Today in OpenGov: Applied ethics


Today, we're thinking about how to boost flagging citizen confidence in public institutions. In the Pacific Standard, Hollie Russon-Gilman and Tiago Carneiro Peixoto explore the growing move towards participatory budgeting programs across the globe. The research shows that "when governments listen, citizens reward them both politically and financially…" through increased electoral support and decreased tax delinquency. 

Read on for the rest of the day's open government news, including a trip to Durham to talk open data, the USDA's ethics app, the latest on the Trump administration's attempt to obtain data on anti-inauguration protesters, and more…

states and cities

Noel Isama at Durham's Civic Spark Day.
  • Building a community with open data in Durham, NC. Sunlight's Noel Isama took a trip down to Durham, North Carolina for a conference bringing "together Durham’s residents, local technologists, city and county staff to discuss how the city’s open data can be used to meet the community’s needs. The event was the latest element of the city’s work using open data to make Durham a great place to live, work and play." Read his report on the Sunlight Blog.
  • How to implement an open data policy? Jackie Snow looks to answer that question by digging into work from What Works Cities and Sunlight. She highlights our Open Data Policy Guidelines focusing on the big questions, including what data should be public, how to make the data public, and how to implement policy. (SmartCitiesDive)


Protesters and police face each other in Washington, DC on the day of President Trump's inauguration. Image: Flickr user Reana.
  • Judge approves pared down request for user data from anti-Trump website. "A judge in District of Columbia Superior Court on Thursday ordered DreamHost LLC, the host of the website, to comply with a government warrant seeking information about the site’s subscribers," reports Tom Schoenberg. "The judge said he would oversee the use of the data to make sure the government’s seizure was limited to individuals linked to the riots and not people who merely posted messages or communicated with others through the site." (Bloomberg)
  • Meanwhile, Sunlight joins coalition in expressing concerns about the initial warrant as well as its amended version. The coalition, made up of more than 60 public interest organizations, expressed concern "over the fact that the government issued such a sweeping request in the first place – and that it continues to maintain that this request was legal and appropriate. Additionally, the information yielded by this demand could still allow the government to identify individuals engaged in constitutionally protected speech and dissent, as well as members of the news media and the public who simply participated in meetings or communicated with organizers whose email accounts are affiliated with the protest website." (
  • This weekend, Trump administration finances "revealed". "Reveal — a co-production of The Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX — will broadcast and podcast a special segment about the people behind the #CitizenSleuth reporting project and what they've uncovered…" including new information on Steve Bannon's debts, a shadow White House press office, and the IRS debts owed by some Trump administration officials. (Center for Public Integrity)

washington watch

  • General Service Administration's emerging technology workshop will influence OGP National Action Plan. The workshop, being hosted on September 8th, will ask "participants including business executives and federal managers…to propose ways the public sector could use blockchain, artificial intelligence, open data and other emerging technologies. As Mohana Ravindranath reports, it will help agency leaders find ideas to "influence the fourth version of the National Action Plan for open government…" (NextGov)
  • National Archives looks towards a paperless future. "The National Archives and Records Administration plans to stop accepting non-electronic records submissions from agencies by the end of 2022," reports Adam Mazmanian in this analysis of NARA's new draft strategic plan. (Federal Computer Week)
  • USDA launches new mobile app to help employees answer ethics questions. The app, which began development last December, "guides employees through ethical dilemmas using a comprehensive library of quick-hit video and text summaries of government ethics and Hatch Act rules. The app runs on both Apple and Android devices, and also provides contact information for ethics advisers at the agency." (Government Executive)
  • EPA facing a spate of FOIA lawsuits. The Southern Environmental Law Center, "on Wednesday became the latest outsider to take the Environmental Protection Agency to court over its alleged lax compliance with Freedom of Information Act obligations." (Government Executive)

save the dates

  • September 11th and 12th: Civic Tech Fest and 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. The agenda is up now and you have until July 21st to sign up for early bird tickets!
  • September 13th: Civic and Gov Tech Showcase in San Jose, California. "Innovate Your State, in partnership with Microsoft and the City of San Jose, is bringing the 3nd Annual Civic & Gov Tech Showcase to the Capitol of Silicon Valley. The Civic & Gov Tech Showcase is an opportunity to connect with civic minded entrepreneurs, potential investors, and government leaders to showcase the great work that is being done to improve government and governance. The goal of the event is to encourage collaboration and the support of new technologies to improve government and public participation." Learn more and get your tickets here.
  • September 14th – 16th: Digital Humanities and Data Journalism Symposium, in Miami, Florida. "Digital humanists and data journalists face common challenges, opportunities, and goals, such as how to communicate effectively with the public. They use similar software tools, programming languages, and techniques, and they can learn from each other. Join us for lectures and tutorials about shared data types, visualization methods, and data communication — including text visualization, network diagrams, maps, databases and data wrangling. In addition to the scheduled content, there will be opportunities for casual conversation and networking." Learn more and register here.
  • September 26th: Data Transparency 2017, in Washington, DC. Hosted by the Data Foundation, "Data Transparency 2017 is Washington's largest open data event, bringing together government leaders, transparency advocates, and the technology industry to explore how technology can transform government, compliance, and the private sector." Learn more and get your tickets here.
  • September 28th: Powering Sustainable Development with Access to Information, Paris, France. "The 'IPDCtalks' will be held to highlight and elaborate on the importance of Access to Information for all sustainable development efforts around the world. It will consist of a series of attractive and dynamic talks from global public leaders, top journalists, young intellectuals and community leaders. While some of the speakers will elaborate on the key role of Access to Information for the achievement of a particular Sustainable Development Goal, others will reflect on the essential role of Access to Information for our society and future." You can learn more and request an invitation on the event website. If you're interested, but can't attend the event will be broadcast live on the web.
  • October 13th – 14th: 2017 FOI Summit, Nashville, Tennessee. "Music City USA becomes home for NFOIC, state FOI coalitions and open government advocates for the 2017 FOI Summit on Friday and Saturday, October 13-14, 2017.The National Freedom of Information Coalition (NFOIC) and our host, the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government will convene the annual summit at the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University." You can learn more and register here


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