Sunlight Foundation Launches Open Civic Data Project


The Sunlight Foundation, a non-profit focused on improving government transparency has launched its Open Civic Data project. The project is now recruiting individuals to volunteer to “liberate” local municipal data. The ultimate goal of the project will be to provide a notification platform for individuals who wish to stay informed about the activities of their local government.

Sunlight Foundation has launched several tools to go with the project which will allow residents to upload local information, as well as an API for more technical users. “One of our biggest focuses was to create a system where non-technical users are able to contribute to the data collection effort in an easy and effective way. In particular, we wanted to enable the collection of municipal data in a format that was easy to understand, and build tools to translate this into the full Open Civic Data format,” the foundation wrote in a blog post on the launch.

The project is essentially a standardization effort aimed at making open data sets more consistent. CivSource has reported on municipalities releasing data as well as implementing open data by default policies, but no official standards for how this data is released exist. Instead, each city, county, and state government have opted to release data in a self-determined fashion which can make data sets challenging for developers to use if they come from multiple locations. Indeed, cleaning up data often takes as much time as the desired project outcome itself.

The project aims to standardize the most common types of data and has the goal of providing interested users with notifications when information they are interested in comes up. Sunlight is also seeking feedback on the tools released today alongside the project so they can create necessary improvements.