We are switching up this week’s OpenGov Voices and giving you a chance to catch up with some of the major OpenGov Voices blog posts that you may have missed. It’s also a good opportunity for you to reconnect with the wonderful opengov initiatives happening around the world and perhaps inspire you to start the transparency conversation in your community. Without much further ado:
Derek Eder’s post on how you can keep tabs on your local city council using a tool called Councilmatic — was one not to miss.
In recent years, many city clerks have taken a big step forward by publishing this legislation online. However, the current generation of municipal legislative information systems are mainly built to help councilmembers and clerks’ offices manage legislation. They were not built to help the public to understand what their city council is doing. Well, like so many of our problems, now there’s an app for that: Councilmatic.
When we launched our OpenGov Grants program in June (you can apply for a grant here), it was only appropriate that we show you how these grants are already at work. What better way than to let you hear from our friends at TurboVote. Kathryn Peters’ post on how TurboVote (a previous Sunlight grantee) is shaping the future of voting that you don’t have to wait in line (and sometimes miss a chance to cast your vote) because their tool is changing all that.
In 2010, my friend Seth Flaxman and I set out to create an electoral system that would fit the way WE live: TurboVote, a new user interface for voting, as it were, complete with push notifications about election deadlines and a Netflix-worthy delivery system for all that paperwork, so we didn’t have to buy envelopes or track down stamps just to stay engaged.
Our OpenGov voices series are not just from those in the U.S. With the creation of our International Program, we are hearing more and more stories of how other countries are opening up their governments. Eva Vozárová’s post showed us how even though data was at crossroads in the fight for openness in Slovakia, there was still a push for transparency.
True, the data was not of very good quality at the beginning. Even now, a year later, it is still lacking in several aspects. The formats are often inconsistent, often linking to plain .html websites. The licensing is not sorted out at all with public licenses not being available under Slovak copyright law. And some of the most interesting datasets are still stuck in the process of being published. But anyway — the shift happened and the data is slowly being released.
Brad Lichtenstein is a man of many talents. In addition to being a documentary filmmaker, he is also a man who recognized that one can use everyday routines like grocery shopping — to hold government accountable. Using Sunlight data from our Influence Explorer API, Brad partnered with Faculty Creative to create BizVizz — a corporate accountability app.
Working with a team that included Faculty Creative, a digital design firm in Philly, and the Independent Television Service (ITVS), we came up with BizVizz. It’s an iPhone app that provides people with data we call the “trifecta of corporate accountability”: taxes, government subsidies and campaign contributions. It’s the 21st century. I say, “don’t get mad, share data instead!”
Early this year Sunlight launched a new initiative that looks at municipal data disclosure and related state issues. So when we see a thriving open data ecosystem thriving in places such as Philadelphia, we are more than happy to highlight them. One such example is Pam Selle’s post which illustrated how AxisPhilly is opening up data in Pennsylvania and informing citizens.
AxisPhilly and organizations like it seek to encourage and leverage open data to spur discussion and inform citizens. Rather than focus on the rapid 24/7 news cycle, AxisPhilly digs deeper into urban infrastructure — exploring data to understand deep causes for issues that impact life in Philadelphia. Because of strong relationships with the city and other public organizations, AxisPhilly is also able to encourage the development of open data sets largely through its stewardship of the region’s open data repository, Open Data Philly.
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