|By Business Wire||
|April 2, 2014 07:02 AM EDT||
Socrata, a Seattle-based cloud software company focused exclusively on democratizing access to government data, today announced the release of a suite of breakthrough open data financial transparency apps for government. Designed for quick deployment and citizen empowerment, the apps suite currently includes Socrata Open Budget™ and Socrata Open Spending™, with additional apps planned for later this quarter that focus on government contracts and revenue.
With Socrata's new financial transparency suite, governments large and small are now able, for the first time ever, to publish budget and spending data quickly, economically, and in a consumer-friendly way. Rather than wading through 700-page scanned documents of legal and financial information, citizens and staff see budget and spending data in vivid color. The charts, graphs, and images are attractive, navigable, and easy to understand.
“Financial transparency is a great place for governments to focus their open data efforts. Citizens want to know how much money is coming in and how it’s being spent. With cloud technologies allowing for easier data movement, apps like Socrata Open Budget and Socrata Open Spending make it very easy for governments to engage with citizens and involve them in the budgeting process,” says Socrata Founder and CEO Kevin Merritt.
Merritt continues, “Budgets and spending are the clearest expression of a government's priorities. Citizens have the right to understand this data. And, in a democracy, increasing people’s understanding and broadening the conversation can truly improve the world.”
When designing these financial transparency tools, Socrata worked closely with the technology and finance teams at Montgomery County, Maryland to learn about government budget and spending data practices. Socrata and Montgomery County also obtained feedback from members of the County’s local community to ensure their objective of empowering the public with financial data was met.
“We worked with Socrata to make sure we could educate citizens about how we budget and spend, as we empower them with data. The apps are designed to move visitors through the entire budgeting process in an engaging way. All of the data is shown in dynamic charts and made interactive. It flows in a way that makes very complex information easy to understand,” says dataMontgomery Project Manager Victoria Lewis.
The City of Boston has also collaborated with Socrata as a design partner, sharing feedback on their existing, Socrata-powered financial transparency application, Boston Checkbook Explorer.
In Socrata’s home state of Washington, tech entrepreneur and state legislator Rep. Reuven Carlyle is excited that the apps can be quickly implemented and integrate across multiple city, county, and state governments. “There are two audiences for these apps - the government officials who need to be able to make complex budget data easy to access, quick to update, and searchable. Then, researchers, journalists, students, and other engaged citizens can explore the data for new insights and solutions to long-standing problems. Visualizing open data so it’s easy to share and understand creates massive new opportunities for citizen and government collaboration.”
Hudson Hollister, founder and executive director of the Data Transparency Coalition, sees Socrata’s new apps as a key part of a broader movement using new technologies to achieve greater transparency in government. Hollister has for three years championed the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA Act), which would mandate the adoption of government-wide data standards in federal spending. The DATA Act passed the House of Representatives 388 to one last November and is now awaiting consideration by the Senate. "Too often, the U.S. government fails to publish crucial information at all, or presents it in inconsistent or outdated electronic formats, hindering transparency," says Hollister. "Socrata’s suite of financial transparency apps sets a fresh standard for what open data can do when government takes responsibility for releasing its spending in modern, machine-readable formats."
To support the release of the apps and offer some education to the public, Socrata has scheduled a webinar for April 16th titled, “Financial Transparency Apps: Helping Citizens Better Understand Government Finances.” The webinar will be hosted by former White House Innovation Fellow and Socrata Director of Open Data Ian Kalin. Kalin will interview Hollister from the Data Transparency Coalition and Socrata Product Lead Clint Tseng who led the creation of Socrata’s financial transparency apps. Kalin says, “We’re only just beginning to see the possibilities that open data creates for a stronger democracy. With apps, the chances that citizens will engage with and use the data increases exponentially.”
Socrata is the cloud software company focused exclusively on democratizing access to government data. Its solutions help government leaders improve transparency, modernize citizen access to information and bring facts into every decision, with unprecedented speed and cost savings. Delivered as turnkey cloud services, Socrata’s data consumerization products unlock data in enterprise silos and transform it into useful information that everyone can easily access, visualize, share and reuse.
To learn more about Socrata, visit www.socrata.com or follow us on Twitter @socrata
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