Today, the Sunlight Foundation joined with more than 30 Civil Society organizations from around the world and urged leaders to conduct the Trans-Pacific Partnership and any future trade negotiations in "a manner consistent with the democratic principles and openness and accountability."
- The House quietly passed a campaign finance bill earlier this week. The bill extends the FEC's authority to hand out administrative penalties to campaign committees when they are late filing, or simply fail to file, their campaign reports.(Roll Call)
- After 8 years as chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke argued that he has made significant progress towards opening up the traditionally closed institution during his tenure. Making the Fed more transparent was one of Bernanke's original goals. (National Journal)
- Marc Smith put together a massive map of open government communities on Twitter. He analyzed tweets mentioning opengov and broke them down based on location, communities, and more. (E Pluribus Unum)
- A Brazilian state, Minas Gerais, decided to help out their entire country with a new tool, DataViva, that should help government employees, citizens, and the private sector make more sense of big government data. (Tech President)
- Want to learn about open budgets around the world? Check out the International Budget Partnership's new OBS Data Explorer! The explorer lets users explore results to the IBP's Open Budget Survey. (International Budget Partnership)
State and Local News
- Honolulu Hawaii is moving to expand state open data rules to their city. The Honolulu City Council unanimously passed an open data bill and sent it on to the Mayor. (CivSource)
Open Data has enormous unfulfilled promise to change how governments work and to empower citizenship. As more governments and issue experts discover new potential in the public release of data, civil society groups still need clear guidelines and mechanisms for cooperation.
The Global Open Data Initiative (GODI) is our attempt to more clearly outline the institutions, organizations, and policies that make up the global open data community and to help move forward. In serving as a global voice for open data, GODI hopes to act as a repository of information and evidence regarding open data policies and practices.
In order to do be able to do so, we now need your input. What are the challenges within your work with open data? What definitions and guidelines do you rely on to inform your work? Are there any resources that would be useful to your work but still missing? What are your experiences interacting with governments and funders about open data? What are your struggles that a global initiative might help resolve?
Please help us refine the next steps of GODI by filling out this short survey before November 29th.
- The deputy CIO at the CFPB sat down with FedScoop to talk about how the innovative agency has leveraged open source technologies to get their job done. (FedScoop)
- President Obama has had a tough time of it lately. But, his struggles governing haven't hindered what sometimes seems to be his favorite job, raising huge amounts of money for the Democratic party. (NPR)
- The Australian State of New South Wales released its first open data policy, embracing the philosophy of "open by default" in the process. (Future Gov)
- Several U.S. groups are celebrating 30 years of working to strengthen democracy and democratic institutions around the world. The National Democratic Institute, National Endowment for Democracy, and International Republican Institute have been at it for three decades. (NDI)
State and Local News
- Ever wonder if your city is "smart?" Like ranked lists and pretty pictures? This article, which ranks the 10 "smartest cities" in North America may be for you! (Fast Co.Exist)
- New York City's department of education announced several applications built on open data that hope to help parents and students navigate the high-school selection process. (Education Week)
As asserted by Jeremy Bentham nearly two centuries ago, “[I]n the same proportion as it is desirable for the governed to know the conduct of their governors, is it also important for the governors to know the real wishes of the governed.” Although Bentham’s historical call may come across as obvious to some, it highlights one of the major shortcomings of the current open government movement: while a strong focus is given to mechanisms to let the governed know the conduct of their governors (i.e. transparency), less attention is given to the means by which the governed can express their wishes (i.e. citizen engagement).
As much as I would like to offer a simple definitive answer to the question, I have to say instead that it depends; particularly when democratic institutions and processes are being established and corresponding norms, values and practices are evolving. This view is based on 20 years working at the National Democratic Institute (NDI) to increase organized citizen engagement, as a means of deepening democracy so that governments deliver a better quality of life for citizens. This work has provided a number of lessons regarding the relationship between citizen engagement, transparency and government accountability.
Unlike the others in this series who have been working on the ground to implement transparency policies and initiatives, I have not. My background is in political science, so I’m going to do something that political scientists often do. I’m going to theorize and I’m going to offer a typology.
Though we tend to talk about accountability as if it is one thing, I think there are actually three types of government accountability that we care about: preference accountability, character accountability, and performance accountability. And each of these has its own relationship to citizen engagement. By better understanding this, we can better understand the citizen engagement – transparency – accountability nexus.
The term civic engagement can be defined in a variety of ways. For the purposes of this conversation let’s say it consists of someone’s involvement in matters of public concern. Let’s also say that citizen engagement refers specifically to the involvement of individuals as opposed to civil society organizations.
What are the different ways that citizens engage? How does the shape of their engagement influence the shape of any government accountability that might come from it? I’ve noticed a few different types of engagement - and each type appears to have different repercussions for accountability. Here are three:
Exciting news for anyone working on open government technology: Google's Civic Information API now includes representative data! The API was already a great source of electoral information. Now it can help connect people to the politicians who represent them after election day.
Google's team has done a great job of acquiring tons of data from a variety of sources and combining it in a simple-to-use API. At Sunlight, we're proud to have played a part in making it possible to stitch that data together. The heart of this effort is the Open Civic Data Identifier system.
Based on work done by our Open States team and developed in consultation with a number of other organizations, OCD-IDs are a generable standard that can reliably identify political jurisdictions. This might sound simple or boring, but it's a fundamental interoperability problem in the opengov space -- one that gets all the more tricky when you start adding support for levels of government that don't come with readymade shapefiles. OCD-IDs were designed with that challenge in mind, plus several others (for instance: what happens when a politician changes offices?).
Sunlight has already added support for OCD-IDs to our Congress API, and they'll be present in a coming revision to our Open States API. Organizations like Granicus and Open North are also adopting the standard. We think it's going to be an important tool for connecting currently-disparate domains of open data with one another.
We've got more great stuff planned for the Open Civic Data project. But for now we hope you'll check out the Civic Information API and think about whether OCD-IDs could be used to connect your data to the growing open government universe.
Thanks to OpenNorth's James McKinney for his invaluable contributions to the development of the OCD-ID specification, especially as it relates to the Popolo Project; and to Phil Ashlock for his pioneering work on this problem via Democracy Map.
Today marks the 150th anniversary of President Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. Beginning with the famous phrase "Four score and seven years ago," the 1863 speech is an emblem of democracy and freedom and a popular recitation for social studies students and members of Congress alike.
And when searching the Congressional Record for "Gettysburg Address," the GOP also mentions the speech more overall.