Sunshine Week shed a stark light on the state of open government in Washington


Washington, DC is a study in contrasts in open government. As a city, the District of Columbia is taking more steps toward data transparency although the future of its Office of Open Government remains unclear. At the same time, the Trump administration has set a new low bar for transparency, accountability, and ethics. Last night, our event in honor of Sunshine Week 2018 captured the state of open government in Washington, DC both as a city and as the home of the federal government. If you weren’t able to join us last night, here’s a short recap of the talks and panel conversations, followed by a video of the entire event.

Why transparency matters in 2018

Sunlight’s deputy director Alex Howard started off the night and brought everyone together around the idea that transparent, accountable government matters — particularly today.

One of the reasons why transparency matters today more than ever is that in many places around the globe, government corruption is severely destabilizing. Sunlight executive director John Wonderlich set the evening’s conversation within a broader context of transparent government as a worldwide goal.

Staff from Sunlight’s newest program, the Web Integrity Project, provided an overview of their work tracking changes to federal websites and the role of the web in today’s federal democracy.

Open data in Washington DC

Then Sunlight’s Open Cities director Stephen Larrick hosted the first panel of the evening about open data in the District of Columbia. Making data open is a way for residents to get involved in government, he explained. Joining him to discuss this was Julie Kanzler from the DC Office of the Chief Technology Officer, Peter Tatian of the Urban Institute, and Kate Rabinowitz of DataLensDC.

The panelists discussed ways that city governments can improve their delivery of services:

Panelist Peter Tatian underscored why it is important to not just publish data but help community members use it. Sunlight Open Cities’ Tactical Data Engagement approach is designed to do just that.

Open Government Partnership

We were proud to welcome the Open Government Partnership as a special guest to share their work on the Independent Reporting Mechanism for open government action plans.

Transparency at the federal level

Then to talk about transparency and accountability issues in the federal government, Alex Howard moderated a panel with Cori Zarek, President of the DC Open Government Coalition, Mozilla Fellow, and former Deputy U.S. Chief Technology Officer; Danielle Brian, Executive Director at the Project On Government Oversight; and Walter Shaub, head of the Ethics Practice at the Campaign Legal Center and former Director of the Office of Government Ethics.

Want even more? You can watch the recorded livestream of the full event here:

Sunshine Week 2018 is coming to a close, but our work fighting for transparent, accountable government that includes everyone is not. Support our work in the year ahead by making a donation to the Sunlight Foundation today. We’ll see you at Sunshine Week next year, and in the work for transparency in the months ahead.