Open Data bill is an important update to the California Public Records Act
June 26, 2015 by Robb Korinke
Also published on Digital Democracy.
“SB 272 requires local agencies to make a catalog of their enterprise systems used to store and maintain, update local data. What this is really about is in the effort to figure out how to, how to move forward in data collection, and what are we going to do in the government.” – Senator Bob Hertzberg (D – Van Nuys)
Government in California involves thousands of state and local agencies that provide critical services. Developing and managing public programs – and improving results – require a holistic view of how these agencies operate and how they can work better together.
Today that is nearly impossible, but the passage of SB 272 and other “Open Data” bills could make it more possible.
SB 272 would require local government agencies to catalog the information systems used to manage data and to make that information available to the public under the California Public Records Act.
The potential benefits from accessing this data are enormous—cities, counties and other local agencies hold a vast amount of information on everything from the local economy to water usage, environmental impacts and education levels. Most of this information is public record. Very little of it is actively shared. As a result, most Californians don’t know it exists, and opportunities for innovation and citizen engagement are lost.
As Sen. Hertzberg noted in a Senate Committee on Appropriations hearing last month, Open Data enables these opportunities, but also presents some risks. SB 272 is a vital first step in assessing what information is available and understanding how it can be put to use to reduce costs, improve results, increase transparency and public accountability.
The bill is an important update to the California Public Records Act, essentially redefining public records from individual documents to the information or data they contain.
Smarter governments work better and inspire confidence in those they serve, strengthening the connection between government and the people. SB 272 hopes to allow both government and the public to better understand how local government serves all Californians.