One of the biggest movements in state & local government in 2015 has been the push for open data. Open data allows government agencies to easily provide information to the public, increase government transparency, foster engagement with citizens and enhance civic life through technology.

In the Center for Digital Government’s recent 2015 Digital Counties Survey, 54 innovative counties were recognized as being the best at using technology. Top winner, Fairfax County in Virginia, impressed the judges with their notable open data and transparency initiatives. Fairfax County’s CIO, Wanda Gibson, explains that managing the county’s data is a huge job because the county has 55 business agencies, each with different types and formats of data.

What we’re trying to do is get our arms around a technical strategy that aggregates data and performs analytics on that particular data, and then integrates that data for an enterprise warehouse. Then, out of that data, that’s where the open data comes in. The public can come in on different service areas of the county government and be able to get quick information and searches on a specific program or a specific topic.

Wanda Gibson, CIO, Fairfax County in Virginia

Of all counties surveyed, “Open government/transparency/open data” is one of the top five technologies and innovations they believed they would see more of in 2016. Onvia has a large database of procurement activity and spending plans from over 80,000 agencies in the U.S. Recently published projects in Onvia’s Project Center support the survey’s results for more open data, not only at the county level, but also at the state and city levels of government. In the last year, nearly 200 bids and RFPs have been published that focus on, or include, open data initiatives.

Released an RFP in October 2015 for a “City Data Strategic Plan” that will leverage data-driven decision-making to improve internal efficiencies and increase transparency. The plan will help the city understand current data inventories, platforms and business processes and then will articulate necessary future data management and integration strategies, analytics capabilities and open data schema.
Issued a bid for a pilot project to aggregate all of the state park and trail data from over 12,000 trails. The agency seeks a data consultant to mentor the data conversion to the Code for America Open Trail Standard and publish the data via an open data platform. Pilot results will be evaluated to understand the full benefits of data standardization and then the project will be prepared for a statewide release.

widely used government data sets

The Private Sector Emerges as the Public Sector’s Best Open Data Partner

In the early days of planning and implementation, agencies may need consultation, guidance and support to fully understand the potential for open data and the best ways to provide this data to the public - for instance: Will the data be pulled from a single agency department or can the information come from a variety of government datasets? E.g. can the data pull together weather and traffic conditions? Will the data be put in an open data catalog or open data portal? Will the open data platform be a software-as-a-service (SAAS) or self-hosted deployment model? Will the data be available solely through an online portal or can it be delivered through apps? More than ever, the public sector is turning to the private sector to help answer open data implementation and execution questions.

top ten most popular government dataset

In a recent Government Technology article, Diego May, co-founder and CEO of the open data portal company Junar, says the value from open data can come from private-public partnerships, collaborations with tech companies that link government mission statements to civic technology.

One major motivator for private tech companies to join forces with the public sector is cloud technology. Cloud-based software makes it much easier and cheaper to work with giant sets of data giving private firms a way to enter the public market.

I think that people inside the government want the government to do a better job. I’m thrilled that the private sector is recognizing opportunities here. We are at the very nascent stage in terms of what is possible.

David Levine, Associate Professor of Law, Elon University School of Law, Forbes

Framing an Open Data Policy

Most open data that is made available will be publically available data. But agencies will still need tailored open data policies to address questions such as how the agency will safeguard sensitive information, ensure integrity of the data, limit liability and provide effective cybersecurity measures. Onvia’s database reveals that agencies are seeking vendor assistance to address open data polices.

Issued an RFP in October 2015 for a uniform health facilities discharge data system to collect, process and aggregate inpatient, outpatient and specialty claim level records from NH healthcare facilities’ files in an efficient, accurate, complete and timely manner. The proposed solution must comply with Open Standards and Open Data Formats as mandated by RSA 21-R (HB418 2012).
Issued a bid in September 2015 requesting a commercial-off-the-shelf integrated permitting system that includes bi-directional interfaces with systems such as the City’s geographical information system. The system must provide data exchange capabilities to support the City’s open data initiatives and operate at a high level of security using encryptions, data integrity checks and strong authentication

Billions of Dollars for State & Local Civic Technology Spending

The International Data Corporation (IDC) announced in December 2014 that state and local agencies would spend $25.5 billion on information technology in 2015, $6.4 billion of that for civic technology. According to the report, civic technology spending, which includes open data initiatives, will grow 14 times faster than traditional IT spending from 2013 to 2018. According to Onvia’s Spending Forecast Center, agency plans over the next several years supports this growth. Numerous budgets, capital improvement plans and technology plans call for open data initiatives.

The Department of Innovation and Technology’s mission is help the City achieve goals and to innovate by delivering reliable, timely, cost-effective, appropriate technology and solutions. Over the next four years, this includes the launch of an open data policy and portal to demonstrate the value of open data to all citizens and to help grow and serve Detroit’s burgeoning civic technology ecosystem.
In September 2015, the agency published a preview of a planned project worth $690,000 to fund the implementation of a comprehensive City-wide collaboration tool.  Enterprise Collaboration (Including AlexStat Hardware & Software) AlexStat is critical to implementation of the Budget Guidance and will contribute to the upcoming open data initiates.

A Transparent, Data-Driven Future for Civic Life

Open data in the public sector has “sparked innovation, driven efficiency, and fueled economic development” and open data is shaping the future of civic life:

It’s at the local level that government most directly impacts the lives of residents—providing clean parks, fighting crime, or issuing permits to open a new business. This is where there is the biggest opportunity to use open data to reimagine the relationship between citizens and government.

Brett Goldstein with Lauren Dyson, Beyond Transparency

Vendors with the technology products & services that can help formulate an agency’s data policy, build data portals and applications and provide open data consultation and training have an opportunity to win more government business. In addition, private firms who have the products, services or funds to support agency open data initiatives, should be aware of the increasing number of public sector projects.

State and local agencies are embracing open data. Across the country, seasoned government contractors and private firms have an opportunity to drive change and innovation in open data initiatives and support a robust technologically advanced civic life.

To learn about more about how Open Data is expected to impact government contracting in 2016, download our free report 3 Trends Shaping State & Local Contracting in 2016