Sunshine Week 2015: The New Visionaries

March 26, 2015 1:19 pm PST | Data as a Service

Sunshine Week has come a long way since its founding 10 years ago.

Back then, the events of this annual, nationwide movement—where countless government-transparency champions celebrate and discuss the merits of open data—largely reflected the journalistic roots of its founders, the American Society of News Editors.

But, taking a look at the usual lively mix of events, webinars, panels, and media from last week’s happenings, it’s clear Sunshine Week’s participants have evolved considerably in the last decade.

No longer are tireless journalistic entities, not to mention civic groups and individual advocates, the only experts when it comes to open data innovation. Government agencies themselves, and those who lead them, are also rapidly becoming visionaries behind open data policies.

Consider these participants from the 2015 Sunshine Week highlights reel:

California Health and Human Services: This agency again co-hosted HHS Open DataFest, a now-annual forum for demonstrating how open public healthcare data can serve communities. Just one intriguing example from the event: Dr. Vince Seaman of the Gates Foundation showcased his organization’s geo-driven vaccination tracking system, which fuses open health data with digital mapping to help eradicate polio in Africa.

Department of State and Department of the Interior: In Washington D.C., representatives from these agencies jointly demonstrated two relatively new open data websites: ForeignAssistance.gov, which has information on foreign assistance funding by amount, country, and sector, and the U.S. Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative’s data portal, which shines a light on the federal government’s management of natural resource revenue.

U.S. Census Bureau: The grandfather of big data—and now an expert in information freedom—showed off its open data chops by hosting a Sunshine Week discussion on the importance of open government. Topics covered included the ins and outs of the Privacy Act and public data accessibility.

Collier County Clerk’s Office: At the more local end of the government-information spectrum, this Florida county clerk’s office demonstrated you don’t have to be a large federal agency to benefit the public via open data systems. To celebrate Sunshine Week, the Collier County Clerk’s office conducted a free seminar to show people how its open data website, CollierClerk.com, can help them find public information.

Of course, other great ideas flowed from all organizations participating in Sunshine Week 2015, such as the announcement of April’s Apps for Ag hackathon in California, where hackers and growers will work together to create open source apps to solve real agricultural challenges.

It is noteworthy, not to mention downright inspiring, that so many government organizations are now part of the open data movement. In many ways, these organizations and the individuals within them are the best kind of experts; after all, they are the ones living the process of transparent government policies.  

Are you interested in how your organization can leverage open data to better serve citizens? Check out this video about the four pillars of value that open data provides.


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