Last night, shortly after their show on HPR, Ryan Ozawa and Burt Lum, lead the first Sunlight Foundation Hawaii Chapter meet-up. The Sunlight Foundation is a"non-profit, nonpartisan organization that uses the power of the Internet to catalyze greater government openness and transparency, and provides new tools and resources for media and citizens, alike." The meet-up came on the heels of the state's Office of Information Management and Technology of their strategic plan release. In particular, conversation and dialogue from the chapter meet-ups will be added to the OIMT's public forum on how to better their services.
In other government offices, the City & County of Honolulu's recent work with Code for America and the CityCamp are examples practical, day-to-day data usage. The Honolulu 311 and Da Bus smartphone apps are indicators of this work to make public data available and put to work for citizens. Since the bar has been raised by the city, now it's time for the state to reach up and raise it.
A goal of the Hawaii chapter is to work with with government agencies to make their public data sets more easily accessible and searchable online. While a number of government documents exist online, scanned PDF files are difficult to extract data from, or translate into a usable format for data collection and public comprehension. For example, making the Campaign Spending Commission data more easily available online, has allowed programmer Jared Kuroiwa to create an innovative campaign donor database. With infographs and clean search quires, users are able to see which organizations are funding candidate campaigns, and possibly influencing policy decisions.
The Media Council's interest in the Sunlight Foundation Chapter stems out of our efforts to get broadcast political Ad data online and with greater availability to the public. The Sunlight Foundation is studying this area, as Pro Publica's Justin Elliot mentioned in last week's episode of On the Media. Elliot cited specific problems with the FCC's recent decision to require broadcasters to put this information online:
There was an analysis by the Sunlight Foundation looking at where the top 50 broadcast markets are compared to the swing states, and they found that in some markets in Virginia, some markets in Pennsylvania that are expected to see a lot of political advertising, they don’t fall into the top 50. Those political ad files are still gonna be stuck in paper files at the stations until 2014, when all stations around the country have to come into compliance.
Hawaii is both not in the top 50 markets, and something of a swing state during elections, allowing our broadcasters the ability to evade this rule until the next election cycle. We're currently developing a methodology to collect this data from local broadcasters and share it. We'll keep you posted on this project and our involvement with Sunlight Foundation Chapter. Also, if you'd like to participate in our station visits and data collection efforts, please let us know.