Today in OpenGov: Open data for smaller cities, a Census tech to-do list, and more…


In today’s edition, we help small cities join the open data movement, tackle the Census Bureau’s tech to-do list, ask about aid transparency under Trump, and more…

states and cities

  • How can smaller cities participate in the open data movement? Sunlight’s Alyssa Doom “had the opportunity to showcase Sunlight’s latest research on community engagement around open data at the Hometown Summit in Charlottesville, Virginia…[where] Talking through the barriers to community engagement faced by small cities — especially those who wish to engage residents in using public data — provided us with some meaningful insights into tactics for implementing open data programs in communities with smaller populations and fewer resources.” Read all of Alyssa’s insights on the Sunlight Foundation blog.
  • Cities are turning to the Internet of Things to map air pollution and quality. “In response to a growing concern about the effects of air pollution, many cities have improved their efforts to measure pollution using the Internet of Things (IoT)—networks of connected sensors that gather and send data. Using this data, cities can map areas of high pollution, track changes over time, identify polluters, and analyze potential interventions.” (Data-Smart City Solutions)
  • New Orleans aims to bridge digital divide through outreach and awareness building. New Orleans, Louisiana has a number of programs targeted connecting underrepresented groups to technology, but officials where struggling to achieve adoption. Now, City leaders are trying a more specific approach, reaching “out to under-represented populations and spread awareness that they, too, deserve a place in tech.” (Government Technology)

washington watch

  • Man in charge of overseeing White House conflict of interest rules has some conflicts of his own. Earlier this year president Trump “signed an executive order to limit conflicts of interest. It required all his appointees not to deal with matters relating to people they had worked with up to two years before their appointment…it turns out that one of the main people charged with overseeing it, and other White House ethics issues, is in violation of it.” Stefan Passantino is the White House’s designated agency ethics official. His financial disclosure documents also show that, in the past two years, he has done paid work for current HUD Secretary Ben Carson, current HHS Secretary Tom Price, and unpaid Trump advisor Carl Icahn. (Quartz)
  • Trump promised to “drain the swamp”, but his actions in office tell a different, more opaque story. “Last week, the White House said it would not go public with its visitor logs. Obama released those records every three months. Seeing the names of people who come and go can help the public understand who has the ear of the administration on important policy matters. Trump’s tendency toward concealment should not be a surprise: Breaking from precedent, Trump refused to release his tax forms throughout his campaign and even now — while Democrats threaten to hold up his tax reduction plans over the issue.” (Associated Press)
  • Changes in law, technology should boost government transparency. Austin Ever, Executive Director of the watchdog group American Oversight, argued that recent updates to the FOIA and recordkeeping rules, combined with continued advances in technology should result in unprecedented levels of transparency, assuming the Trump Administration enforces the law. “When members of the news media or general public ask for government records, it is no longer acceptable for them to reply that no information could be found, or that a thorough search would take too long. They have the technology, the law is clear, and the courts are unlikely to believe the same old excuses. 2017 will mark a new era of transparency, whether the government likes it or not.” (The Hill)
  • Census Bureau tackles big tech to-do list amid budget uncertainty. “The bureau still faces risks as it plans to award three IT contracts, scale up its systems and nail down its partnership with the U.S. Postal Service and with state and local governments to shore up its address records — all in time for its decennial census dress rehearsal to begin taking shape in August.” (Federal Computer Week)
  • Chaffetz, Cummings get together to ask for information on Trump’s plan to donate foreign profits. “A key House Republican is calling on the Trump Organization to give more details about its system for identifying and donating profits to the Treasury Department that come from foreign government officials who make payments to any of President Donald Trump’s businesses.” (POLITICO)

think global

  • Results of referendum boosting Turkish presidential powers under scrutiny. Just after voting ended in a referendum on presidential powers Turkish election officials “were told to count every ballot, even the ones without an official stamp to verify their authenticity. It was a clear departure from election rules. And it means that the allegations of fraud that have echoed around the country since the April 16 vote, one of the most momentous in Turkey’s history, can probably never be set to rest.” (Bloomberg)
  • Early signs for international aid transparency under Trump aren’t encouraging. President Trump’s approach to transparency and openness over his first months in office doesn’t paint an encouraging picture for those fighting for transparency in international aid programs. This article lays out several ways that less openness could negatively effect international aid and implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. (Devex)

save the dates

  • #TCampAZ is coming up on May 22 in Phoenix. Learn more on Facebook and get your tickets hereThis one-day unconference will bring together the government representatives, developers and journalists to solve problems relating to civic data access. TCamp participants design the agenda, present their ideas and dive into the challenges, success stories and new possibilities during morning and afternoon breakout sessions. It is being hosted by the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting with key partners including Sunlight, Galvanize, and the Institute for Digital Progress.
  • April 26th, 6:00 PM: “Participatory Organizing: From Co-Op to Network to Mass Movement” in Washington, DC. The OpenGov Hub is hosting a co-created workshop on collaborative culture and non-hierarchical organizing. We combine storytelling and participation to learn together about democratic, bottom-up organizing at different scales: from co-ops, to networks, cities and nations. We’ll offer some practices and tools that have helped us, and discover the intelligence in the room too. Learn more and register here.
  • April 27th, 7:45 AM, DATA Act Breakfast “Spending Data Unleashed”, in Washington, DC. “The Data Coalition and Booz Allen Hamilton invite you to a breakfast panel discussion for a front-row seat on the first fruits of the DATA Act. Join us on Thursday, April 27th, at the Booz Allen Hamilton Innovation Center.” Learn more and get your tickets here.
  • April 28th, 11:00 AM: Digital Inclusion Asset Mapping, Connect Chicago Meetup in Chicago, Illinois. “At the next Connect Chicago Meetup we will break into working groups to co-build a better shared inventory of public digital inclusion resources and assets.” Learn more here.
  • May 17th and 18th: Reboot Congress 2017 and the Kemp Forum in Washington, DC. “Held in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol, Reboot Congress 2017, is an invite-only conversation that will bring together a dynamic mix of problem solvers – civic tech innovators, engineers and designers, elected officials, senior staffers, policy experts, and other stakeholders working to modernize Congress.” Learn more here.
  • May 17th: The 2017 Door Stop Awards in Washington, DC. “Lincoln Network and The OpenGov Foundation are joining forces to present the 2017 Door Stop Awards for Congressional Innovation and Transparency. Awards will be presented on May 17, 2017 in Washington, D.C. at an evening party as part of Reboot Congress.” Do you know a member of Congress or staffer who deserves to be recognized? You can submit a nomination here!
  • May 19th and 20th: Global Legislative Openness Conference in Kyiv, Ukraine. “This 2-day event is hosted by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, organized by the Legislative Openness Working Group of the Open Government Partnership and Open Parliament Initiative in Ukraine. The event will convene leading legislators, government officials, and civil society representatives to consider how legislative openness can strengthen public trust in representative institutions and build a responsive, 21st century legislature. In addition, the conference will explore how parliaments can best leverage the Open Government Partnership’s new legislative engagement policy to develop and implement legislative openness plans and commitments.” Learn more here.
  • June 8th and 9th: Personal Democracy Forum 2017 in New York City. “The annual flagship conference brings together close to 1,000 top technologists, campaigners, hackers, opinion-makers, government officials, journalists, and academics for two days of game-changing talks, workshops, and networking opportunities to celebrate the power and potential of tech to make real change happen.” Learn more about #PDF17 and get your tickets here.
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