The Sunlight Foundation , a nonpartisan nonprofit that uses cutting-edge technology and ideas to make the government transparent and accountable, will create a series of new ‘National Data Apps’ that will help U.S. citizens easily use federal data to better understand everything from local pollution and medical care to personal financial services.
At a tap on a smart phone or the click of a website, the Apps will provide free access to public data that the government collects on the environment, public health and consumer spending, among other areas.
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation  is funding the effort with a $1.2 million grant as part of its strategy to advance informed and engaged communities.
“Government in the digital age could be more open than ever – but only if we can make public information easy to find and use – like these applications promise to do,” says Eric Newton, Knight Foundation’s vice-president for journalism.
“The Sunlight Foundation seeks to promote greater access to data from federal agencies for use at the national, state and local levels,” says Ellen Miller, co-founder and executive director of the Sunlight Foundation. “These new apps will give the public unprecedented access to critical information that will bring us a step closer to closing the transparency gap in Washington.”
The Knight Foundation grant, disbursed over the course of two years, will support the development, distribution and marketing of the apps, as well as the expansion of Sunlight Live, a real-time accountability platform that combines streaming video, government transparency data, journalistic background and social media coverage of major events in Washington.
Sunlight Labs, the organization’s in-house technology team, will design the National Data Apps and issue reports on the government’s track record of making this kind of data available to the public. Additionally, Sunlight’s Reporting Group will train journalists, bloggers and other members of the media on how to use the National Data Apps when they are launched in early-2011.
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation advances journalism in the digital age and invests in the vitality of communities where the Knight brothers owned newspapers. Since 1950, the foundation has granted more than $400 million to advance quality journalism and freedom of expression. Knight Foundation focuses on projects that promote informed and engaged communities and lead to transformational change.