Researchers and educators have pointed to the availability of online government data and documents as an extension of citizens’ rights to access government information. In 1993, scientist Andre Bacard saw technology as an opportunity to fashion an “electronic democracy” that would entail “public access to government data, grassroots networks, and public feedback to government” that might combat other efforts to “privatize” government information with private companies selling data collected by government agencies (42).
Despite the current ease of publishing information online, meaningful and truly open access to government websites and data remains a challenge. Government websites regularly take down information and government data available through an API (Application Programming Interface) requires a level of technical knowledge that many people don’t have. Even if a user is savvy enough to use the API, the data organization (or lack of organization) and/or demands of interpreting the data may provide additional barriers.
This API-focused project seeks to address such barriers in support of “electronic democracy” by providing a user interface that runs the API without any programming or coding on the user’s part. The project is also interested in incorporating tools to create custom data visualizations to provide additional ways to make the data more easily used and understood.
Bacard, A. (1993). Electronic Democracy: Can We Retake Our Government? Humanist, 53(4), 42–43.