Civic Awesome: Open Data in the News for the Week of July 20, 2015

July 24, 2015 12:40 pm PST | Data as a Service

Open data finds the sweet spot this week, with new insights into city dwellers’ happiness, a long-needed app for accessing congressional representatives, and clues to how reliable data can address poverty. Plus: American senators pull the SEC into the 21st Century.

Data Poverty Affects Real Poverty

The UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MGD) expire this year, report Rohini Pande and Florian Blum in the Washington Post. The MGD’s final report dazzles readers with success stories — extreme poverty reduced by half, gender equality in education achieved, and so on. But, say Pande and Blum, “critics have long pointed out that the data on MDG progress is patchy and impossible to corroborate.” The UN itself has called for a data revolution, and identified data deprivation as a risk to basic civil rights, continued poverty, and environmental degradation. Pande and Blum want the UN to “create clear mechanisms to recognize and reward countries that build open data systems and spark research and public discourse.”

Emailing Congress Just Got Easier

Thanks to project coordination from the Sunlight Foundation, American citizens can now bypass those laborious, online forms provided by Congress, and instead use the fast and free to contact their representatives. In the Huffington Post, Alexander Howard states the new app uses “a readable open data standard and a complete open data set” created by a team of nearly 100 volunteers, who reverse-engineered the contact forms of individual congressional members. Now, suggests Howard, it’s time to use a second congressional hackathon to create apps that let representatives and senators better sort the increased email.

Can You Run a City Based on Happiness?

Santa Monica’s sunny days, beaches, and affluence seem to be a recipe for community bliss. But as Jessica Leber reports in Fast Company, many of the city’s 90,000 residents feel lonely and stressed. Using a $1 million grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies, the city spent two years developing its Wellbeing Project, starting with a survey of civic and social happiness. The results were a startling call to action for civic leaders, who discovered widespread feelings of isolation in Santa Monica’s neighborhoods. Now the city is looking for ways to build ties and resilience in its communities, as well as how to share its data and strategies with other municipalities.

Senators to SEC: Open Up

“Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) are pushing the Securities and Exchange Commission to simplify its open data requirement,” explains FCW in a recent post. The SEC requires corporations to provide disclosures in traditional document form as well as in an open data format, via Extensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL). The senators point to SEC examiners focusing “on the traditional, non-searchable disclosures, potentially missing errors in the XBRL filings,” and want the SEC to require only XBRL-based disclosures. The change would reduce reporting costs to corporations, as well as potentially increase the thoroughness and reliability of SEC reviews.




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