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

June 25, 2015 9:14 AM

Tim Draper wants to make California county governments more transparent — and the venture capitalist said Wednesday that he will spend up to $500,000 to make it happen.

Draper’s nonprofit, Innovate Your State, will provide a year’s subscription to the first California counties that subscribe to OpenGov, a Redwood City startup that creates visualizations of financial data and provides analysis software for local governments. A breakdown of each department’s budget shows up on OpenGov, making it easier for the public to look in on financial priorities. Draper estimates that a year of OpenGov will cost between $10,000 and $50,000, depending on the size of the county.  Continue>>>


April 20, 2015 1:58 PM

Ohio is going to unprecedented levels with its new open government initiative. In a partnership with OpenGov, the state aspires to make all financial information available to the public – from all localities. The data will provide citizens with “checkbook-level spending data to every city, town, school district, and other local governing entity in the state – 3,962 of them in total,” OpenGov said in its announcement.

Armed with this data, citizens can track their tax dollars like never before. While Ohio had already released certain financial information on its open data platform – – the new initiative seeks to make available financial data from every level of local government.

“Ohioans have a right to see how their tax money is being spent at every level of government,” Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel stated. “I am calling on cities, counties, townships and schools to open the books and post their checkbooks on My vision is to create an army of citizen watchdogs who are empowered to hold public officials accountable.” Continue>>>

June 14, 2013 9:24 AM

From Government Technology:  In recent years, many state and local governments have put effort into open data projects that would inspire developers to create apps and find ways to use public data to bring value to their communities. So news of PRISM, the National Security Agency’s (NSA) online spying tool leaked by former CIA employee Edward Snowden, angered a lot of people and began a debate about the role of open data.

Most people don’t like being spied on, but today the extent of PRISM’s capabilities is cloudy. Some reports say PRISM, which costs $20 million annually to operate, creates a copy of absolutely everything online. Not everyone agrees that this is the case, as it would require cooperation from companies like Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Microsoft, AOL and Apple, whose officials have come forward denying cooperation. But others point out that the same law that may require those companies to cooperate with the NSA may prohibit them from coming clean about their involvement.


June 14, 2013 9:19 AM

Opinion from Nextgov:  Perhaps it’s the constrained fiscal reality, punctuated by threats of government shut-downs. Or maybe it’s the ideological wars in Washington, playing out most recently in the battle over privacy and security sparked by revelations about the PRISM surveillance program. Whatever the reasons, the public sector in the 21st century gets a bad rap. As Tim O’Reilly, the founder of O’Reilly Media, has said, government is seen by legions of citizens from coast to coast as a bloated and inefficient ATM that takes in taxes and delivers mediocre services in return. Even a muscular liberal like Paul Krugman of The New York Times calls the federal bureaucracy “an insurance company with an army.”

But a new movement, spurred by digital and social activism, is taking root to renovate and redefine the public sector.


June 12, 2013 2:02 PM

From IT News Online:  STERLING, Va., June 12, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- The New York City Comptroller announced at the Personal Democracy Forum press conference that Checkbook NYC, a financial transparency tool developed by REI Systems, is now open-sourced and available for download by other city and state governments.

Checkbook NYC is an online financial transparency website that provides up-to-date information about New York City's revenues, expenditures, contracts, payroll, and budget. The website provides unprecedented access to NYC government financial data, enabling citizens to track how NYC spends its $70 billion annual budget. Built on the Drupal open source content management platform, Checkbook NYC's data warehouse is updated daily, contains more than 50 million financial transactions, and is growing at a rate of approximately two million transactions per month. A comprehensive national study, conducted by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG), ranked Checkbook NYC as one of the top transparency websites in the country. "We built this for a simple reason: shining a bright light on government spending helps root out waste and ensures that tax dollars are spent wisely," said NYC Comptroller, John C. Liu.


June 11, 2013 11:56 AM

From Forbes:  Ashoka UK Communications Manager Felicity McLean (@flickmclean) caught up with three leading social entrepreneurs to chat about whether technology can and does open up governments, and if online communities can serve to transform societal interaction and cohesion for the better.

How can technology make your government more open? “At its purest, technology can sponsor transparency and empower citizens,” said Emma Jane Cross, the founder BeatBullying and the online community powerhouse The BB Group. “It can fight corruption, strengthen governance, encourage democracy, and protect the voiceless, the disempowered and ignored.”


June 10, 2013 2:11 PM

From FCS:  On Jan. 21, 2009, President Barack Obama's very first executive memorandum declared a commitment to "transparency and open government." Those principles led to the Digital Government Strategy, an open-data initiative and — a repository that launched in May 2009 with 47 datasets and now offers more than 400,000.

As the sheer volume of data suggests, agencies have focused mainly on being producers of open data. In December 2009, the Office of Management and Budget gave each agency 45 days to publish "at least three high-value [datasets] not previously available," and many have gone on to share exponentially more. As of May 21, the Transportation Department had posted 1,953 datasets. The Census Bureau has uploaded some 239,000 geodata resources, and the Executive Office of the President has added 150 batches of data to the mix.


May 3, 2012 4:35 PM

From Rapid City Journal:

Chadron’s efforts to hire a city manager have extended well in to 2012 after former city manager Sandra Powell resigned in October 2011. At the most recent city council meeting, the local news media was accused of interfering in the process. It’s not the first time the issue has been brought forth.

May 3, 2012 4:34 PM

From Woodbury Bulletin:

The South Washington County School Board violated state law in its handling of Superintendent Mark Porter’s final performance evaluation, according to a state opinion.

The nonbinding opinion sought by the South Washington County Bulletin concluded that the District 833 School Board violated the state’s Open Meeting Law when it did not publicly summarize its evaluation of Porter at a meeting immediately following the closed-door workshop used to conduct that evaluation.

May 3, 2012 4:33 PM

From Detroit News:

Lansing—The state Court of Appeals on Thursday heard oral arguments in four cases in which lower courts ruled financial review teams appointed under Public Act 4 violated the Open Meetings Act.

Two of the cases were filed by activist Robert Davis against the Detroit Financial Review Team. A similar case was filed against the Detroit team by AFCME activist Edward McNeil. The fourth case was filed against the Flint financial review team.

May 3, 2012 4:33 PM


The Michigan Court of Appeals is hearing arguments in cases related to troubled city finances in Detroit and Flint. The issue is whether the state review teams that looked at the books in both cities should have met in public.

Lower court judges ruled that they must meet the requirements of the Open Meetings Act. The court will hear arguments Thursday. A decision will be released at a later date.

May 3, 2012 4:32 PM

From Aiken Standard:

COLUMBIA, S.C.—The South Carolina House approved a bill Thursday strengthening the state's open records law.

The bill approved 101-1 a bill barring public agencies, governments and school districts from charging excessive fees for public records and requiring them to respond more quickly. It also removes legislators' exemption from the law.

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