Promoting transparency is one of the core principles of

Smart Incentives, so I spent a day last weekend at Transparency Camp, sponsored by

the Sunlight Foundation.

As the web site says, Transparency Camp helps share

knowledge about how to use new technologies and policies to make government

work for the people and to help people work smarter with our government.  Code

for America and CityCamp

are two initiatives that have spun out of the program.

So, what did I learn at #TCamp2013?

  • There is still a lot of work to do to promote transparency

    at the state and local government levels, but groups large and small are

    chipping away at it.

  • Most of the opengov work focuses on existing data sets that

    already use standardized systems for collecting and reporting on data – or

    “structured, machine-readable data.”  For

    example, there appear to be many tools analyzing political contributions at one

    end of the spectrum and property data at the other end because the data are

    already collected and kept in a structured way.

  • A huge part of what opengov people need to do now is

    “unlock” data from paper archives and records, PDFs, Microsoft products, and

    other legacy systems so that it can be analyzed, repackaged and distributed in

    useful ways.

  • It does not appear that economic development information is

    included in the big opengov/opendata initiatives in places like New York

    and Philadelphia – or

    anywhere else, for that matter.

  • Google.org has provided $2.1 million in funding to the

    Sunlight Foundation “to grow their programs for open government data, with a

    focus on making civic information for US cities transparent, available and

    useable.”  They’ve also funded mySociety

    to make it easier to launch apps using this data.

In the near-term, I don’t see a great deal of overlap

between economic development and the opengov movement, but I expect the tools

and concepts to migrate over time into our field. 

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