Let the Sunshine In - Transparency Camp West 2009

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Last weekend the Sunlight Foundation and Google hosted TransparencyCamp West, an unconference dedicated to making our governments (from municipal governments all the way up to the federal government) more accessible and transparent. The intent was to help bring people together and create community from the event; to get people in the same room, and get them to know and learn from one another.

It was a great gathering of more than 150 developers, NGOs, wonks, activists and government representatives from as far away as Russia and Israel, including folks from Sunlight Labs alongside open government legends like Carl Malamud and the folks from the National Institute of Money and State Politics working with new people in the field with an increasing desire to open up their governments.

You'll notice I keep pluralizing governments. That's because one of the big takeaways from the gathering was how important it was to open up local & both statewide and federal governments. Transparency is desired from the very bottom, like local and regional US school boards to the very top. People want access to information pertaining to their cities - representatives from cities across North America participated - and what's impacting them at a local level.

The other thing is the concept of wholesale vs. retail government web operations. There is a strong desire amongst journalists and developers for government to start being wholesalers of data, providing us with bulk access to machine readable data, and to get government to not to worry so much about retailing access to their data.

All-in-all, the event was a success and I think it was a good beginning for growing the conversation amongst the transparency community on the West Coast and far beyond.