Monday, June 28, 2010

Transparency Through Technology

We at ResiStat have been thinking a lot about how to use technology to increase transparency and accountability in city government. Over the past several years, your participation, both online and in person, has made a dramatic impact on how Somerville is run. That's why ResiStat is excited to participate in a contest, challenging us to think of new ways to increase citizen participation. We are collecting answers to three main questions:

•What government information do you think people should have access to?

•In what format do you think this information should be delivered ?

•How do you think technology can be used to make government more transparent and accountable to citizens?   

You can post your responses to this blog post. Or, if you would prefer, we have also created a 3-question survey here. We look forward to your feedback.


  1. I'm interested in how well the city is doing with energy efficiency. In particular, I'd like to see energy-usage statistics city-wide, in a computer-readable format.

    The types of statistics I'd like to see:
    * Fuel usage and miles driven for city-owned vehicles, broken down as granularly as possible. Per department, or ideally per-vehicle.
    * Heating and cooling energy bills (in $ and Therms/kWh/BTUs) for each city building, by month. Also, broken down by heat source (electric/gas/oil).
    * Electricity usage for each building, both in $ and kWh. Monthly would be nice, but even more useful for analysis would be hourly usage graphs.

    I would like tab-delimited, plain-text files for all these files, so I can remix and visualize the data as I see fit. While I'm not against pretty graphs encased in PDFs, often I wish I had access to the raw data behind them!

    This would help citizens understand both the financial and environmental impact of the city's operations themselves, and help highlight areas for improvement in the future. It would also help bring well-deserved attention to those city departments and individuals which have made an effort to conduct their business in a financially- and environmentally-efficient manner.

  2. Thanks for your comment, Jonah. Those seem like reasonable requests, and definitely the type of data that Somerville should be collecting. We are using your suggestions to help push for greater access to raw data. So, again, thank you.


Please note that you are about to comment on a blog moderated by the City of Somerville. Questions and comments will be moderated, edited, and responded to as time allows.

Also note, there are certain legal terms associated with posting to this website which include, but are not limited to, the following:

1. No comments or posts may endorse any candidate or political parties for political office;
2. No comments or posts may advertise or offer to sell any goods or services; and
3. No comments or posts may defame or otherwise violate the legal rights of others.

A complete version of the legal terms and conditions for posting to this website is available here: