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Sunlight Weekly Round-up: Using Innovation in technology to open government

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The ancient conundrum of whether it was the chicken  that came first or the egg, may always  be a mystery. But when it comes to technology and innovation, it seems like the two drive each other. Echoing President Obama's call for innovation in his State of the Union address, creative thinkers have developed new and engaging ways to not only inform the public on how the government operates, but also take the lead on making sure that their innovations are in user friendly formats.  One such example is the Transparencity project...

  • The William Penn Foundation, together with Technically Philly are partnering on a project that will use technology and journalism to increase the availability and use of “actionable government data”. Codenamed Transparencity,  the project will provide extensive coverage of issues on city technology policy, the Division of Technology and government data sets. Take a look at how Christopher Wink and partners strive to increase Philadelphia’s use of data to inform on policy at Technically Philly.
  • Social media enthusiasts Gangplank and PhxData are organizing a CityCamp to open government using the internet. The CityCampAZ will bring together programmers, developers and government officials to discuss ways in which they can enhance their digital presence on the web. Steve Jansen shares details about registering for the unconference and more on the Jackalope Ranch.
  • Massachusetts has a new transparency website, but Laura Crimaldi, a board member of New England First Amendment Coalition, is not convinced that it will improve openness in government. Created in part to track state funding and local aid to cities, Massachusetts Transparency still has a long way to go in increasing citizens’ trust in government. Notably, Crimaldi sites that  Massachusetts’ judiciary and Legislature branches are still exempted from the state’s public records law. She explains this and more obstacles on The New England First Amendment Center.
  • Residents of Seattle Washington now have a new personalized way of accessing government information. The city has launched My.Seattle.gov which will let users customize their Seattle.gov homepage using widgets that give them relevant information. In a press release posted on the West Seattle blog, the city’s mayor Mike McGinn, hoped that the new website will make government more accessible through technology. Read more on the West Seattle Blog.
  • Phil West from North Carolina is making the case for why open government needs “data psychologists.” In his opinion, psychologists help determine the usefulness of data and how interesting it will be to the possible recipients before it is released to the public. He uses the example of Data.gov to show how it has evolved from just posting datasets with unfamiliar terms to ordinary citizens such as CSV files, to using methods that are more familiar to users including cataloging. Check out as he explains how data psychologists curate data usefulness on Sector Public.