Knight Blog

The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Opening up City Hall with OpenGovernment.org

Oct. 3, 2012, 1:45 p.m., Posted by Participatory Politics Foundation

philadelphia

Philadelphia City Hall. Photo Credit: Flickr user MichaelRighi

Knight Foundation this week announced support for four projects that use technology to empower communities, including OpenGovernment.org, which allows people to follow issues before their city council and share views with friends and leaders.  Here, David Moore of the Participatory Politics Foundation writes about the impetus behind the project. The following is an excerpt from a blog post on OpenCongress.org.

There exists a pressing public need for more free Web tools for local civic engagement. City government is an area where informed individuals and community groups can exert effective leverage; it’s also an under-understood political arena in need of greater transparency. How many registered voters in next month’s Presidential election can name their city council members without hesitation? How about their legislative priorities, or the local issues about which their neighbors are writing the council?

Local is clearly an area where civic hackers can make an impact, as a number of new startups and non-profit allies have recognized. Participatory Politics Foundation believes it’s important to build a cultural expectation of engaged, publicly-accountable government at every level, from local up to city, county, state, and federal. Technology and open data makes this possible, towards a more accountable and participatory representative democracy.

With this next phase of development on OpenGovernment, we’re taking the popular OpenCongress model of government transparency and civic engagement down to the local level — rolling out first to Philadelphia, Penn.; San Jose, Calif.; and Washington, D.C. We chose to roll out our new engagement tools in these three cities first because each has a different #opendata source on which to build. OpenGovernment.org launched in 2011 with information for engaging with U.S. state legislatures: #opengov, #opendata, #openstandards, free-of-charge and libre-licensed and open-source and not-for-profit for the public benefit.

Along the way, we plan to expand OpenGovernment.org as an engagement tool for all 50 U.S. state legislatures, with open government data provided by the Open States project of the Sunlight Foundation. In the future, we envisiong rolling out OpenGovernment to more Knight Foundation communities – hopefully, as resources allow, to dozens more U.S. cities and municipalities as a not-for-profit, user-focused piece of civic tech infrastructure. We envision launching our first three cities publicly in spring 2013. (Stay tuned by following @open_gov on the micropublishing service.)

Read more at OpenCongress.org, and find out more about Knight Foundation's Tech for Engagement Initiative in our new report Digital Citizenship.