Today marks the public launch of the Sunlight Foundation and one of its flagship projects, Congresspedia. Full disclosure is warranted here, and not just because that’s the goal of Sunlight: Along with my partner Andrew Rasiej, I have been consulting with Sunlight since December. The goal of the foundation is
to use revolutionary power of the Internet and new information technology to enable citizens to learn more about what Congress and their elected representatives are doing, and thus help reduce corruption, ensure greater transparency and accountability by government, and foster public trust in the vital institutions of democracy.
We’ve worked hard on this, and think we’ve come up with some fruitful ways to use the internet and the power of citizen networking to shine more light on Congress. For example, Congresspedia, which is a joint project with the Center for Media and Democracy, has a page on every Member of Congress that anyone can edit and the potential to become a terrific resource. Sunlight is also committed to not just making “transparency grants” to digitize all kinds of useful information on Congress, lobbying and government spending, but making sure that public APIs are built to that data, to enable lots of other people to use it in mash-ups. The foundation is also venturing into the citizen journalism arena, with an effort to smoke out earmarks and online tutorials to help teach people how to dig out the muck on their own.
The proof, of course, will be in what happens next.
I do want to give a big shout out to the folks at Trellon, and in particular their terrific lead developer Josh Koenig, who designed and built the innards of Sunlight’s website. We’ll be rolling out some new features with them over the next few months.
I should also add that I have long and warm relationship with Sunlight’s executive director, Ellen Miller, who was the ED of Public Campaign for its first four years (1997-2000), while I was working there full-time. Here’s Ellen’s Sunspots blog, where she’ll be sharing ideas with the public on the foundation’s goals and efforts.