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Tag Archive: Hack for Western Mass

OpenGov Voices: Hack the Budget! (or try to)

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed by the guest blogger and those providing comments are theirs alone and do not reflect the opinions of the Sunlight Foundation or any employee thereof. Sunlight Foundation is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information within the guest blog.

This is a guest post from Anthony Holley, a member of the intrepid Hack for Western Mass team that spent the weekend of June 1 trying to track money reported in USASpending.gov back to the federal budget. Anthony is a writer living and working in Amherst, MA. He is interested in helping good non-profits grow so that they can do their best work.

Advocacy groups like the Sunlight Foundation and National Priorities Project have long lamented the state of data gathered on USAspending.gov, which remains the key, searchable data repository for those interested in learning about and educating others on our federal spending. Individual federal agencies are responsible for reporting their expenditures to USAspending.gov in the interest of contributing to an open, transparent government. A working group at the Western Massachusetts Civic Day of Hacking sought to reconcile the information on USAspending.gov with the information in the budget appendix, published by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), keeping in mind that true transparency means being able to track expenditures from the budget to USAspending.gov. A group of computer programmers, data managers, and political activists got together to work on this problem over the weekend of June 1 and 2. What we found was that this goal was at least very difficult, and perhaps impossible, to achieve.

We started by looking at the data on the OMB website to see if we could parse it for useful identifiers that we could then match up with the data on USAspending.gov. The data on the OMB website turns out to be particularly user unfriendly for these purposes, presented in XML and PDF formats that are not easy to search by category. Each section of the budget has a Treasury ID, so we took that as our starting point for trying to match expenditures listed on the budget with USASpending.gov.

Hack for Western Mass

Hack for Western Mass team. Photo credit: Molly McLeod

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OpenGov Voices: Beyond the Big City: Think Federally, Hack Locally

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed by the guest blogger and those providing comments are theirs alone and do not reflect the opinions headshot-croppedof the Sunlight Foundation or any employee thereof. Sunlight Foundation is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information within the guest blog.

Becky Sweger is the Director of Data and Technology at National Priorities Project. NPP is a non-partisan, non-profit organization dedicated to making the U.S. transparent and accessible so people can prioritize and influence how their tax dollars are spent. You can reach her at bsweger@nationalpriorities.org

Hack for Western Mass is happening at UMass Amherst on June 1-2—one of over 80 Hack for Change events happening across the country. We hope you’ll join us at UMass Amherst as we bring the first-ever civic hackathon to Western Massachusetts.

Isn’t Western Mass in the middle of nowhere? Can’t you just hack in Boston?

National Priorities Project (NPP), a national federal budget research organization, has long thought about how our local community can benefit from the open data and civic hacking movements that are quickly gaining worldwide momentum. We attend events all over the country, and as transparency champions, we applaud when DC hacks its municipal code, Philly gets a Chief Data Officer, and Chicago starts posting data on Github.

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