Visualizations empower citizens to make sense of open city budgets

City budgets have been known as some of the most cumbersome local level policy documents to read and interpret. Thanks to the software stemming from the Open Budget project (supported by UNDP and Internews Network) local journalists, civic activists, and just curious citizens have better ways of accessing financial information through interactive infographics. They also may find out what is going on in the financial year at this point of time or is in the immediate plans.

Where's the magic? The interactive budget visualization tool takes the hundreds of spreadsheet lines that make up city budgets and turns them into digestible, visual-based infographics that residents can access on the city website. What is more, no additional preparations are necessary to turn the *.dbf file that the city shares with the National Treasury into graphic explanatory images. Register, upload, generate, personalize, embed into the website – and your custom infographic is ready to shine.

With literally a single click, this tool promotes an effective cooperation between local authorities, journalists, and territorial community by increasing transparency of the budget process as well as its results. Using the interactive budget visualization tool, residents can explore where their tax money goes and see what portion of the city budget is dedicated to different programme areas.

The Open Budget toolkit originally aimed at supporting the three city councils of Zhytomyr, Ivano-Frankivsk, and Ternopil to develop an effective online tool for visualization and analysis of budget data. Now, the project further led by UNDP has expanded, and any city council has an opportunity to convert its budget files into visual format, making it more comprehensible and transparent to its constituents. The municipalities of Ivano-Frankivsk and Ternopil have already started to offer their residents the service, posting their city budgets in a form of interactive infographics on their official web-sites. Seven more municipalities are already working on their budget visualizations.

While the choice of both champion cities fell for the famed "Where does my money go" infographic, the administrators may choose up to 10 different visualization options, change colour schemes, embed videos, photo-streams, maps, and virtually any other content. Hence, the first visualizations are the trial balloon that hopefully will be followed by even better detailed budget explanations (while budget code descriptions are automatically uploaded in line with the latest budget classifications, there are extended opportunities to insert additional descriptions and labels).

The second tool that the Open Budget toolkit (samples here:, offers is the "budget calendar" that provides an opportunity to receive a feedback from residents, inform the territorial community of upcoming budget hearings, and upload draft decisions on issues of relevance to the budget process.
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