Sunlight and citizen participation
“We have incredible power as citizens if we just take action.” –from the Transparency Camp video
Wikipedia defines democracy as “a form of government in which all citizens have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives. Ideally, this includes equal (and more or less direct) participation in the proposal, development and passage of legislation into law.” Democracy is an active state of governance that requires citizens to involve themselves in the affairs of the “polis.”
The Sunlight Foundation actively works to create citizen tools for transparency and accountability. Sunlight held the 4th annual “Transparency Camp” from April 30 to May 1. They drew citizens interested in using technology for local, state, federal and foreign government projects. You can see a small taste of the conference in the video above.
These types of events are happening across America. Sunlight encourages people to organize them locally. This weekend OpenGovWest ’11 is happening in Portland, Oregon. At the federal level, the White House has created the Open Government Initiative.
It’s hard to quickly develop openness within government — it made up of bureaucracies after all. Citizen participation can be the leaven for the bread. Citizens are contributing time and valuable skills to these efforts. Openness and accountability build confidence among the people and trust in the government, which is essential continued health of the nation.