It is a little optimistic to imagine that hordes of programmers are on the edge of their seats waiting for Springfield or Holyoke data to be released so they can design apps for it (or that high priority neighborhoods would take advantage right away), but I still think that joining the “open data movement” would send a good message, and perhaps help get the ball rolling.
This NY Times article from last week (“Local governments offer data to software tinkerers,” 12/6/09) alludes to several interesting ways data is being made available to residents in cities across the country (map crime, compare school lunch menus, find a bar, see restaurant health code violations, find trails, identify trees, etc.).
And to make it happen, “Some government leaders are making data disclosure an official policy. Mayor Newsom [San Francisco] signed an executive order saying city data should be released, and the White House is about to publish a directive expected to give similar instructions to federal agencies.”