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Using Data to Improve Government Performance and Transparency

The potential of new applications of data to improve government performance and accountability is widely recognized. Data, presented in innovative and widely accessible formats, can influence how public resources are accounted for and allocated.
People Impacted
$ 93B
Potential Funding
I have this challenge
the problem
Nature and Context

Recent years have seen a proliferation of data advocacy efforts and data products that seek to influence governance outcomes. Several communities of practice employ data in pursuit of greater government accountability; their efforts span a range of issues, including public spending, corporate influence in politics, and natural resources management. Yet, despite the significant investments in governance data efforts to date, evidence of their impact on governance outcomes remains thin and far from systematic.

Symptoms and Causes

Growing Lack of Trust

Many Americans see declining levels of trust in the country, whether it is their confidence in the federal government and elected officials or their trust of each other (Pew). Only 45% of citizens trusted their government in 2019 (OECD).

Lack of Trust is Hindering Progress

Most Americans believe that the interplay between the trust issues in the public and the interpersonal sphere has made it harder to solve some of the country’s problems. 70% of Americans believe that citizens’ low trust in each other makes it harder to solve these problems (Pew).

Lack of Truly Reputable Sources

In an age where every media source is said to sling 'fake news', citizens don't know who to trust. Social Media perpetuates the problem, making it easier for corrupt sources to be quickly spread. This perpetuates the mistrust people have in their government and other important agencies.

the impact
Negative Effects

Lack of Trust Leads to Public Discord

Trust in government is crucial to voluntary compliance with government policy, and it can increase citizens’ tolerance of measures that seem invasive, annoying, or disruptive. As seen with COVID measures, distrust can result in citizen disagreement or active resistance to government policy. Distrust can be expensive for government officials who have to invest resources in obtaining cooperation. During public health crises, especially, distrust can be devastating because noncompliance can turn lethal (Scholars Strategy Network).

Mistrust Heightens Racial and Socioeconomic Disparities
Nonwhites, poorer and less-educated individuals, and younger adults have lower levels of personal trust than other Americans. These differences show up when it comes to their sense of the exploitative tendencies or fairness of others, as well as their assessment of the overall helpfulness or selfishness of others (Pew).

Economic Impact

Falling levels of trust in the United States today seem to be making Americans more politically divided. But according to economic research, it could risk making us poorer, as well.

Some economic research suggests that countries with low levels of trust can find themselves in a reinforcing cycle of greater regulation and lower economic growth. It's a pattern that economist Alex Tabarrok of George Mason University recently described as a 'distrust trap.'

In distrustful societies, people are more likely to craft public policy and do business in ways that benefit their own family, social class, tribe, religion or other group. Rather than seeking out projects that generate the highest returns, they are more inclined to make investments that are difficult for other groups to seize (World Economic Forum).

Success Metrics
  • Use public data to create transparency in government and media.

  • Establish standards on social media platforms that combat 'fake news'.

  • Include minorities and traditionally underrepresented groups in systems that eradicate mistrust and misinformation.

who benefits from solving this problem
Organization Types
  • Any Government Agency

  • Media Conglomerates

  • American citizens

  • News Outlets

  • Elected Officials

Ideas Description

Track and expose spending practices, corruption, and good doings of elected officials:

Civi, a constituent relationship management (CRM) system, keeps track of relationships and enables easy outreach and input via SMS, Facebook Messenger, and email. Civi can help political parties, civic organizations, and elected officials manage daily operations, engage in mass communication, coordinate campaigns, plan activities and events, raise funds, and view reports on all those activities.

TruthTree unites all the world's public data in a data-visualization tool and reference platform that can facilitate data-driven understanding and consensus regarding geography, politics, and culture for geographic entities at all scales.

Code for America believes government must work for the people, and by the people, in the digital age, starting with the people who need it most. We build digital services that enhance government capabilities, and we help others do the same across all levels of government. Our goal: a 21st-century government that effectively and equitably serves all Americans.

Openly Local provides an open, consistent and comparative picture of local authority data. 160 councils have already published their data on the site, which features information on 12,000 elected local officials, 8,000 committees, and over 100,000 committee meetings. Its council dashboard shows the distribution of 14 billion of local government spending, between private, public and charitable contractors.

Ensure eligible voters are registered and informed:

TurboVote, a one-stop shop for an individual's voting needs. TurboVote makes sure voters always know when elections are happening, and have the information they need to vote with confidence. Sign up to receive election reminders, get registered to vote, & apply for your absentee ballot!

BallotReady aggregates content from candidates’ websites, social media, press, endorsers and board of elections for comprehensive, nonpartisan information about candidates and referendum. Everything is linked back to its source, so voters can verify information. We make every effort to confirm details with the candidates themselves, allowing them to share even more information.

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