CA Fwd summit to boost government transparency opens with news of Assembly open data bill

150 150 Ed Coghlan

Assembly member Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) speaks at CA Fwd’s Summit on Data. (Photo Credit: John Guenther)

California Forward is a catalyst for change in the state. To reinforce why promoting access to open data is an important step toward improving governance in the state, the organization hosted a well-attended statewide Summit on Data in Sacramento on Wednesday during Sunshine Week.

Assembly member Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) marked the occasion by announcing legislation to make California a leader in open data at the Summit, which convened leading civic tech developers. Ting’s objective is to make more information about our state government freely available for everyone to access, analyze, and republish without restrictions.

“We know open data leads to more accountability and efficiency,” said Ting. “As the home of Silicon Valley, California should be an open data leader. We have seen how open data works in communities across the state, especially San Francisc.  Data crunching technology is readily available and inexpensive, making it easier than ever for citizens to assess the performance of their government. We must seize the potential of the next frontier in open government.”

Ting’s Assembly Bill AB1215 creates the California Open Data Act and enables the Governor to appoint a Chief Data Officer tasked with presiding over a centralized online information portal for state agencies to submit standardized data for public access. The bill requires state agencies and departments to appoint a data coordinator to work with the Chief Data Officer to ensure the transference of information under the Act.

“California Forward is a strong supporter of open data and is pleased that Assembly member Ting is pushing the cause forward,” said Jim Mayer, President and CEO at California Forward.  “California should lead the rapidly growing movement to leverage data and technology for transparency, efficiency and improved governance. Open data is also a means to increase public trust, engage citizens and improve the quality of public services”

CA Fwd believes that technology has the power to transform government — to promote job creation, to make services more cost-effective, to increase public involvement and understanding, and to enable greater accountability for results. To accomplish this, CA Fwd is working with innovators inside and outside of government to use technology to improve results, to promote pioneers and best practices, and to identify how regulations and statutes can be modernized to accelerate the adaptation of technology in the service of the public interest.

Wednesday’s Summit provided CA Fwd an opportunity to synthesize learning from the regional data forums that it conducted over the past year across California (in Fresno, Long Beach, San Bernardino and the Silicon Valley).

Quite simply, CA Fwd believes that 2015 should the year for open data in California. A new crop of state lawmakers and constitutional officers, combined with activity already underway in state and local governments, are pushing California closer to a “tipping point” where the demand and use of data can truly transform the public sector.

CA Fwd asked Californians in an online questionnaire what they want in open data. Here’s what they told us:

  • They want more data and have tried (and failed to find it). More than two-thirds says they can’t find the data they want.
  • They would use data to “re-engage” in the political process. Nearly 80 percent says they’d use better access to data to inform how (and if) they vote.
  • Local government data is far more “popular” than state data. Fifty percent of respondents listed local data (think your city and school district) as the most important with state and federal data splitting the difference.

CA Fwd will continue its emphasis on transparency and open data in government. Let us know what you think.


Ed Coghlan

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