NEW YORK, June 6, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- City Comptroller John C. Liu today published the source code for the Checkbook NYC financial transparency website, and announced several partnerships that will enable other governments to rapidly leverage New York City's investment in order to create similar websites of their own.
Checkbook NYC empowers the public to keep an eye on more than $70 billion in annual government spending with detailed, up-to-date information about New York City's revenues, expenditures, contracts, payroll, and budget. In January, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group named it the best website of its kind.
"In an era of scarce resources, open source software represents a major cost savings opportunity for taxpayers because it allows government to mobilize the collective talents of developers everywhere," said Comptroller Liu. "Sharing the Checkbook NYC code with other governments is not a selfless act; on the contrary, it's a win-win strategy that will enhance the quality of our software at no additional cost to taxpayers."
The code, which is available for use and modification under the AGPL 3.0 license, can be accessed at GitHub (https://github.com/NYCComptroller/Checkbook), an online community where open source code is stored and shared. Comptroller Liu encouraged programmers and governments that adopt the system to contribute improvements and features that can be incorporated into future versions of the source code.
Comptroller Liu made the announcement at the 10th annual Personal Democracy Forum, which explores the evolving relationship between technology and democracy. He thanked two technology giants, Oracle and CGI, for agreeing to develop "adapters," in the form of automated data feeds, between their financial management systems and Checkbook NYC. These feeds will enable other state and local governments that use Oracle and CGI solutions to easily share their financial data with the public.
"Oracle is proud to support the City of New York in providing transparency into city spending via the Checkbook NYC application," said Peter Doolan, Group Vice President & Chief Technologist of Oracle Public Sector. "We believe that open and transparent insight into government spending strengthens the democratic process and provides a framework for fiscal responsibility and accountability."
"CGI is proud of its partnership with the City of New York, and has long been a believer in the benefit of using IT to improve the efficiency, openness, and accessibility of government information to the public," said Michael Keating, CGI Senior Vice President and New York Client Executive. "We support the vision of Checkbook NYC and look forward to helping interested governments expand its adoption."
Comptroller Liu also commended REI Systems, the technology firm that collaborated with the City on the development and open-sourcing of Checkbook NYC, for volunteering to provide Oracle and CGI with the technical expertise and tools to test their new "adapters" and to host "sandbox" development sites for a select number of their state and city financial management system clients.
"We couldn't be more proud of our association with the Office of the Comptroller of the City of New York and the launch of Checkbook NYC," said Scott Fletcher, REI Systems Chief Operating Officer. "Checkbook NYC has set a new bar for financial transparency, and the City of New York is taking it to an entirely new level by leveraging this investment for the benefit of other state and local governments across the U.S. What a great opportunity to demonstrate the power of creative and innovative public-private partnerships to improve government operations and transparency."
Collectively, Oracle, CGI, and REI Systems are estimated to have committed to investing more than $1 million of resources in order to make Checkbook NYC rapidly adaptable by other governments.
The Comptroller credited Deputy Comptroller Ari Hoffnung and Assistant Comptroller Michael Bott for their leadership roles on this open-source project and for taking steps to ensure that Checkbook NYC improves over time.
"Governments serious about reducing costs and inefficiencies must make collaboration a top priority," said Deputy Comptroller Ari Hoffnung. "We also need to work more closely with our technology vendors to ensure that the tools we purchase are developed in a way that enables government to easily share data with the public and become more financially transparent."
The Comptroller also thanked several City agencies for their assistance on this project, including the Mayor's Office of Contract Services, the New York City Council, the City's Financial Information Services Agency, and the Office of Management and Budget.
"There's endless potential for excellence in government when it leverages the knowledge of the people and communities it serves," said New York City Chief Information and Innovation Officer Rahul N. Merchant. "Publishing the source code for Checkbook NYC is an important contribution to the Bloomberg Administration's ongoing open government efforts."
A "Checkbook NYC Hackathon," designed to bring together civic activists, software developers, and entrepreneurs, is being planned for the fall. Discussions are also under way with other governments to form a consortium that would collaboratively manage the Checkbook NYC source code and share costs associated with future enhancements.
"With Checkbook NYC, the New York City Comptroller is proving unequivocally that technology can indeed make government more efficient, transparent, and accountable," said Andrew Rasiej, founder of Personal Democracy Forum and Chairman of NY Tech Meetup. "The open way Checkbook NYC has been strategically designed and deployed further confirms that New York City is ready to move from the era of simple 20th-century E-Government to the reality and benefits of 21st-century We-Government."
"This is a smart move that will benefit other cities and states seeking to adapt the unrivaled features of Checkbook NYC," said Phineas Baxandall, a Senior Analyst at U.S. PIRG and national expert on government transparency. "It's doubly smart because New York City will reap rewards every time other places build improvements and new functions for this platform. It's a win-win."
"Congratulations to the team who has delivered CheckbookNYC.com," said Jennifer Foutty, Executive Director, Kuali Foundation. "It is a significant milestone that demonstrates how local government is finding ways to collaborate and use open source technology to provide effective services and drive down costs. The Kuali Foundation, which produces open source software for higher education through leveraged investment by member institutions, is pleased to see like-minded efforts in local government."
"Opening data and granting better access to public information will only get easier as governments and communities learn from each other's successes and challenges," said Ellen Miller, Executive Director and Co-Founder of the Sunlight Foundation. "By making Checkbook NYC open source, New York City is providing a valuable resource to other towns, cities, and states looking to attain greater financial transparency."
"Cities need to share their resources, and innovations in any city should benefit every city," said Abhi Nemani, Chief of Staff, Code for America. "Checkbook NYC is a flagship example of the emerging ecosystem of interoperable, useful, and reusable civic tools. This is the kind of project Code for America hopes to support in city after city."
Press release: Launch of Checkbook NYC 2.0 (January 23, 2013)
Video: Launch of Checkbook NYC 2.0 (January 23, 2013)
With more than 390,000 customers—including 100 of the Fortune 100—and with deployments across a wide variety of industries in more than 145 countries around the globe, Oracle offers an optimized and fully integrated stack of business hardware and software systems.
Founded in 1976, CGI Group Inc. is the fifth-largest independent information technology and business process services firm in the world. Approximately 69,000 professionals serve thousands of global clients from offices and delivery centers across the Americas, Europe, and Asia Pacific, leveraging a comprehensive portfolio of services, including high-end business and IT consulting, systems integration, application development and maintenance, and infrastructure management, as well as a wide range of proprietary solutions.
About REI Systems:
REI Systems, serving Government for over 20 years, is the employee-owned software engineering company that supported the development and implementation of Checkbook NYC, in collaboration with the Comptroller's Office. REI Systems is an established leader in open government, open data, and transparency solutions, having created a number of engaging and innovative government websites, including DATA.gov, USAspending.gov, ITDashboard.gov, and Performance.gov. Please visit REI at www.reisystems.com and follow us on Twitter.
NYC Contact: Connor Osetek, (212) 669-3747
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SOURCE REI Systems