Today in OpenGov: Connecting government


In today's overview of open government news, we look at the key role that open data will play as American communities work to rebuild following the devastation of hurricane's Irma and Harvey. We also share new research on fake news, global approaches to facts and information, and tech-powered civic engagement. 

Read on for all that, plus much more from Washington, DC, around the United States, and across the globe. 

states and cities

  • What types of state and local open data are most popular? "To start to answer these questions, we analyzed the text descriptions of open datasets from 141 cities and state governments across the country — a total of 21,000 individual open datasets — and scored them based on views and downloads to figure out which types of data are most popular." The top ten, according to this analysis by Sunlight Open Cities Fellow Nathan Zencey, include  crime reports, campaign and election data, construction and permitting information, and much more. (Sunlight Foundation)
  • Open data is key to robust disaster recovery efforts. "For public officials to effectively steer a recovery process and for citizens to trust in the effort, reliable, transparent information will be essential. Leaders and the public need a shared understanding of the scale and extent of the damage and which households, businesses and neighborhoods have been affected. This is not a one-time effort. Data must be collected and issued regularly over months and years to match the duration of the rebuilding effort." (Governing)
  • New tool using crowdsourced data to track pollution in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. "After Hurricane Harvey hit Texas, a nonprofit organization that uses satellite imagery to monitor the environment launched a tool for citizens to report pollution caused by flooding. Built on the crowdmapping platform Ushahidi, the Harvey Spill Tracker maps reports of oil, chemical, or hazardous waste spills and other incidents based on satellite images, eyewitness accounts, and National Response Center alerts." (Civicist)
  • New report offers lessons on civic tech and citizen engagement. " Next Century Cities released a playbook on tech-powered civic engagement on Thursday detailing lessons learned over the past year among its three Benton Next Generation Engagement Award winners: Austin, Louisville and Raleigh." (Route Fifty)

washington watch

Image Credit: National Parks Service
  • Bipartisan group wants to mandate mobile-friendly federal websites. "Sens. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., and Cory Gardner, R-Colo., introduced the Connected Government Act in the Senate last week.  The bill would mandate all new federal websites be mobile-friendly, and would also call upon the General Services Administration to report agency compliance to Congress within 18 months of enactment." A similar bill was introduced in the House earlier this year. (NextGov)
  • Senate self-driving car legislation includes disclosure provision. A bill being considered by the Senate "envisions the Secretary of Transportation working with industry to build a voluntary cyber vulnerability disclosure program. That program would make it easier for cybersecurity researchers to share newfound vulnerabilities with self-driving car manufacturers before they’re exploited and make it easier for companies to share cyber vulnerability information with each other." The House recently passed a similar bill that did not include disclosure provisions. (NextGov)
  • There's a surveillance fight brewing in Congress. "Congress has to extend the 2012 FISA Amendments Act, which will pit the Trump administration and national security hawks in Congress who favor a permanent reauthorization with no changes, against lawmakers of both parties, libertarians, privacy advocates and communications companies seeking to tighten protections for U.S. persons whose communications may get caught up in the wide electronic net cast by spy agencies." (Roll Call)
  • Department of Defense questions NARA's plans for digital-only archives. "The Department of Defense is pushing back on the National Archives' plan to go 100 percent digital when it comes to records management," writes Adam Mazmanian, detailing "comments filed Sept. 1, [in which] the DOD said it 'critically non-concurs' with the NARA plan to phase out analog records transfers, especially where 'special media records' such as photographs, maps, videos and audio recordings are concerned." (Federal Computer Week)
  • Federal Election Commission barely hanging on to a quorum. "President Donald Trump on Thursday nominated Republican Matthew Petersen to a federal judgeship, meaning the FEC is poised to putter on with the minimum number of commissioners — four — required to take official action on most anything of consequence," reports Dave Levinthal. The FEC could easily find itself without the quorum necessary to take significant action as several remaining commissioners have publicly discussed their plans to leave sooner rather than later.  President Trump has shown no urgency to nominate new commissioners. (Center for Public Integrity)

around the world

Image Credit: Marco Verch
  • Is the Sputnik news agency violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act? The FBI is looking into it. "he FBI recently questioned a former White House correspondent for Sputnik, the Russian-government-funded news agency, as part of an investigation into whether it is acting as an undeclared propaganda arm of the Kremlin in violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA)." (Yahoo News)
  • New research sheds light on approaches to facts and information. The survey, conducted by the Pew Research Center digs into five dimensions of "people’s engagement with information and finds that a couple of elements particularly stand out when it comes to their enthusiasm: their level of trust in information sources and their interest in learning, particularly about digital skills." We think the research, particularly its findings on people's wish lists for key information aids, shows why nations, states & cities should invest in libraries, Web access, digital skills education, and information literacy. 
  • Tagging fake news on Facebook doesn't help fight it, according to new research. "Facebook touts its partnership with outside fact-checkers as a key prong in its fight against fake news, but" as Jason Schwartz reports, "a major new Yale University study finds that fact-checking and then tagging inaccurate news stories on social media doesn’t work." (POLITICO)

Defending Democracy

Democracy is a fragile experiment, as people around the globe have learned over the centuries. Once a country has achieved self-determination as a republic, of and by the people, that public must strive to keep and defend it. This fall, Sunlight will be participating in a series of conversations that share the experiences of reformers and democracy advocates, helping our global community to "learn from other countries’ experience in addressing the challenges that present themselves when elected leaders wield powers in ways that serve their own rather than the public’s interest." 

Learn more via our friends at Global Integrity.

save the dates

  • 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. [UPDATE: Due to Hurricane Irma the symposium has been canceled]"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."
  • September 19th, 1:00 pm EST: Tactical Data Engagement Kickoff Discussion, Webinar. Join the Sunlight Foundation for the official launch of Tactical Data Engagement, a guide to help cities facilitate the impactful use of open data by collaborating with communities. As part of the launch we’ll be hosting a kickoff conversation about the guide and the tactical engagement process. Join us on September 19 at 1 PM EDT for a free webinar. Hear from Sunlight's Open Cities experts, who have worked with dozens of cities on the ideas outlined in the guide. Participants are welcome and encouraged to bring questions about the ways open data could be used to help solve their own city's challenges. Register for the Webinar here
  • September 23rd: Populist Plutocrats, lessons from around the world, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. "This one-day conference, co-sponsored by Harvard Law School and the Stigler Center, will focus on an important and dangerous political phenomenon: the “populist plutocrat.” The populist plutocrat is a leader who exploits the cultural and economic grievances of poorer, less-educated voters against traditional elites in order to achieve and retain power, but who, once in office, seem substantially or primarily interested in enriching him- or herself, along with a relatively small circle of family members, cronies, and allies." Learn more 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 on the event website. If you're interested, but can't attend the event will be broadcast live on the web.
  • September 28th – 30th: CityCampNC, Raleigh, North Carolina. "CityCampNC, part of NC Open Pass, is an annual event that brings citizens, public servants, academia, and businesses together to openly innovate and improve our communities in partnership with government." This year, Sunlight's Open Cities Director Stephen Larrick will be giving the keynote address at CityCampNC. Learn more and register to attend here
  • 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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