We learned in school at an early age to not just answer a question, but to show how we arrived at our conclusion. In most cases, this was the only way to earn credit.
That concept carries us forward, as public-sector agencies recognize the need to show their work to the constituents they serve. Open-data sharing and government transparency are fundamental expectations for our citizens.
Cities, counties and states provide many critical services to the community that often go overlooked, undervalued or represented poorly by a single incident. By boosting visibility and transparency through open-data initiatives, agencies can better earn respect from citizens who recognize the value that agencies contribute to their quality of life.
Today’s world places information access in the palm of our hands. We’re constantly bombarded with more and more data every day. It’s served up in multiple ways — through smartphones, smart appliances, smart cars and other smart objects that collect and exchange data.
Thanks to the continued proliferation of social media outlets, we’re instantly assaulted with information whenever a newsworthy event occurs in the world. It’s no wonder that we’ve grown accustomed to the speed and a high level of detail in our information. Governments aren’t exempt from this changing expectation.
Smart governments interact with their citizens to form partnerships to address city- or statewide challenges, whether that means identifying a pothole that needs to be fixed or monitoring statewide spending on IT products and services. Fostering transparency by providing open data on a self-service basis doesn’t only provide goodwill and engage citizens, but also delivers business value. Opportunities include reduced transactional and service costs, increased customer satisfaction, greater operational efficiencies and private-sector development of new uses for data.
Providing open data can be challenging. Governments must decide what data is important and ensure that it’s accurate and free of any personally identifiable information in order to protect a individual’s identity. And once they decide to engage, they must keep the stream of data flowing and current in order to maintain the public’s trust and confidence. In addition to focusing on reliability and accuracy, open governments must also make information easily accessible in a machine-readable format, provide extensive high-value data sets for public consumption and publish data that has both breadth and depth of granularity.
By showing their work, local and state governments can not only highlight the great effort and service that they provide, but improve their operations and standing in the community, including with the individual citizens that they support.