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

August 25, 2015 11:44 AM

Earlier this month, the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts sued the Boston Police Department, demanding that they turn over recent years' data on police stops to address concerns that people of color are being overpoliced in the city.

"It's true that we already know enough to implement serious reform," emails Matthew R. Segal, legal director at the Massachusetts ACLU. "But it's equally true that police departments and public officials can be resistant to reform, and getting more current data could help to overcome that resistance." Continue>>>


August 19, 2015 9:44 AM

WHAT: Push, Pull and Spill: A Transdisciplinary Case Study in Municipal Open Government, a report by the University of Washington School of Law.

WHY: The push to open more government data at state and local levels led a cross-disciplinary team of researchers to assess open government efforts in Seattle. The analysis explored the city’s open data procedures, and their implications for privacy, public trust and citywide impact.  Continue>>>


August 17, 2015 12:13 PM

When the conversation turns to government and technology, all too frequently the narrative becomes one of hopelessness., the ancient computer sitting on the desk at the DMV, and the recent attacks by hackers on various government departments all help to reinforce this story of futility. And, inevitably, the questions get framed as, “Why can’t government be more like”—insert your favorite technology company here, Google, Apple, Amazon, etc.  Continue>>>


August 14, 2015 10:55 AM

The five finalists in the Census Bureau’s open data challenge showcased their apps during the bureau’s first ever National Demo Day on Aug. 13, highlighting how they used open data from the census to tackle a multitude of social problems.

During the webinar presentation, Census Bureau CTO Avi Bender Commerce Department Chief Data Officer Ian Kalin said they hoped federal agencies would take note of the solutions.  Continue>>>


August 10, 2015 11:26 AM

During City Council’s priority-setting retreat this spring, it asked staff to develop an open data program. Our chief information officer, Dan Coldiron, jumped at the chance and is developing a new initiative in Fort Collins called “OpenCity.”

The city of Fort Collins values transparency and community engagement. The organization demonstrated those values in 2009 with a fairly bold move, making our expense records available online through our Open Book application. We weren’t sure what to expect, because it was sort of like opening your checkbook up to all of your friends and neighbors.  Continue>>>


August 7, 2015 12:07 PM

The National Democratic Institute is has announced the launch of the Open Election Data Initiative. The goal of the initiative is to ensure that citizen groups have access to election data that can give a true picture of an election process, including how candidates are certified, how and which voters are registered, what happens on election day, whether results are accurate, and how complaints are resolved.

The initiative,, adapts open data principles that are designed to enhance government transparency in other areas, such as service delivery, to elections.  Continue>>>


August 7, 2015 12:00 PM

RALEIGH — There are some really good things on the table as the budget conferees discuss, debate, compromise, and finalize North Carolina’s government spending for the next two years. 

Allocating more than $22 billion each year in General Fund revenue is a big deal. Adding money from the federal government and other sources, state spending each year becomes a $50 billion big deal.  Continue>>>


August 6, 2015 11:02 AM

In April, we told you about our involvement in the What Works Cities Initiative, a three-year, nationwide program to accelerate the use of data and evidence in cities across the U.S. funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies. The program leverages the expertise of five different data-focused organizations to bring guidance and best practices to mid-sized cities. Today, Sunlight is thrilled to be able to tell our readers more about the first round of cities receiving technical support from Sunlight and our team of partners.  Continue>>>


August 5, 2015 11:00 AM

The passage of the DATA Act last year brought with it a new set of mandates for government agencies to bring more of their spending data online, in a common format, to achieve a fuller picture of where public money is being spent.

The Treasury Department and OMB have taken the lead on implementing the law, but insiders highlighted some of the significant barriers to adoption at a recent House hearing.  Continue>>>


July 30, 2015 10:35 AM

The majority of open data portals online today are confined to information from a single city government or political jurisdiction.  For researchers, policymakers, or other data portal users, this can create problems: we know that urban landscapes are complex, interconnected places that do not exist within the bounds of a single government entity.  What if, say, I want to see a map of recent traffic accidents in Manhattan, and understand if weather conditions have an effect?  Or what if I want to see if there’s a connection in Chicago between sanitation complaints and environmental inspections?

Finding the answers to such questions is not an easy one; it would require looking at datasets from the City of New York and NOAA, and the City of Chicago and Cook County, respectively.  Each question requires an awkward compare-and-contrast between data from separate government portals.  What’s a researcher to do?  Continue>>>


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>>>


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