From Idea Lab: New technology tools, combined with raised expectations among voters and stakeholders for government transparency, have sparked a movement toward “open government.” Championed by advocacy organizations and a few high-profile elected officials, the trend seeks to promote greater accountability and responsiveness for the systems of representative democracy. An area of particular opportunity — as well as potential concern — is the growing cache of large datasets of public information now available on the Internet.
Government entities from cities to nations are making data not only public but accessible. Earlier, such data was often buried in City Hall filing cabinets, provided only after Freedom of Information Act requests, or published electronically but in cumbersome formats. Machine-readable formats allow new applications, analysis and visualizations to be developed by anyone with basic skills and an Internet connection. Datasets from many corners of government are coming online: public health and demographic information, business licenses and property ownership, campaign contributions and expenditures, crime reports, school test scores, and much more.