California Polytechnic State University

Improving transparency in state government

Project

Digital Democracy

Tech Specs

  • Upgrade from Drupal 7 to Drupal 8
  • Apache Solr for faceted search
  • KSS living style guide
  • Component based design
  • SaaS based frontend theme
  • Responsive, mobile-friendly platform
  • Jenkins and Docker for automated deployment
  • Amazon AWS production environment

Background

Transparency needs room to grow

Digital Democracy was created by California Polytechnic State University to increase transparency in state government by making legislative data available online. People could view records of elected officials and videos of hearings, but inconsistencies made the site difficult to navigate, especially on mobile devices. Cumbersome data processes made real-time updates impossible, and an outdated system prevented the site from scaling.

Digital Democracy needed an upgrade to accommodate real-time data for three additional states. Thousands of records needed to be mapped and made searchable so people could engage accurately with their government. The site would be built as an unbranded base so other advocacy organizations could use it as a tool for their own work.

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Approach

Upgrading with a complex data model

Digital Democracy’s team of developers and analysts maintain all of the video, hearings, and transcriptions in their own database schema — spanning over 100 tables and 20+ million rows. We performed a technical architecture redesign which uses Drupal 8 custom entities to treat the data as if it were local.

Design with users in mind

User research helped us decide on a modern, responsive design that gives people a flawless experience on any device and can be customized for each new state.

Unlimited growth potential

We used a design evaluation process to create an expandable, dynamic solution that makes real-time data possible. The previous cumbersome data import process is eliminated, and the site can now scale to support any number of states.

DevOps for reliable updates

We put DevOps processes in place for building, testing, and releasing to make sure the platform could be updated without compromising stability. Digital Democracy development teams can focus on improving the platform rather than managing problems.

Built for sharing

We revamped Digital Democracy as a “white label solution,” available as an API to other groups and organizations looking for a similar tool to power their own advocacy efforts.

Powerful, effective search

We built a simple but powerful site-wide search feature so users can quickly find what they’re looking for. People can search for topics, speakers, committees, bills, and more — right from the home screen.

Helping people take action

Digital Democracy was built to double as an “Action Center.” Organizers can create campaigns focused on a particular bill by presenting clips of hearings, downloads, and other message-boosting content.

Digital Democracy empowers every Californian with unprecedented access to their government. The result will be greater accountability. Gavin Newsom, Lieutenant Governor, State of California

Impact

  • People can engage with government without attending hearings
  • Legislators are held accountable for their words and connections
  • Other groups can use the platform to start their own transparency projects
  • The workings of government are opened to users who might otherwise struggle to stay informed
  • Digital Democracy teams can expand and improve the site with confidence
  • Significant contributions made to Drupal community in building a complex site

Explore

See our work

Digital Democracy

Learn More

Video: Introducing Digital Democracy

Hear from a project engineer

Drupal Case Study: Digital Democracy Redesign

Related Reading

Participedia: ‘The Digital Democracy Project’ Press and endorsements for Digital Democracy

5,000,000

items of legislative data
accessible on new platform

4

states improving transparency
with Digital Democracy

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