Next American City columnist Christian Madera writes that the federal government and a variety of cities are opening this data up to the public. The trend is also spreading outside of the U.S.
"One often cited example is the City of Toronto, Canada, which publishes the detailed expense records of the City's mayor and council members. In the U.S., Washington, D.C. publishes the details of government purchase orders and credit card transactions as part of its open data catalog. And Cook County, Illinois recently launched a online check register that lists contract payments made by the County.
Other cities are trying to catch up. In New York City, the city's new Public Advocate (an elected post designed to serve as the city's watchdog) announced plans for new website that would provide citizens with information about applications for councilmember discretionary funds – which could potentially be used to reward political supporters. Underwhelmingly, reporting of these applications will be on a voluntary basis by each elected official."