Washington D.C. is continuing to push ahead with efforts to make government information more open to the public.
Mayor Vincent Gray announced Thursday the launch or advancement of six different initiatives to improve government transparency and accountability for citizens living and working in the nation’s capital.
The initiatives include the appointment of a 15-member Open Government Advisory Group, the re-launch of the data.dc.gov website, which now includes 237 new datasets, and a redesigned track.dc.gov, where residents can track agency performance.
“These new and improved initiatives will have a lasting positive impact on how the public interfaces and learns about of the workings of the District government,” Gray said in a statement. “An open and transparent government translates into a better government.”
Of the more technology-centered projects, track.dc.gov allows residents to track the performance of individual agencies and learn more about key performance indicators, budgets and spending.
“Track DC is a powerful resource for citizens to monitor agency performance,” City Administrator Allen Lew said. “The Track DC website has been completely redesigned to be more user-friendly, transparent, and accessible to the public.”
Among the 237 new datasets available at data.dc.gov are three-dimensional renderings of all city buildings; public school enrollment data; new land use data sets, including vacant lots and community gardens; urban tree canopy data; and Great Streets Initiative site boundaries.
“We hope developers will begin using this data to create new apps for the benefit of District residents,” said Rob Mancini, the city’s chief technology officer.
Perhaps the most significant move is the creation of the Open Government Advisory Group. The group will work to evaluate the city progress towards meeting the requirements of the transparency, open government and open data directive that was issued this past July and make specific recommendations for improvements.
The panel includes three public members who will be tasked with holding the government accountable and a dozen representatives of city agencies who will facilitate execution of Gray’s open data policies and includes technology leaders from throughout the city, including Mancini and Dervel Reed, the city’s chief data officer.
Another update focused on the city’s Freedom of Information Act request page, FOIAXpress. Launched in July, the site has seen more than 600 FOIA requests submitted by the public and the press via the first-ever centralized Web portal for the city for those needs. The system aims to speed up the FOIA process, which city officers claimed was too slow at meeting the needs of the city’s citizens.
The new open data projects complement other online applications the city previously launched, directing city agencies to provide increased information to the public. Some of the highlighted projects include a revision of the terms and conditions on the dc.gov website to loosen restrictions on the use of government data posted online and continued promotion of grade.dc.gov, where residents can grade their government to facilitate improved service delivery.