A global directory of official governmental online accounts and services

What are all the Twitter accounts for all government agencies around the world involved in environmental protection? What are all YouTube accounts for Swedish municipalities? Those are two examples of queries we want Govdirectoy to be able to answer.

  • Albin Larsson
  • Jan Ainali
  • 2. September 2021

Govdirectory aims to become a global directory of government agencies and their online presence by utilizing Wikipedia’s sister project Wikidata. You can think of Wikidata as a Wikipedia for structured data, anyone can edit its contents, anyone can reuse its contents, and anyone can review its edit history. Just as Wikipedia is, Wikidata is everywhere, on the result page of your search engine, in your smart speaker, and in your maps.

Wikidata’s content, openness, sourceability, versioning, and community enable the foundation that makes Govdirectory possible, while our participation in Wikimedia’s UNLOCK Accelerator elevates our project by providing additional structure, insights, and expertise.

We can see ourselves using Govdirectory, that’s great, but it’s also a trap.

We could build the service we want and that would be fine, but by participating in UNLOCK we are given incentive to extensively explore who our users could be and what they need. The Wikimedia Accelerator and our coach, Fabian Gampp, brings a framework for user research in the form of interviews and user testing.

Through the program, we have methodically expanded our idea into a plan. Now we have a clear vision and mission, which guides us in everyday choices on what to include or not. That has also made us realize who are our core users and who are other users that may benefit from our project. This realization is not only a philosophical epiphany, but can tell us what kind of functionality needs to be front and center and what can be more hidden and developed at a later stage.

Building a global database of ever-changing government agencies isn’t an easy task…

…and for only two people it’s impossible. Here is where the Wikidata community comes in! When the effort was announced before there was any website or other visible use, they got to work and started to work on various aspects. Some researched what official sources countries had, some went through all government agencies of a country or administrative level and tracked down their social media accounts, and some imported official data. As we work to improve tooling, we hope that we will increase the productivity of existing contributors and inspire new ones to join our effort.


UNLOCK 2021 Project Govdirectory – Wikidata data set https://www.wikidata.org/wiki/Wikidata:WikiProject_Govdirectory#Add_your_country

So what’s the end product?

We know that Wikidata might not be the place where information is discovered by those who need it the most, therefore the end-product is all the contents of Govdirectory packaged nicely on a website optimized for discoverability and reuse. No matter if you are an activist who wants to issue a freedom of information request or a data journalist who wants to download a list of all Swedish Twitter accounts held by state-level agencies, Govdirectory should cover your needs.

Two months into the project, we aren’t there yet. At the end of the UNLOCK program, we aim to have a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) with enough data and features to showcase the potential and to inspire new contributors and users. You can explore an early version of our MVP at Govdirectory.org.

Do you want to join us?

Hopefully, you are thinking, “This is a cool project, how can I help?” right now. First, we want all the feedback we can get. Do you have more ideas on how this can be used? Tweet to us or make issues on GitHub. Or even better, join us for a testing session. That way, we can get deeper into how the site is serving you the information you are looking for. If you are a developer, take a look at our issues and roadmap to see what we are working on and where we need help. Perhaps you know where there are good sources of data in your country, just a pointer in the right direction would be great. And if you are a Wikidata user (or want to become one!), we would love to help you get started. We have put together some basic information, but if you ping us, we can give you a personalized introduction.


UNLOCK 2021 Project Govdirectory – Minimum Viable Product https://www.govdirectory.org/