DC Influencer: Q&A with Ellen Miller, executive director, Sunlight Foundation

Ellen Miller, executive director of the Sunlight Foundation, talks to Jaimy Lee about why political transparency is a work in progress.

Ellen Miller, executive director of the Sunlight Foundation, talks to Jaimy Lee about why political transparency is a work in progress.

PRWeek: What are some of the main issues the Sunlight Foundation is working on?

Miller: We focus on a single issue, which is using technology to create greater transparency for the work of government. We are looking at congressional information, executive branch information, and state information.

PRWeek: How has Sunlight's strategy changed with President Barack Obama now in office?

Miller: With the new administration and its avowed pledge to make government more trans-parent using technology, we have created a new focus to include executive branch information. It has broadened our agenda tremendously to have an administration that has promised to use technology in precisely the way that we would like to see it used, which is to create more accessibility for citizens to get information about the work of government online.

PRWeek: Could you cite a few examples of the ways in which Obama's transparency directive has changed the way government offices communicate and provide information?

Miller: One of the most significant things the new administration has done so far is create data.gov, a site designed to be a single repository for all government data. This is remarkable. Four months in, there are 100,000 data feeds with hundreds of thousands more to come, no doubt, over the next few years. This is one sign that things are really quite different.

PRWeek: How does the Sunlight Foundation plan to monitor the administration and ensure that it remains transparent in its actions?

Miller: I wouldn't say the administration remains transparent. This is an ever-evolving activity. We didn't expect them to flip a switch and make all data absolutely available. It's a process.

Washington is a taffy pull. We have to push and pull them to move faster, to open more data feeds, to create more transparency for the work of the White House and the executive agencies. We hold them accountable every day. We do this by using the social Web. We Twitter. We blog on a regular basis. We do the traditional things of having in-office visits, talking about ways that we think they can become more transparent.

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