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Your Laws, Your Data: Making Government More Open

Two decades ago, Congress began publishing some of its activities online, revolutionizing access to essential public information. The system was called THOMAS, after our third president. Managed by the Library of Congress, it aimed to serve as a central hub to find bills and resolutions, the Congressional Record, committee reports, treaties and so on. States and municipalities followed suit, building out data sets that are essential to a large variety of applications and services.

While technology has changed a lot since the mid 1990s, the quality of data coming from Congress and other branches of government has not kept up.

Creating a more open and comprehensive system of public data -- not only from Congress, but throughout government -- would make a variety of powerful new applications possible.

Join us for a discussion of how better data can empower citizen activists and public interest groups to make government more accountable, and more responsive.

Questions

  1. How can better government data be used to make politicians and bureaucratic agencies more accountable for their actions? What are some examples of some successful data-driven applications from groups like Cato or the Sunlight Foundation?
  2. What are the implications of Congress transitioning from the THOMAS system to Congress.gov? What are the limitations of the data they are making available?
  3. Major new open data legislation (the DATA act) was passed last year. How could this law improve how government agencies use data, and make it available to outside groups? What problems do you foresee with its implementation?
  4. What can the public do to actively improve the availability and quality of public data?
  5. What role do civic hackers play in making government data work for the public interest?

Speakers

Organizer

Molly Schwartz, Associate Fellow, R Street Institute


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