Open Data and the Future of Civic Innovation

The rise of open data in the public sector has sparked innovation, driven efficiency, and fueled economic development. And in the vein of high-profile federal initiatives like and the White House’s Open Government Initiative, more and more local governments are making their foray into the field with Chief Data Officers, open data policies, and open data catalogs.

While still emerging, we are seeing evidence of the transformative potential of open data in shaping the future of our civic life. It’s at the local level that government most directly impacts the lives of residents—providing clean parks, fighting crime, or issuing permits to open a new business. This is where there is the biggest opportunity to use open data to reimagine the relationship between citizens and government.

Beyond Transparency is a cross-disciplinary survey of the open data landscape, in which practitioners share their own stories of what they’ve accomplished with open civic data. It seeks to move beyond the rhetoric of transparency for transparency’s sake and towards action and problem solving. Through these stories, we examine what is needed to build an ecosystem in which open data can become the raw materials to drive more effective decision-making and efficient service delivery, spur economic activity, and empower citizens to take an active role in improving their own communities.

Some of our contributors

What critics have to say

Beyond Transparency combines the inspirational glow and political grit of Profiles in Courage with the clarity of an engineer’s calm explanation of how something technical actually works…. This compilation presents us with a great deal to admire, ample provocation, and wise guidance from a group of remarkable individuals.”

— Susan Crawford, author of Captive Audience

“Just as he did during his time in my administration, Goldstein has brought together industry leaders to discuss issues of relevance in the open data movement and the practical implications of implementing these policies… This book will help continue the work to make open government a reality across the country.”

— Mayor Rahm Emanuel, City of Chicago

Beyond Transparency is an invaluable overview of how open data enables the free flow of information. This collection of stories from the field illustrates how technology and collaboration can support transparency and help communities transform ideas into actions.”

— Alberto Ibargüen, president and CEO of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

“A must-read for anyone who is passionate about what open data can do to transform city living.”

— Boris Johnson, Mayor of London

Beyond Transparency surveys the latest open data initiatives and outlines a compelling vision of how data and technology can reshape urban governance in America. Compiled by the best experts in the country, this book provides a compelling roadmap to take government to the next level.”

— Steven Goldsmith, Harvard Kennedy School

About this book

This book is a resource for (and by) practitioners inside and outside government—from the municipal chief information officer to the community organizer to the civic-minded entrepreneur. Beyond Transparency is intended to capture and distill the community's learnings around open data for the past four years. And we know that the community is going to continue learning. That's why, in addition to the print version of the book which you can order on Amazon, we've also published the digital version of this book on this site under a Creative Commons license. The full text of this site is on GitHub — which means that anyone can submit a pull request with a suggested edit. Help us improve this resource for the community and write the next edition of Beyond Transparency by submitting your pull requests.

Code for America is a national nonprofit committed to building a government for the people, by the people, that works in the 21st century. Over the past four years, CfA has worked with dozens of cities to support civic innovation through open data. You can support this work by contributing to the book on GitHub, joining the CfA volunteer community (the Brigade), donating to Code for America, or connecting your city with CfA.