FOI Advocate Blog

The NFOIC open government blog is a compendium of original concepts and analysis as well as ideas, edited excerpts and materials from a variety of sources. When the information comes from another source, we will attribute it and provide a link. The blog relies on the accuracy and integrity of the original sources cited; we will correct errors and inaccuracies when we become aware of them.

For Advocate posts prior to July, 2011, visit

July 28, 2015 10:44 AM

Here's something that ought to earn the Sunlight Foundation several shots of Pappy Van Winkle: a new open data tool that makes it easier than ever to have a look at the inner workings of Pennsylvania's state legislature.

Open States aggregates all the legislative data pertaining to the Pennsylvania General Assembly, including the nearly 3,000 bills that have been introduced so far — and the 47 bills that have been approved by Governor Tom Wolf — in this year's regular session.  Continue>>>


July 27, 2015 10:00 AM

Governor Terry McAuliffe announced that Virginia state government and the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Business will again work together on data re-engineering internships to explore the use of data to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of state government.

In the 2014-2015 school year, the data internship program’s first, 45 graduate students and more than 20 state agencies participated. Those internships have resulted in tangible dollar savings and improved agency processes. Student/agency teams have worked on successful projects, such as improving how the state prices and sells its goods and services, and more efficiently matching citizens to benefits when they enroll.  Continue>>>


July 24, 2015 11:11 AM

Three more cities now have real-time public transportation information available to their commuters, without having to develop or maintain the mobile apps themselves. All it took was improved open data, and some serious collaboration with some civic-minded coders.

All three cities -- Chattanooga, Tenn., Baltimore, and Cleveland  --  are now served by Transit App, which uses open public transportation data to display all local transport options and departure times instantly in 99 cities worldwide. Users can view bus schedules and arrivals, metro rail maps and departures, request service from Uber, plan a bicycle trip with viewable bike paths and more.  Continue>>>


July 17, 2015 8:52 AM

The administration is planning an emphasis on making open data more accessible to the broader public in its annual update to the city's open data plan.

The annual update on July 15 is a key component of the city's open data law passed in 2012, and this year marks the first update under chief analytics officer Amen Ra Mashariki, who assumed his position last fall.  Continue>>>


July 17, 2015 8:47 AM

Nine localities — at  both the city and county level — have committed to a set of open data building and construction permit standards, a move primed to boost insights into the housing market and propel civic app development.

On July 15, an alliance of cities, counties and companies from the civic tech and real-estate industries announced the Building and Land Development Specification 1.0. (BLDS, pronounced as “builds”) open data standard. Continue>>>


July 10, 2015 1:51 PM

With considerable discussion and side events expected next week at the Financing for Development Conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on the importance of transparency and open data, it is worth noting recent improvement within our own government that strengthens our voice on data transparency.

USAID, the principal U.S. development agency, while more accustomed to using data than most U.S. foreign affairs agencies, has been unexpectedly slow on the uptake on data transparency. But uptake has now occurred.  Continue>>>


July 7, 2015 8:53 AM

While California may be home to some of the most aggressively forward-thinking tech companies in the world, that enthusiasm for innovation hasn’t carried over to the public sector. State and local governments have been frustratingly slow to make public data available online. There hasn’t been anything close to a statewide standard, leaving individual agencies to voluntarily develop open data policies, often in an inconsistent and piecemeal fashion, or not at all.  

That would change if the California legislature passes two bills, S.B. 573 and S.B. 272, which would put state and local government bodies respectively on the path to open data.  Continue>>>


June 30, 2015 1:13 PM

As the executive branch of the United States government quietly works on creating an official open source policy, the legislative branch is also moving into the 21st century: Open source software is now officially permitted in the U.S. House of Representatives. That means software developed in the People's House with taxpayer funds will eventually be available to the people. According to the nonpartisan OpenGov Foundation, there will soon be an Open Source Caucus in Congress.

For those unfamiliar with the concept, "open source" means the code behind the software can be viewed, accessed or modified by anyone. Four years ago, moved to Drupal, an open source content management system, but this is a much more significant shift.  Continue>>>


June 24, 2015 1:57 PM

The buzzword of the moment among local leaders is “open government,” and chief information officers are attempting to make the hype a reality. In the Center for Digital Government’s 2014 Digital Cities and Counties surveys, one of the top priorities for CIOs at the local level was “open government/transparency/open data.”

Yet, despite the strategic focus on open data, a recent Pew survey on views about open government found that only 7 percent of Americans think local governments share data effectively.  Continue>>>


June 15, 2015 9:59 AM

The New York State Freedom of Information Law states:

"The legislature hereby finds that a free society is maintained when government is responsive and responsible to the public, and when the public is aware of governmental actions. The more open a government is with its citizenry, the greater the understanding and participation of the public in government."

While this statement is a great ideal, freedom of information does not equal open data. Recently, I was searching for property data on a public website in a particular county in New York State. I was able to find what I was looking for, but rather than being available in a format that would have been easily portable or open it was instead embedded in a word processing document. Continue>>>


June 14, 2015 3:36 PM

Wondering how much the city spent on road salt this winter? Interested in the expenses for keeping up the city's parks?

That information will soon be at your fingertips.

Stow has decided to become a pioneer in Summit County by becoming the first entity to participate in the state treasurer's Government Transparency Program.  Continue>>>


June 12, 2015 2:58 PM

Today, the State Department released the FY 2015 Fiscal Transparency Report pursuant to section 7031(b)(3) of the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2015 (Div. J, P.L.113-235). 

The Department evaluated the public availability, substantial completeness, and reliability of budget documents, as well as the transparency of processes for awarding government contracts and licenses for natural resource extraction.  The report can be found on the Department’s website  Continue>>>


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