Vol. 13, No. 1, September 2010

Open Government

[Updated 07/09/12]

 

Open Government Initiative

The Open Government Initiative (OGI) is a clearinghouse of information about the federal government’s open government efforts. “Open government” is an umbrella term for the idea that citizens should know, or be able to find out, information on the government's every action. This includes freedom of information, public meetings, and disclosure about government officials. President Obama specified three open government goals for his administration: transparency; participation; and collaboration. To that end, the OGI includes links to Open Government Progress Reports and a blog with current open government activities across the federal government. There are links to individual agencies’ Open Government Initiative websites, and a gallery of different government projects to increase citizen participation in government.

Sunlight Foundation

The Sunlight Foundation promotes government transparency by generating public awareness and by undertaking a number of specific openness projects. They write a blog with up-to-date news on open government issues. The site hosts several databases, including Transparency Data, which tracks lobbying activity and campaign contributions, and Party Time, which lists political fundraising events. The Sunlight Foundation also has several mobile apps which provide detailed information on Congress.

Massachusetts Attorney General Open Meeting Law Website

The Massachusetts Attorney General’s office enforces the state’s Open Meeting Laws. These laws generally provide that government entities must hold their deliberative meetings in public. This website provides the text of the law and its related regulations. There is also a guide to the law suitable for both the public and for officials looking to follow the law. The website has a section detailing the process for filing a complaint for violations of the law, and provides the requisite form.

European Union Transparency

In European Union parlance, transparency often refers to “access to documents.” This website discusses the EU’s laws with regard to public access. This includes listing where and when many official documents are published, and a guide on requesting documents. The only actual documents it provides direct access to are documents on transparency. Nevertheless, this site is a good starting point for researchers looking for EU documents, which are divided among several websites, depending on type.

National Security Archive

The National Security Archive (not affiliated with the National Security Agency) maintains a collection of information derived mainly from Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests and the declassification of government documents. Their emphasis on national security has yielded a collection focused on documents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Central Intelligence Agency, the State Department and presidential files. The website also provides a useful how-to guide for people interested in filing their own Freedom of Information Act requests.