Today in OpenGov: Making dollars and sense of special interests at the RNC


CONVENED: Sunlighters Libby Watson and Josh Stewart went to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland and explored the scene. “Notably missing from the many of the convention meetings, gatherings and soirees? Voters. While the influence industry is hard at work to curry favor and gain access for corporate players and big-dollar donors, there’s not much opportunity for the public to see what’s going on.” [READ MORE]


  • The Department of Defense has revised its Law of War Manual in a way that recognizes journalists as civilians and acknowledges their role in independently reporting on armed conflicts. “The new language is a seismic shift for the U.S. military,” said Frank Smyth, senior adviser for journalist security at the Committee to Protect Journalists. “This affirmation of journalists’ right to report armed conflicts freely and from all sides is especially welcome at a time when governments, militias, and insurgent forces around the world are routinely flouting the laws of war.” [CPJ]
  • New whistleblower protections for contractors have some traction in Congress. How much remains to be seen when lawmakers return from the summer recess. [GovExec]
  • Speaking on the final night of the Republican National Convention, venture capitalist Peter Thiel commented on culture wars and government technology. “Today our government is broken, our nuclear bases still use floppy disks, our newest fighter jets can’t even fly in the rain, and it would be kind to say government software works poorly because much of the time it doesn’t even work at all,” he said. “That is a staggering decline for a country that completed the Manhattan Project.” While his critique has merit, we hope Thiel reads up on how lobbying, procurement and government human resources policies got us here, and then gets to work recruiting for 18F and U.S. Digital Service to fix them. [Politico]

State and Local

  • The City of Los Angeles has joined Google’s innovation lab and announced plans to tackle urban problems using the search engine giant’s methods. [Govtech]
  • One of the best ways municipal governments can use open data from states is to enhance their own services and decision-making, says Mark Headd. [Data Upstate]
  • The staff of Maine Governor Paul LePage violated a policy that prevents state employees from using texts to conduct government business. [Bangor Daily News]
  • Here’s some frank criticism of “civic innovation” from the winners of a hackathon in May. “When a diverse team wins a tech competition and is promised to be brought in for development as a prize, being told to volunteer is part of the problem,” write David Capelli and Carla Mays. “Having an innovation agenda or a hackathon doesn’t mean anything if we can’t implement solutions we have developed and won.” [LinkedIn]
  • While Capelli and Mays’ critique that “the current hackathons, online platforms and town halls…have little or no real pathway to implementing these solutions that yield the best ROI for cities, residents and investors,” has value, they’re not grounding their critique in the debate over app contests and sustainability that has been going on for many years, or the ways that civic tech is maturing in cities that have learned some lessons along the way.



  • The Netherlands’ procurement agency has opened up its contracting data going back to 2010, and will update it every six months. OpenState is also making some progress in opening up the Dutch registry of company ownership. [OpenState]

  • Here’s how to use open data to find the most unhygienic food in the United Kingdom. [Wolfram Alpha]
  • What does the vote to leave the European Union mean for open government in the United Kingdom? Ben Worthy, the independent reporter on the UK’s Open Government National Action Plan for the Open Government Partnership, dug in: “Brexit itself will soon become a huge transparency issue. There is an interesting debate about how much ‘information’ there was flowing in the referendum campaign itself, as this great blog post discusses. However, once negotiations begin there will be unprecedented pressure and scrutiny. Prime Minister May and the other 27 countries will probably argue for some secrecy in the delicate process but there will be a powerful case for more open door negotiations and, on a practical level, more leaks than you can imagine.” [OGP]

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