Silicon Valley investments created massively scalable platforms like Uber, Facebook and Airbnb. Here’s how to engage governments and make the platform model work for everyone.

Over the last few decades we’ve seen an acceleration in the myriad ways software has changed how we work, eat, shop, socialize, learn and communicate. Our phones have become inextricably woven into the fabric of our lives, while software and new technology have enabled an incredible amount of wealth creation and accumulation of capital. For many, Silicon Valley represents not only the cradle of technological innovation, it’s the embodiment of capitalism itself.

Yet as anyone who has lived in San Francisco for a few months can tell you, the benefits of capitalism have not reached the least fortunate among us. For all the Bay Area startups claiming to be “making the world a better place” the reality is, on balance, we’ve only widened the digital and economic divide between the haves and have-nots. Software has indeed made the world a better place, but for whom? …

When circumstances changed, so did our plan.

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We started with the idea for OpenTransit in the summer of 2019. After a few weeks of discussion over coffee, email and Slack we had the basic idea: create an open-source rideshare platform that any municipality could use. This would give growing cities and towns a new tool for public transportation, providing better service and a more efficient flow-through of subsidies that make up a significant part of all public transit services.

We also saw an opportunity to provide a social good by improving the digital literacy and self-sufficiency of small governments. With the OpenTransit platform providing the business case, municipalities would have something to build a local software team around that could provide digital city services. …

The use and ownership of transit data is essential for both public transit optimization and the revenue growth of for-profit transit services. Which is exactly why it’s a big problem.

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The first battle of Los Angeles was a false alarm. In February 1942, just 3 months after Pearl Harbour was attacked, an errant weather balloon set off a barrage of anti-aircraft fire over LA. Five deaths (three traffic fatalities, two heart attacks) were attributed to the panic and confusion. This incident loosely inspired the mediocre 2011 sci-fi war movie Battle: Los Angeles (and the less said about that, the better).

Perhaps a better analogue (or soundtrack) to the current conflict in the City of Angels is Rage Against the Machine’s 1999 (!) …



OpenTransit is a Canadian not-for-profit company developing open-source software for ‘public good’ digital services

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