GovBytes: Planning an Open Government Future

While the pressure to maintain transparent operations is an issue facing all levels of government, one challenge that is especially pressing for local governments is taking big data out of open data, making information more readily accessible to average citizens. Presenting data in a meaningful way is the goal of Open Tucson, an independent non-profit group that is trying to open up data for citizens and app makers alike in Arizona’s second largest city.

‘Open Tucson’ to Drive Better Decisions

As of last month, the Open Tucson group is working in conjunction with the Tucson Mayor’s office to create a public open data portal on the mayor’s website. Their projects include: opening a kiosk to display live schedule data for buses coming to stops near local businesses, an outreach program to explain how the city’s budget, and establishing a partnership with SeeClickFix to track city services in need of repair.

They are not the first city to undertake the creation of a portal. A quick look at Baltimore’s Open Government portal shows what a more developed system can provide. The salary of every city employee is easily available, right next to victim based crime data, and a map showing the location of every speed camera in the city. Parking citation information, addresses of vacant buildings, city contracts… the list goes on and on.

Anything with a value can be tracked and quantified in open government. Having access to data is helpful for businesses, policy makers, city planners, and basically anyone with a question and access to an internet device. The key to the successful presentation of data is maintenance, making sure that everything is presented in real-time for the people who need it, which is why Tucson’s approach of private-public partnership to create their portal looks especially promising.

Tucson’s portal is still in its planning stages, and they are accepting citizen suggestions for potential data sets. It is expected to go live on the city’s website at the end of 2012.

Is there a data set that would help you or your agency do your job better?

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