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An OpenGov (Open Government) Primer

The next Knight News Challenge begins in just a few days, with a focus on OpenGov. A lot of people are interested in the area, but it could be daunting if you’re new to the field.

What is OpenGov?

OpenGov or Open Government describes a movement to make government data, documents, and knowledge available to the public, or the citizens of the government. It’s closely related to the concept of transparency, and the idea that the more we open up our public data, the more accountability we’ll see from our government and public entities.

Where can I learn about OpenGov?

Luckily for you, there are LOTS of resources for learning and getting involved with OpenGov. There are groups of citizens who get together to code and brainstorm ideas for civic innovation (a fancy term for making new things for government … or bringing old things into government that have yet to be adopted). There’s a social network for OpenGov-interested-people. There are regional events that gather large numbers of people do discuss what’s working, what’s not, and what they’re going to do about it.

On The Web

  • GovLoop, a social network for government and public employees
  • GovFresh, a news site that has articles about government and governmental innovation (often called “Gov 2.0” as a reference to “Web 2.0”

Organizations to Watch

  • Sunlight Foundation, a DC based organization that works with Open Data
  • OpenPlans, works with governments and organizations to build open source civic tools
  • Code for America, which began as a “Teach for America for tech” but has evolved to include an incubator, local groups, and an international reach besides its fellowship program
  • AxisPhilly, a new non-profit that uses open data to discuss and inform on city issues (and my new employer!). There are many other news organizations with a data-driven bend including ProPublica and the WNYC Data News team )

Groups to Join


  • BarCamp News Innovation, an East-coast regional event for news innovation (often overlaps with civic innovation — both often align to public interest work)
  • TransparencyCamp, an unconference (or a conference in which a schedule is decided day-of, democratically, by participants) focused on transparency and government (a hotbed for OpenGov ideas!)
  • CityCamp, an unconference centered around city and community org innovation

Get Started

There are definitely lots of opportunities to get involved in and learn about open gov — explore and find what interests you! Meanwhile the submission period for the Knight News Challenge starts in 4 days from this post, and lots of inspiration posts (discussions on what successful applicants might try to do/improve upon) are going on right now on the site. Check it out!

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