Contributed by Sharon Dawes, Senior Fellow, CTG
March 13th-19th is Sunshine Week, the seven-day period each spring when Americans are reminded of the value of access to government information. The essence of Sunshine Week is government transparency. It joins journalists, advocacy organizations, all manner of experts, and ordinary people in the belief that public access to government information is a good thing. It embodies both a sense of history and an eye on the future. Traditional values such as an independent press, and legal rights such as freedom of information and open meetings laws, sit beside new approaches like data.gov, mash-ups, and Apps for America.
Most often Sunshine week is noted by front page news stories about freedom of information laws and the conflicts that occur between those who want access to government information and those who hold the keys to access. These struggles highlight and illustrate the essential need for public accountability from both politicians and administrators. But accountability isn't the only theme that should interest us during Sunshine week. We should also acknowledge the vast amounts of useful information that federal, state, and local governments make available every day to anyone without a formal request.
Some examples “crowdsourced” from CTG’s staff:
This is just a tiny sample of the many information sources provided by government and supported by taxpayers for public use. None of them is perfect, to be sure, but they have undeniable economic, civic, and social value. This is the good news story of Sunshine Week - let's give it its fair share of attention.