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.
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.
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.
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.
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