Two of us from the OpenGovernment team — Carl and I, hi hi — are heading down to the lovely city of Austin today to attend the SxSW Interactive conference. There, we’ll present OpenGovernment as one of eights Finalists in the News category of the Accelerator contest — we look forward to meeting the other nominees, the judges, and taking in a rush of interesting presentations.
Now seems a good time to take stock of OpenGovernment since this early version launched seven weeks ago: what we have with this (still-in-its-infancy) open-source / #opengov project, and what we need (both short- and medium-term) as we seek to roll it out nationally to all 50 U.S. state legislatures.
What We Have To Work With (So Far — In Part, and In Summary) ::
The Open States Project, a volunteer-driven project coordinated by our partner organization, Sunlight Labs — providing standardized data of official legislative information from U.S. state governments, in open standards & via a free API. Five states already released and more are queued-up to launch on the march to data libre for 50 U.S. states.
GovKit — the open-source software that powers OpenGovernment.org. Put simply, GovKit is an API wrapper that brings together all the disparate data streams on the site: official government information (from the Open States Project), news coverage, blog posts, social media mentions, campaign contribution data, issue group analysis, and more. GovKit was designed to be remix-friendly for other open-government data sources from any locale: state, city, neighborhood, internationally, and more.
OpenGovernment.org – the free, libre, and open-source website for civic engagement, taking the proven OpenCongress model of government transparency down to more local levels. Released in a beta version on January 18th, 2011 as a joint project of PPF & Sunlight, OpenGovernment is a non-partisan and not-for-profit public resource that enables individuals and organizations to track and share what’s happening in their state legislatures. The “OG” web app displays all of GovKit’s uniquely-aggregated info — including bills, votes, issues, and legislators — alongside money-in-politics data, free public participation tools, and a more user-friendly web design. Currently, this beta version of the site contains info for five state legislatures — CA, LA, MD, TX, and WI — and we’re actively seeking non-profit funding support to roll out to the remaining 45 U.S. states and dozens of major cities.
What We Seek (Shorter-Term)
If you’re a web developer or programmer, we always welcome open-source web development time to take OpenGovernment out of beta and add core features, e.g. a non-commercial API providing access to all the user-generated data on the site. Check out our Developer Hub.
If you’re a political blogger or state-level activist, you’re invited to help evangelize this new tool by linking to our pages and simply using our free tools to track, share, and comment on everything you care about in your state capitol.
If you’re a college or university student, apply to be a summer intern with PPF in our shared New York City office. Working directly alongside our tiny non-profit team, you’ll help manage the OpenCongress and OpenGovernment user communities, as well as conduct research on legislative topics of interest to you for blog posts and do outreach over social media. For more info on our flexible volunteer internship positions, see this post on the OC Blog, and to apply, email me: david at ppolitics d0t org.
What We Seek (Medium-Term)
If you’re a philanthropist or affiliated with a charitable foundation, we’re actively seeking non-profit funding support to maintain our public-mission project and make it an even more powerful tool for accountable government. Contact us anytime to start a conversation about how this free-for-everyone online resource meets your giving interests or can enhance the work already being done in your program areas. Please feel free to email us for our full 501(c)3-non-profit funding prospectus for OpenGovernment : david at ppolitics d0t org.
Overall, it’s still very early in OpenGovernment’s life on the open Web, but we have a solid development roadmap and an inherently collaborative workflow, with several dedicated (and greatly-appreciated) volunteer developers submitting code contributions every week. We’ll keep building, hope you’ll keep using it to connect with hot bills in state legislatures. More yet to come on what people are already following on the site and key votes we already have in-hand in the most-social, most-user-friendly interface on the Web for this valuable public data. Let us know what you think as we work on moving OG out of beta — at left, David, and at right, Carl, we’re easy to find & eager to chat about our public-mission work.