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Tag Archive: Open Gov

Which of Your Local Candidates Support Transparency?

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In anticipation of this year’s local elections, many open government advocacy groups have surveyed local candidates on open data issues and shared the results in hopes of informing and mobilizing citizens to vote for candidates that are committed to transparency. We’ve seen open data questionnaires conducted around North America this fall for a variety of motivating factors, including: To Fight Past Corruption, To Foster New Open Data Initiatives—or simply—To Maintain Current Open Data Momentum. This trend of open data surveys is indicative of a widespread interest in transparency issues this election season, and with a growing number local governments adopting administratively-sensitive open data laws, a trend we likely see more of in the future.

Below we have rounded up a mini-landscape of open data candidate questionnaires distributed this election season.

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Oakland’s Public Participation Route to Open Data Legislation

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Steve Spiker and Eddie Tejeda (open data policy organizers) sharing OpenOakland’s work at East Bay Mini Maker Faire. Oakland passed an open data law earlier this month (October 15, 2013) that was generated by the people and for the people. Open Oakland captain Steve Spiker (Spike) gathered the Open Oakland and broader open government community to draft and chat the best open data policy for Oakland. Spike and Open Oakland, in addition to garnering support for the open data policy, cultivated the policy from start to finish through drafting, public comments, a call to experts, and [teleconferenced] public meetings. Open Oakland serves as an excellent example of the community's role in generating open data policy, and their public input process is an exemplar route to  incorporating public perspectives into policy. The Sunlight Foundation's Guideline to incorporating public perspective into policy implementation reads as follows:

Implementing the details of an open data policy will benefit from public participation. Open data policies not only have effects government-wide, which will require consideration, but also have consequences for a variety of stakeholder groups outside of the government. Allowing these groups to participate in the decision-making process (and make real contributions) can have great benefits for policy creation and execution. Stakeholders and experts can bring to the table valuable new perspectives that highlight challenges or opportunities that might not otherwise be obvious. Formal mechanisms for collaboration can include hearings, draft proposals open for public comment and contribution, and online resources like wikis and email lists.
Below we have outlined Oakland's public input process and how it is part of a growing trend to openly include community perspective, desires, and concerns into open data policy.

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New Louisville Open Data Policy Insists Open By Default is the Future

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On Tuesday, October 15, 2013, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer announced the signing of an open data policy executive order in conjunction with his compelling talk at the 2013 Code for America Summit. In nonchalant cadence, the mayor announced his support for complete information disclosure by declaring, "It's data, man." What's more is this was one of three open data policies signed into law over the last week, the others being California’s West Sacramento and Oakland policies. (For the complete view, see our map of growing policies here.)

The Louisville policy is unique in that hits many of the Sunlight Foundation's Open Data Policy Guidelines rarely touched upon by others, including a strong "open by default" provision, and, like South Bend, IN, roots its basis for affecting the transparency of information disclosure firmly in legal precedent, in this case, the Kentucky Open Meetings and Open Records Act. Doing so further empowers it's "open by default" status. The Louisville policy also provides a clear series of checks and balances to insure information is disclosed by calling for (1) the creation of a comprehensive inventory supported by the letter of the law itself (which we have only seen in the 2013 U.S. federal policy thus far — and which has not yet been implemented), (2) a yearly open data report, and (3) built-in review of the policy itself for the ever-changing information and technology landscape ahead. We have broken out the significance and mechanics of Louisville's policy that support information disclosure further below.

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NYC’s Plan to Release All-ish of Their Data

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nycdata

On Monday, September 23rd, New York City released a plan to, as Government Technology put, open “all” its data. Pursuant to section two of Local Law 11 of 2012 (§23-506 of the Administrative Code of the City of New York) — also known as NYC’s Open Data Policy — the long awaited agency compliance plan does complete the monolithic task of  listing all NYC agency public datasets, with scheduled release times of no later than the end of 2018, but there are ways it could have been more inclusive and comprehensive.

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Your Guideline to Open Data Guidelines Pt. 1: The History

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Last summer, Sunlight released a series of Open Data Guidelines in reaction to a surge of municipal open data policy making. In anticipation of revamping these policies this summer (to add fresh context, ideas, and exemplary language) and in reaction to a recent surge in open data policy collaboration as evidenced by the interactive Project Open Data and the newly public (beta) Open Data Stack Exchange (or maybe more accurately in reaction to the Meta Open Data Stack Exchange...), we wanted to provide a roadmap to the world open data resources and recommendations that are available to put these resources in context of their evolution over time–a guideline to Open Data Guidelines, if you will. The first step in navigating the open data guidelines out there is to examine the chronology of how they surfaced.

The timeline below provides a landscape of current open data policy guidelines, guidance, and principles that exist and showcases the chronology in which they have manifested, each guideline often directly building off of (or crafted in reaction to) its predecessor. Looking at these guidelines in context exposes the pragmatic and technical evolutions in thought that have occurred under the banner of open data pursuit: from the foundational drive to define what information is legally available (through FOIA and other public records laws) to the trailblazing concept of proactive disclosure (where "public" access means "online" access) to establishing the qualities that make data more accessible and usable (emphasizing structured, bulk data, unique IDs, and APIs). The dialogue for discussing open data policy guidelines has itself evolved from the gathering of smaller open government groups of: Open House Project, Open Government Working Group, the Open Government Initiative, and early collaborative efforts such as the Open Gov Handbook, to the editable Project Open Data and the Q&A Open Data Stack Exchange.

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Why Aren’t There More Open Data Startups?

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It's a question I'm seeing asked more and more: by press, by Gov 2.0 advocates, and by the online public. Those of us excited by the possibilities of open data have promised great things. So why is BrightScope the only government data startup that anyone seems to talk about?

I think it's important that those of us who value open data be ready with an answer to this question. But part of that answer needs to address the misperceptions built into the query itself.

There Are Lots of Open Data Businesses

BrightScope is a wonderful example of a business that sells services built in part on publicly available data. They've gotten a lot of attention because they started up after the Open Government Directive, after data.gov -- after Gov 2.0 in general -- and can therefore be pointed to as a validation of that movement.

But if we want to validate the idea of public sector information (PSI) being useful foundations for businesses *in general*, we can expand our scope considerably. And if we do, it's easy to find companies that are built on government data: there are databases of legal decisions, databases of patent information, medicare data, resellers of weather data, business intelligence services that rely in part on SEC data, GIS products derived from Census data, and many others.

Some of these should probably be free, open, and much less profitable than they currently are*. But all of them are examples of how genuinely possible it is to make money off of government data. It's not all that surprising that many of the most profitable uses of PSI emerged before anyone started talking about open data's business potential. That's just the magic of capitalism! This stuff was useful, and so people found it and commercialized it. The profit motive meant that nobody had to wait around for people like me to start talking about open formats and APIs. There are no doubt still efficiencies to be gained in improving and opening these systems, but let's not be shocked if a lot of the low-hanging commercial fruit turns out to have already been picked.

Still, surely there are more opportunities out there. A lot of new government data is being opened up. Some of it must be valuable... right?

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