Keeping track of local government just got easier with today's beta launch of OpenGovernment.org, a joint project of the Sunlight Foundation and the Participatory Politics Foundation. The project is a free, open-source web application that allows users to dig into local, city and state level government with unparalleled transparency. This inaugural launch debuts with data from five state legislatures: California, Louisiana, Maryland, Texas and Wisconsin. Residents in these five states can now easily watchdog their state legislators through an online portal of public information. An engaged community is key to creating greater awareness on the importance of transparency in state and local government and infusing greater trust in our elected officials.
OpenGovernment.org will serve as a hub of local government information in a similar manner to its popular sibling that deals with the federal level, OpenCongress.org. The project pulls together official announcements, news coverage, blog posts, social media alerts and more to give a truly illustrative picture of local government. OpenGovernment also makes it easy for citizens to self-organize around issues they care being debated by state legislatures and contact their elected officials directly from bill pages. The Sunlight Labs Open States project built the legislative backend for the project with support from volunteer contributions. The Open States project collects and scrapes legislative data from all 50 state legislatures and makes it available in a unified, developer-friendly format.
As you check out this exciting new project, be sure to heed the words of David Moore, the executive director of the Participatory Politics Foundation:
This is indeed a beta version of the site, so keep in mind that we expect there to be a few kinks, and much more data & features are forthcoming. In that context, our small non-profit development team is incredibly excited to get this new project out onto the open Web and in front of people — we’ve been working on it for three-fourths of the past year in partnership with Sunlight, and we’re excited to roll it out to all 50 states and to foster a diverse (in terms of skills, time, and other) community of volunteer developers around it to remix it. There are a lot of factors involved here that really motivate us: fighting systemic corruption, liberating public data, advocating comprehensive electoral reform, facilitating peer-to-peer communication about our government, empowering citizen watchdogs — but one of the primary ones is creating user-friendly interfaces for this baffling and arcane world of legislative data.
More data and additional states and cities will be added as they become available. Please test it out and let us know what you think!