Today in OpenGov: A bad six months for transparency and American democracy


The Washington Post confirmed our concerns that transparency and open government have had a bad six months in Washington, DC. "More and more in the Trump era, business in Washington is happening behind closed doors. The federal government’s leaders are hiding from public scrutiny — and their penchant for secrecy represents a stark departure from the campaign promises of Trump and his fellow Republicans to usher in newfound transparency."

But the news isn't all bad. Read on for more open government news from around the country and across the globe. 

states and cities

The Stanford Open Policing Project
  • Open data on more than 130 million traffic stops shows significant racial disparities. "When we apply the threshold test to our traffic stop data, we find that police require less suspicion to search black and Hispanic drivers than whites. This double standard is evidence of discrimination." (Stanford Open Policing Project) This project is an extraordinary act of public service and accountability. 
  • We're proud to announce that there are now 100 open data policies from American cities in our database at
  • Tyler, Texas joins open data ranks. You can read and provide feedback on their new open data policy using Madison.
  • Using data to fight the opioid epidemic in Ohio. "Before we can respond effectively, however, we need to know just what we're dealing with. We need data, presented in an analytical way that helps us target our limited resources. So we built an application for it. Deployed to the web with a mobile-friendly interface, the "Heroin Overdoses in Cincinnati" page is an integral part of our city's interactive dashboard." (Governing
  • Fighting floods in San Francisco with civic technology. "Enter Adopt a Drain, an app that enables residents to find their closest storm drain, claim it, and agree to clear any debris in advance of storms, tapping into San Francisco’s greatest resource – civic-minded residents. To support these volunteers, SFPUC provides them with tools, supplies, and training. The app was developed in a partnership between SFPUC, the city data office, DataSF, and Code for San Francisco, an organization that brings together volunteers interested in finding technological solutions to the city’s problems." (Data-Smart City Solutions)


  • The White House hosted tech leaders to discuss modernization of government tech. The agenda called for "10 working groups to propose changes to major aspects of government IT and technology. Participants will 'collaboratively develop ideas for how government can operate like a modern technology enterprise' on issues ranging from cybersecurity and procurement to cloud strategy and better user-interfaces for public services." (Government Executive)
  • Flynn failed to list foreign contacts on clearance form. "Michael Flynn didn’t list any interactions with foreign government officials on his application last year to renew his security clearance, despite indicating in a speech days after submitting the application that he had had extensive contacts in Saudi Arabia and other countries, according to a letter Monday from two senior House Democrats." (POLITICO)
  • Chaffetz knocks Trump on secrecy as he leaves House Oversight Committee. "During an exclusive TV interview arranged after his surprise mid-May announcement that he will resign on June 30, Chaffetz told Sharyl Attkisson of the Sinclair Broadcast Group’s “Full Measure” that agencies under Trump are even less forthcoming in the transparency department." (Government Executive)

washington watch

  • Chaffetz knocks endless fundraising responsibilities as he leaves Congress. In the same interview mentioned above, Chaffetz " lambasted the fundraising virus that plagues our elected representatives." (Issue One)
  • New book explores how centralization of policy process and staff cuts in Congress fuels revolving door and lobbyist influence. "The shift on Capitol Hill to centralize much of the major policymaking in leadership offices, as opposed to committees, along with a reduction in legislative staff and their salaries has helped propel the revolving door in recent years, says Timothy LaPira, a James Madison University professor." (Roll Call)
  • Sunlight joins group calling for discussion of digital best practices at the Congressional Budget Office. The bipartisan coalition outlined several topics for discussion including predictable URLs, bulk data, improved search functionality, and more. Read the full letter here.
  • Supreme Court will hear landmark case on partisan gerrymandering. "The U.S. Supreme Court will consider whether judges can throw out legislative maps for being so partisan they violate the Constitution, taking up a case that could put a powerful new check on gerrymandering." The Supreme Court has never struck down a map for being too partisan. (Bloomberg)

around the world

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Image Credit: World Bank Group
  • In Canada, Trudeau's transparency reforms don't live up to promises. "New legislation to update Canada’s access to information system fails to follow through on the promises made by the Trudeau government over the last two years. It will do little to expand the reach of the act, improve timelines, or limit wildly-used exemptions that frustrate the disclosure of information." (Vice News)
  • Mexican Government using spyware to track journalists, critics. " Mexico’s most prominent human rights lawyers, journalists and anti-corruption activists have been targeted by advanced spyware sold to the Mexican government on the condition that it be used only to investigate criminals and terrorists." (New York Times) Our take? The Mexican government using spyware on journalists & human rights advocates undermines trust and open government. 
  • Estonia, Luxembourg agree on deal to create worlds first "data embassy". "The idea behind the data embassy is to guarantee the digital continuity of Estonia in the event of any physical disruptions. The state will back up critical data and services outside its territory." (OpenGov Asia)

save the dates

  • June 27th: Legislative Data and Transparency Conference in Washington, DC. "The Legislative Data and Transparency Conference 2017 (#LDTC17), hosted by the Committee on House Administration, will take place on Tuesday, June 27, 2017in the Capitol Visitor Center Congressional Auditorium. The #LDTC17 brings individuals from Legislative Branch agencies together with data users and transparency advocates to foster a conversation about the use of legislative data – addressing how agencies use technology well and how they can use it better in the future." Learn more here.
  • June 28th, 10am EST: How Can Demand Driven & Bottom Up Social Accountability Tools Improve Health Services? The Experience of Rural Mozambique, Webinar. "This webinar explores how Concern Universal has managed to find the intersections in incentives and goals between government and rural communities while helping overcome some crucial gaps in health service delivery. It focuses on lessons learned through application of collaborative government/citizen’s approach. More information here:"
  • June 29th: DATA Act Summit 2017 in Washington, DC. "The fourth annual DATA Act Summit, hosted by the Data Coalition and Booz Allen Hamilton, will bring together supporters of the open data transformation from across government and the private sector." Learn more and get your tickets here.
  • July 5, 10am EST: ICT-mediated Citizen Engagement: Voice or Chatter? Webinar. "In this webinar, IT for Change will present the results of eight empirical case studies of citizen engagement through ICTs they undertook. This research, funded by Making All Voices Count, explored in each case how new forms of participation were shaped by IT, how IT affected power relations between government and citizens, and how the interactions between different actors continuously shape governance. More information here:"
  • July 19, 5:30 PM EST. Book Discussion: When Your Job Wants You To Lie in Washington, DC. "Join us for a discussion that will help us deal with the kinds of situations we all encounter. Presented by the American Society for Public Administration, National Capital Area Chapter (ASPA NCAC). Refreshments start 5:30, and the discussion starts 6:00. Space is limited, so you must RSVP in advance." Learn more and RSVP here
  • September 11th and 12th: TicTec@Taipei in Taipei. "TICTeC@Taipei is the first ever conference about the influence of civic tech to be held in Asia. We’ve invited members of academia, business, politics, NGOs, education to participate, and discuss their research. We hope through this event, we can build a global network of civic tech enthusiasts." The event is being held during #CivicTechFest 2017. Learn more, submit a session proposal, and register to attend here.


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