Promoting Transparency in Government Spending Promoting Transparency in Government Spending

In an effort to increase transparency and citizen oversight of government spending, a new online project was developed to track government as well as corporate financial transactions throughout the world. Operated by the Open Knowledge Foundation (OKFN) and funded by organizations such as the Knight Foundation, Omidyar Network, Open Society Foundation and 4IP, “maps money” by collecting information about government spending across the globe, and presents results in an accessible and engaging manner. 

A community-driven organization, OKFN uses technology to promote open knowledge and data, making it easier for citizens to observe how their taxes are being spent by government. Members of the OKFN’s community work together to build tools and online communities that encourage collaboration in the use and production of digital information. As mentioned on the site, the team is comprised of staff and volunteers who constantly discuss and develop new and innovative ways “to monitor and explain budgets and government spending through the use of technology.”

According to the OKFN team, Openspending came about because, as they note "there is no 'global atlas' of spending, no integrated, searchable database which would be a valuable resource for policy-makers and civil society alike. We want anyone to be able to go to their local council or national government, request the data, upload, understand and visualise it and contribute to this 'spending commons', which anyone can benefit from.”

Openspending is actually an international version of Where Does My Money Go? (WDMMG), a UK-focused project that uses interactive visualizations to demonstrate how the government allocates the UK Taxpayer’s money in different spending sectors such as health, defense, education, and the environment.  Openspending uses open source software that allows users to upload and visualize their own data through the various built-in interactive visualizations. Data uploaded includes budgets, procurements and public employee salaries. In addition, the Openspending team is localizing OpenSpending into other languages, using Transifex.

Check out Openspending’s current initiatives here, including a Bosnian equivalent of Where Does My Money Go? and Slovakia Openspending. The latter platform was developed in collaboration with Transparency International Slovakia and essentially is a site that allows users to examine and compare municipality budgets and expenditures from 2009 to 2013. 

The NDI tech team is always looking for intereting projects that support the efforts of NDI and its partners worldwide. Openspending can serve as an excellent public resource for individuals and organizations to monitor government spending in order to push for greater transparency and accountability in their respective countries.