Sitegeist for Sunlight Foundation

A mobile app that gives context to public data, making it fun and useful on a personal level

The Sunlight Foundation is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that uses the Internet to increase government openness and transparency. As part of its mission, Sunlight builds tools and resources that improve public access to public information by making the data available digitally—and thus easier for both the media and citizens to find and put to use. All of Sunlight’s work is supported by grants and donations. This particular project was funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Sunlight partnered with IDEO to develop the third software application in the National Data Apps series. The goal was to make a practical, appealing mobile app that relied on government data and would compel smartphone users to learn more about their immediate surroundings. The design challenge was to create software that would take advantage of existing public data, tap into location-based curiosity and technologies, and require minimal backend maintenance.

The resulting app, dubbed Sitegeist, helps people access public information about their current whereabouts. Want to know a neighborhood’s average rents? Find a nearby restaurant? See how local residents commute? Sitegeist presents this and other location-based data in an easy-to-digest, at-a-glance format. The app is available free of charge for iOS and Android devices and works everywhere in the United States.

Other mobile apps share government data, but fail to meet the wants and needs of the general public. Instead of putting people first, they dump fleeting, selective data into uninspiring tables and spreadsheets.

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Project date: 2012