Month: September 2014

Register for Data Transparency 2014

Data Transparency 2014The Data Transparency Coalition will host Data Transparency 2014 on Tuesday, September 30, in Washington, D.C.

Speakers include U.S. Deputy Chief Technology Officer Nick Sinai, U.S. Comptroller General Gene Dodaro, Office of Management and Budget Controller David Mader and Department of Treasury Data Transparency Executive Director Christina Ho.

Official Twitter hashtag for the event is #DT2014. There’s also an iPhone app available to attendees.

Register here.

These 7 local governments will Code for America in 2015

Code for America today announced the next class of municipalities for its 2015 Fellowship Program that partners civic technologists with local governments for one year to “explore answers to local challenges by engaging with the community, building applications, and testing the results.”

Participating governments include Albuquerque, New Mexico; Indianapolis, Indiana; Miami-Dade County, Florida; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Somerville, Massachusetts; Vallejo, California; and West Sacramento, California.

Official quotes from leaders of the respective cities:

Mayor Richard J. Berry, Albuquerque, New Mexico:

“We are delighted to welcome the 2015 Code for America fellows to Albuquerque. We look forward to collaborating with the fellows to identify ways in which we can match citizens in need with critical information and services. This exciting collaboration between the City of Albuquerque, the fellows, and our community will build digital capabilities in the city and continue to strengthen Albuquerque’s position as an innovative place to live, thrive, and do business.”

Mayor Greg Ballard, Indianapolis, Indiana:

“Indy’s selection for the next Code for America program provides an excellent opportunity to bring forward-thinking solutions to city government. Indy is using data in innovative ways to enhance public safety. Our team looks forward to working with the Code for America fellows to better integrate data in our daily efforts to make Indy an even better place live and work.”

Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez, Miami-Dade County:

“It is a privilege for Miami-Dade County to be Code for America’s first government partner in Florida. This collaboration will drive a more open government, stimulate economic development and improve the delivery of regulatory services to our community. Code for America is an organization that has successfully advanced these capabilities through technology and innovation and the organization will be an important partner in our ongoing work to make Miami-Dade County more open, transparent and efficient.”

Mayor William Peduto, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania:

“I am honored and excited that Pittsburgh is joining with Code for America to build the city’s reputation for innovation and transparency. We look forward to working in particular on new approaches to procurement that drive increased community participation, and in so doing, build the digital capabilities of our great city. I know the Fellows can learn from us — and us from them — as we work together to make government better for city residents.”

Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone, Somerville, Massachusetts:

“In a time of national gridlock where municipalities increasingly need to be the driving force for creative problem-solving and innovation, it’s critical to have a nimble organization like Code for America working directly with cities to develop new solutions and accelerate our progress. Our Fellows will be helping to expand data-based decision-making in our schools to improve outcomes for our students, and we are honored that we were selected to host them.”

Mayor Osby Davis, Vallejo, California:

“The Code for America fellowship is an opportunity for us to enhance communication and increase engagement, and to maximize public involvement and collaboration. The City Council and I are thrilled to have been selected after having made the application to Code for America a top priority this year. We look forward to the many possibilities that will surely come from this fantastic partnership.”

Mayor Christopher Cabaldon, City of West Sacramento:

“Code for America is rapidly transforming America by catalyzing civic innovation in America’s cities to strengthen democracy and reimagine how we create value and services. West Sacramento is excited to lead the nation in partnership with the Sacramento Area Council of Governments as a Code for America city working not only to spur civic innovation in our own town, but to design that innovation for widespread adoption region wide…spreading Code for America’s transformative impact to small cities and rural towns.”

Code for America has partnered 103 fellows with 30 local governments over the past four years. Learn more about the fellowship program here.

7 things you need to know about the 2014 Code for America Summit

The 2014 Code for America Summit kicks off today in San Francisco and runs through Thursday. For most of you reading this, 99% of your Twitter stream will reference what has become one of the most important government technology events of the year.

Whether you’re attending in real life or want to live vicariously through those of us lucky to be there, here are seven things you need to know about the 2014 Code for America Summit.

  1. Registration may end by the time you read this, but if not, hurry.
  2. The Twitter hashtag is #CfASummit. This should already be obvious, but just in case, now you know.
  3. There is a livestream available for those not at the event. If you miss a talk you really wanted to hear, don’t panic, CfA has done a great job in the past of posting these within days.
  4. Tuesday night there is a Civic Lounge social. You must RSVP to be admitted. If you don’t have the password, send me an email (, and I’ll make sure you get it.
  5. If you see a sponsor rep, give them a big shout because they are the ones who financially contribute to help make it happen. Also, be sure to visit the Civic Tech Fair to show them your love.
  6. Don’t worry about pretense. This is the most approachable, accessible group of people you will ever nerd out with. If there’s someone you want to meet, introduce yourself and say hi.
  7. If you see someone with a Code for America badge, buy them a drink, pay this month’s rent, or offer to wash and iron their track jackets. None of this would have happened without the incredible time, effort and passion they put into creating an amazing event.

I’m excited to see old friends and meet the new class of civic hackers and innovators looking to change the way government works and, hopefully, get the chance to meet you.

Y Combinator issues request for government-focused startups

Y Combinator (Photo: Paul Miller

Y Combinator (Photo: Paul Miller

Leading Silicon Valley accelerator Y Combinator posted a list of sectors it’s interested in hearing pitches from in a “request for startups” that includes government-focused technology ventures.

“Very few startups write software for government,” the post states. “But the government is a very large customer with very bad software. In addition to better software for existing processes, we’re also interested in how the Internet can enable new categories, like crowdfunding for social services.”

Granted, it’s a pretty comprehensive list of sectors, but still good to see government in the mix, especially given the perception that Silicon Valley is aloof when it comes to building technology targeted specifically to the public sector.

“Our hope is that someone already working on a company in one of these areas will consider applying to YC,” says Y Combinator.

Application deadline for the Winter 2015 funding cycle is October 18.

Get your pitch decks ready and apply here.

HT David Bray

Thank you, Ellen Miller

Ellen Miller (Photo: Sunlight Foundation)

Ellen Miller (Photo: Sunlight Foundation)

Today, Sunlight Foundation announced Chris Gates will take over as its new president in October after co-founder and executive director Ellen Miller said she would step down from eight years at the helm.

“I truly believe that open and equal access to information is the bedrock of democracy,” Ellen wrote in February announcing her departure. “Without it, citizens cannot make informed decisions. With it, citizens learn who and what they can trust. This belief has always been the passion of my life as it will always be the Sunlight Foundation’s goal.”

Because of this belief, everyone in the modern open government movement — from the civic hackers to the federal C-suite to everyone in between who champions the importance of open data — can thank Ellen for being instrumental in driving what is fundamental to civic innovation as we practice and celebrate it today.

I still remember when I first launched GovFresh and, within days, Ellen blogged about it. Having left Washington, D.C. years before for California, I had grown increasingly disenchanted and removed from what happened inside the Beltway. My work with GovFresh has changed that sentiment over the years, and Ellen’s small post was part of the spark that made me think perhaps Washington was getting the disruption it needed, backed less by political mudslinging, and more by a simple, straightforward path to transparency and economic innovation.

Many incredible people in the civic movement have worked under Ellen at Sunlight. From policy to technology, it has become the incubator of open innovation and innovators in Washington, and has produced many people I’ve come to admire beyond just their work there.

The first time I met Ellen was at TransparencyCamp West at Google’s Mountain View headquarters, where I interviewed her about what we then called “Gov 2.0.” I still remember that day well, meeting the Sunlight team, attending my first unconference, and realizing there were now people in Washington “just like me.” If DC was then like it was today, I would probably still be there. For those who consider themselves civic and government innovators within the Beltway, Ellen and Sunlight helped make that happen.

I’m excited about what’s to come with Chris as its new leader, but it’s also bittersweet to see Ellen step down. It’s hard to imagine the open government movement without her but, no matter what she does after, her legacy will continue to inspire the next generation of civic idealists the same way she’s inspired me.

Thank you, Ellen Miller.

GovFresh guide to openFDA

Photo: FDA / Michael J. Ermarth

Photo: FDA / Michael J. Ermarth

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s openFDA initiative aims to “make it easier for web developers, researchers, and the public to access large, important public health datasets.”

openFDAInitial areas of focus include adverse event and recall enforcement reports and product labeling data (see “Drugs,” “Devices,” “Foods“). It currently provides an application programming interface of information that was previously unavailable or easily-accessible to the public, including millions of reports submitted to the FDA from 2004 to 2013.


The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services identified “Open FDA” as a priority in its open government “Plan Version 3.0.” Led by the FDA’s Office of Informatics and Technology Innovation, the project began in March 2013 and launched a public beta in June 2014.


  • March 2013: Taha Kass-Hout named FDA chief health informatics officer.
  • March 2013: Work on openFDA begins.
  • July 2013: White House Presidential Innovation Fellows join to support openFDA development.
  • December 2013: FDA creates the Office of Informatics and Technology Innovation lead by Kass-Hout.
  • June 2014: openFDA launches in beta.


“The openFDA initiative leverages new technologies and methods to unlock the tremendous public data and resources available from the FDA in a user-friendly way. OpenFDA is a valuable resource that will help those in the private and public sectors use FDA public data to spur innovation, advance academic research, educate the public, and protect public health.”

– FDA Chief Operating Officer and Acting Chief Information Officer Walter S. Harris

“In the past, these vast datasets could be difficult for industry to access and to use. Pharmaceutical companies, for example, send hundreds of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to FDA every year because that has been one of the ways they could get this data. Other methods called for downloading large amounts of files encoded in a variety of formats or not fully documented, or using a website to point-and-click and browse through a database – all slow and labor-intensive processes.”

– FDA Chief Health Informatics Officer Taha Kass-Hout




FCC readies to refresh

It took 10 years for the Federal Communications Commission to re-do its first website, and now is set to undergo a second overhaul since it relaunched in 2011.

A public beta of the next iteration will be completed by January 2015, followed by a full-release launch in June.

Much of the criticism since its last launch has been around the site’s focus on the general consumer as the primary audience, as opposed to the communications industry.

“We are focused on answering the call from our users to improve our site,” writes FCC Chief Information Officer David Bray on the FCC blog. “We are collaborating with multiple internal and external stakeholders to provide feedback and input, and the resulting data will guide the improvements to our website.”

The website upgrade is part of a larger modernization effort that Bray says “will holistically improve the data, information, and services the FCC provides the public.”

White House wants feedback on its open government website

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

The White House is looking for input on how it can improve the open government section of its website, located at

“If you’re familiar with the history of the page, you can see we have begun updating it by shifting some of the existing content and adding new tabs and material,” White House Senior Advisor for Open Government Corinna Zarek wrote in an email asking for public input.

Feedback can be emailed to or shared via Twitter to the @OpenGov account.