Andrew Rasiej is an entrepreneur and technology strategist who has counseled political leaders, senior government officials, not for profit and foundation heads, and academics in the United States and abroad on issues related to civic engagement, technology, transparency, digital diplomacy and campaign strategy.
After the 2004 presidential campaign, Andrew founded Personal Democracy Forum (PdF)—the international cross-partisan conference series that examines and analyzes how technology is impacting the evolving global political landscape while illuminating how activists, organizers, technologists, journalists, politicians, and government officials are advancing democratic ideals, using digital media to facilitate a more participatory, connective and transparent world.
He is chairman of the New York Tech MeetUp and Senior Technology Advisor to the Sunlight Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization founded in 2006, which works to use the power of technology and citizen use of the internet to promote greater government transparency and accountability.
Andrew’s belief that technology could empower citizen engagement originally took hold in 1997 when he founded MOUSE.org (Making Opportunities for Upgrading Schools and Education)—a nonprofit helping under-served public school students to become technology leaders in their schools. Today, the MOUSE program is active in 10 states and 58 countries worldwide.
Prior to a life in politics and education, Andrew founded several music-focused enterprises including: Irving Plaza, the world-famous Gramercy Park/Union Square music ballroom; Digital Club Network, the first live music streaming and archiving channel on the internet; and, Plug-In, the first conference focused exclusively on the future of digital music distribution. While operating Irving Plaza he also founded the New York Night Life Association to promote the hundreds of clubs and live music venues in New York City as an integral part of its economic vibrancy and cultural scene. Andrew lives and works in New York City.
?!X: What’s the Future You Choose?
AR: I seek to promote and live in a world that is OPEN. I’m am capitalizing OPEN in order to emphasize its meaning and to draw a sharp contrast to an alternative and prevalent world that is closed, proprietary, secretive, exclusionary, and elite. Whether you like it or not, your ability to be productive in any field i.e. technology, science, medicine, energy, media, education, politics, finance, etc, is essentially being defined by one key universal battle between OPEN and closed systems. I believe the value created by OPENLY sharing information in our ever more connected and complex world is far superior to the value or wealth available to mankind through the control of secret and proprietary information. As technology continues to make more data ubiquitously available about how our world works, humanity has an opportunity to make better and informed choices about the future of mankind. Of course, there are challenges and compromises associated with choosing being OPEN versus being closed. However, in the end I believe the benefits associated with being OPEN far outweigh the those of being closed especially in a coming world where every human being is ubiquitously connected to every other.
?!X: What’s a ‘think’ to create this future?
AR: The “think” that can help usher in the future I choose is sharing data or more precisely “open data”. Take a look at what was achieved by scientists who shared their research with each other while studying Alzheimer’s. Or read about how safe our air traffic system has become due to the transparency of maintenance records of airlines. Better still, consider how many lives were saved in Haiti after the devastating earthquake because relief organizations and others all had access to the same open source mapping systems created by Ushahidi? Even the Arab spring first witnessed in Tunisia was ignited by the revelations exposed through Wikileaks.
?!X: What’s an ‘act’ to create the future you choose?
AR: An “act” we can take to help shepherd the future I choose is to question the services we all use when we are online and ask your self are they inherently open or inherently closed. For example, Apple Computer is inherently closed and although they make a lot of money and some really fabulous products, their code is as secret as the recipe for Coca Cola. Compare Apple now with Linux computer systems which are Open Source and build on each succeeding version buy allowing anyone to identify bugs and improve it. So next time you are prompted to check the “agree” button on a “terms of service” for an app or a website you subscribing to, go back and actually read it and you will start to realize there is a clear line in the sand between OPEN and closed.
?!X: What’s a ‘vote’ to create the future you choose?
AR: Although the Think, Act, Vote project is using the word “vote” outside of its political connotation, I believe that the one action one can take to pledge allegiance to a future that is OPEN rather than closed is actually a real vote!
We need to challenge our elected leaders to pass laws reset the default setting of our system of governance from closed to OPEN.
So next time you interact with a politician who is asking for your vote or your money, ask them first if they are willing to tell you know who is giving them money, who they are meeting with, or if they are willing to legislate that all public information (except security or privacy related) be made available in digital searchable form. If the answer is no, your vote should be too.
Sure, governments and politicians have a right and a duty to keep some information secret and to use discretion when wielding power and diplomacy, but the balance has tipped horribly in the wrong direction. Currently government information is kept “closed” by default. It should be open by default and when needed government should argue to keep sensitive information such secure. Today we have the opposite situation, where everything government does is set to closed by default and we have to argue to release information that as a public we already own.
Once we can get government to open up then the activities of proprietary industries to influence policy and regulation will be exposed disrupting their monopolies so a new era of openness can emerge. This will not happen overnight, nor will it be painless, but it will happen, so the faster it happens the faster mankind can reap the benefits.
To learn more take a look at the work of the Sunlight Foundation, where I am a senior advisor and you will find a series of tools and initiatives to make our political system open and much more accountable.
?!X: Future Soundtrack – What song would you take with you into the future?
AR: The one song I can recommend is Pete Seeger’s “Oh Freedom” which captures the spirit of and benefit of OPEN the best.
?!X: Can you share with us up to 5 weblinks that you find interesting and inspiring?
This one link says it all:
Jim Gilliam gave this amazing talk at the Personal Democracy Forum this past June and it has already been watched over 400,000 times.
?!X: Why Think Act Vote?
AR: At a moment in human history when we know that human connectivity through technology is changing everything the Think, Act, Vote project helps us realize that we actually can choose the future we live in and determine the arc of history and the trajectory of mankind.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @rasiej
Inspired to tell us The Future You Choose? You can here.