Year in Review: Open Data and Transparency

150 150 Alexandra Bjerg

California Forward has long been a champion of openness and transparency on the part of government at all levels. Our Transparency Portal continues to be one of the most heavily trafficked sub-sections of our website. Earlier this year we held the first-of-its-kind Data Summit and for next, year, CA Fwd is upping the ante with regional data events leading up to 2015’s Summit during Sunshine Week. Leading the charge for CA Fwd in this area is Robb Korinke, who answered a few questions about the strides taken in 2014 and why next year holds the promise of being the best yet.

How did the open data movement within government change in 2014 and what were the most significant gains made?

2014 was a watershed year for Open Data, in California and across the nation. Several States have moved on new policies supporting Open Data, and here in California we saw Los Angeles, San Diego and several cities appoint their first Chief Data Officers. The CA Dept of Public Health also launched their Open Data Portal. Interest in the subject is exploding, and the Regional Forums CA Fwd is doing on the topic have all sold out.

Which is a bigger barrier: modernizing outmoded technology or changing the culture of government?

Technology is really not the issue. Embedding it into new processes, or reworking outmoded procurement models, are the big challenges. We see a lot of desire from public agencies to be creative and embrace technology, however, and local governments seem to be leading the way.

While the Open Data movement is growing momentum, surveys of public technology experts suggest state and local governments have just half the infrastructure and perhaps only a third of the personnel necessary to meet the challenges and opportunities of Open Data. How the private sector rising to the challenge of helping to fill these voids? Should state and local governments embrace this or should they do more on their own? 

Venture Capital is flowing to civic startups, as more and more entrepreneurs see the potential for public sector innovation. One task for public agencies is to try and put their faith in small firms without the decades-long reputation of traditional vendors. Government managers are notoriously risk adverse, but there’s lots o low/no cost solutions out there for those ready to take a step forward.

In 2015, what are the issues and topics in the realm of transparency that you think deserve the most attention moving forward and what are the major hurdles California needs to clear to maintain the growing momentum toward open government and open data? 

How can we make sure Open Data portals aren’t just limited to big cities and the largest state and federal agencies? The potential for data to transform government services and public interaction with government depends on broad adoption of these tools and strategies. This will require some smart policies that present the right incentives for public managers to embrace change. 

(image: JISC)


Alexandra Bjerg

All stories by: Alexandra Bjerg