked data.
For more information, head over to the new Civic Dynamics website or contact Kelly Goldstrand, director of business development for Civic Dynmaics, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here’s the full press release:
Announcing a New Venture and Platform for Dynamic Open Data in Communities
QUÉBEC CITY, QC, February 3, 2014 – Civic Dynamics Inc., headquartered in Québec City, Canada, was taken out of stealth mode today with the introduction of its Civic Dynamics Platform (CDP), the first truly dynamic, open-data platform for local governments. The underlying open source software and supporting system enables municipalities to publish open government data in a dynamic format that allows citizens to easily view, mix, match and analyze it. The company is a partnership with two U.S. companies, Structured Dynamics, the open data technology experts, and Buzzr, a Drupal-based hosted content management platform for building affordable yet robust websites.
“Civic Dynamics takes open government data to the next level,” said Michael Bergman, CEO of Structured Dynamics. “Citizens need easy tools to analyze the mountains of available open government data. CDP is the first provider of dynamic open data technology that lets citizens see what government data is available, select what’s important to them, analyze it and have a simple mechanism for contributing back their own information and thoughts. It’s true dynamic technology for better citizen engagement.”
Many municipalities have joined the quickly growing movement to provide citizens with valuable open government data. However, to date, efforts have focused primarily on cataloguing and disseminating data sets – the only way to access it is by downloading entire data sets, without any mechanism for manipulating or sorting the information.
“While this may be useful for academics, professional researchers or analysts, most people don’t have the skills to break apart and analyze datasets,” said Kelly Goldstrand, Director of Business Development for Civic Dynamics. “The next step in the evolution of the open data movement is to provide more than just the data. The power of any data is in the analysis. We must deliver the data along with ‘every day appliances’ that give every citizen, community organization, or lobbying group the ability to tailor the data to address their individual interests. Only then, is the data truly open and available to everyone.”
The Civic Dynamics Platform (CDP) is a proven, open-source, turnkey software framework for managing and publishing open, community data. CDP combines best-of-class open-source software components with open-source documentation. Open-source implementation methodologies and tools mean local governments and related organizations can manage dynamic open data portals on their own. CDP’s tight integration of Drupal 7 also means the platform can be extended into or combined with other local government website content management or web portal needs. CDP also works as an effective front-end for community indicator systems or integrated analytical frameworks, proven in the domains of sustainability, economic development, and community involvement”.
“With CDP’s charts, tables, graphs, maps, images and stories, you can easily and visually combine any piece of existing data together and study their connectedness,” said Goldstrand. “When viewed in this inter-related way they become a basis for action. The platform also promotes citizen engagement vis-à-vis citizen contribution of data, sharing of community calendar events, commentary and journalism regarding current local issues. It provides a mechanism for citizens to actively participate in developing local community-based solutions.”
“If open data and citizen engagement are to become integral parts of community services, they must be achieved within today’s tight budget constraints,” said Ed Sussman, CEO of Buzzr.com. “Municipal website and web portals that are less expensive to design and implement, and cheaper to maintain, are the best choice for spreading the accessibility of the open data movement.”
In its packaged open-source offering, CDP leverages the tools of:
§ Drupal 7, an open-source framework for content management;
§ MUNI, a basic local government ontology to jump-start a new installation; and
§ Buzzr’s All-in-One content management platform, built on Drupal 7, to design, develop and run feature rich websites and mobile sites, including cloud-based hosting and 24×7 support.
Civic Dynamics offers a range of customization, development, and tailoring services to local governments and community organizations.
Two initial flagship installations, powered by pre-release versions of CDP, include:
NOW (Neighbourhoods of Winnipeg) – In 2013, the City of Winnipeg, the capital and largest city of Manitoba, Canada, released its “NOW” portal, celebrating its 236 diverse, historical neighborhoods. The NOW portal is one of the largest releases of open data by a local government to date, with some 57 varied datasets, ranging from local neighborhood amenities, such as pools and recreation centers, to detailed real estate and economic development information. Nearly one-half million individual web pages comprise the site, driven exclusively by semantic technologies. PEG – a Community Indicators System – built with the United Way of Winnipeg and IISD (International Institute for Sustainable Development). Via PEG, the citizens of Winnipeg learn how their life, their neighbourhood and their city is changing – for the good and the bad, via the presentation and analysis of community indicators of sustainability.
About Civic Dynamics
Civic Dynamics is dedicated to the development and deployment of software platforms that support the sharing of open data and promote citizen engagement, in support of building healthy communities. The Civic Dynamics Platform (CDP) is a tool for managing dynamic open data. The company Web site is at http://civic-dynamics.com; it was founded in 2014 and is headquartered in Québec City, QC.
The professionals behind Buzzr have built hundreds of well-known websites, including the Sony Artist websites, MarthaStewart.com, FastCompany.com and Grammy.com. Our expertise ranges from the latest in open source technology, to best practices in user experience, to pioneering social media. We came together in 2008 to make it easier for more people and organizations to access the spectacular website tools of Drupal. In the process, we’ve helped transform open source Drupal and created tools used by more than 100,000 websites.
|Kelly GoldstrandDirector of Business Development, Civic Dynamics