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Where’s the G8 Open Data Charter Action Plan?

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G8 FlickrEarlier this year the United States, along with the other G8 countries, signed on to an Open Data Charter. The document represented a high-level, international commitment to open data and transparency. It committed G8 countries to five important open data principles, including making open data the default. The document required signatories to release action plans for implementing the Charter by the end of October. Thanks to a tip from our friends at the German chapter of the Open Knowledge Foundation we've found that, so far, only Britain and Italy have released their full plans (Japan has a draft plan available). There has been no talk, that we can find, about the U.S. action plan.

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Open Data’s Business Value Isn’t That Important

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The recent Open Government Partnership meetings in London have provided a good opportunity to assess the direction of our community. The latest comes from Jonathan Gray, and the title -- Open government should be about accountability and social justice, not the digital economy -- more or less speaks for itself.

I agree with Jonathan's diagnosis of distinct strains within the open government data community. But I don't think they have to be in tension. I've argued before that a big tent is beneficial to us all -- that blurring the lines between open data for accountability and open data for economic development can serve both constituencies' needs. After all, the great thing about open information is that its supply is limitless.

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OGP: Opportunities and Limitations

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OGP2It’s been two years since the Open Government Partnership (OGP) was first announced. As Sunlight shares recommendations for the US’s OGP National Action Plan, we’re looking forward to attending and participating in the upcoming summit in London. OGP has demonstrated explosive growth, with the initial 8 founding countries expanding to 60 in a very short time, and more likely to be announced soon. This rapid expansion is an affirmation of government officials’ desire to grapple with transparency issues, and demonstrates an appetite -- particularly from the public --  for “open government” and making it more accessible to the people it serves. OGP has been important in helping governments move in that direction, particularly Brazil’s passing a new FOI law and the US committing to implement the EITI. OGP itself has been quite open in discussing its limitations, and no doubt there will be more of that at the next meeting. But it’s important, in advance of the upcoming summit, to offer a few observations about OGP’s structural limitations to provide context for the new national action plans.

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Suggestions for the OGP National Action Plan

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OGP

The Obama Administration is expected to release the second version of its Open Government Partnership National Action Plan this fall.  The Open Government Partnership (OGP) is the primary multi-national initiative for open government, founded in 2011. The original US plan, released on September 20, 2011, covered a lot of ground, but also suffered a lack of detail and ignored several of the most pressing transparency issues. (Both money in politics and national security went uncovered.)

Given the US’s leadership role in the world (and in OGP), and the variety of issues the country faces, we hope the US National Action Plan will demonstrate how an administration can use transparency reform to help address some of the most fundamental challenges it faces.

The following are four Sunlight priorities for the upcoming US National Action Plan, and are priorities that we’ve often repeated to White House officials in our work.

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Mapping the Global Transparency Ecosystem: Crowdsourcing for Clarity

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In advocacy, knowing who your friends are is half the battle. With this in mind, Sunlight Foundation has gone about compiling and curating a list of international organizations working on open government issues in their own countries or regions, an effort that brings a touch of clarity to an unwieldy transparency ecosystem. The spreadsheet can be viewed here and any organization or project that is missing from the list is encouraged to fill out this brief survey. While Sunlight may be taking the lead here, we see this as a project that is by the community and for the community -- so please contribute!

After several months of gathering information from transparency-related organizations, our repository was made public in late May and was received with enthusiasm by many members of the community. Since its launch, over 40 organizations from every corner of the globe have requested that their work be included. We were happy to add them to the list and are excited to continue to hear from new organizations and new projects. We know there are a number of groups doing incredible work that are still not included on this list and we hope to hear from those organizations very soon.

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