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Standardizing Data–who should regulate?
August 6, 2010 at 7:59 pm #107569
One of the issues we’ve been dealing with in building Govistics, our government spending database, is the lack of comparability for locally reported data, even at the county level. Even though many cities and local governments are opening up their books, there’s little to no standardization for data reporting. NYS’s Open Book NY is a great example of comparability on the state level, but other than Census, there’s not much nationally.
Who should set the standards for how data are reported? Who should enforce them? And the biggest question–who should pay for it? There’s an obvious administrative cost here…would love to hear your thoughts
August 6, 2010 at 8:03 pm #107577
To me this seems like a job for the State Auditor, but that’s adding a ton of work to the plate
August 7, 2010 at 12:56 am #107575
I believe this is also related to the lack of standardization for the collection and structure of the data. Although not all local governments will be exactly alike due to differences in climate and terrain, it would be helpful if we at least had a guide for standardization for all aspects of data collection, structure, and reporting as you suggested.
Over the last year, I have had this discussion with a few people from all levels of govt who are interested in pursuing this topic. But we seem to stall out at the same questions you ask. I had hoped the data.gov initiative might help move this forward but since that is a federal project, it probably will take some time before it focuses on local govt standardization. Our MuniGov group has discussed creating a forum or online space to nurture this discussion, but we have yet to set this up. Right now we are going through incorporation so perhaps the site will be created after that takes place.
In the meantime, the most success I have had is from approaching it on a regional level. A group of us from neighboring cities and the county have all had discussions about this and have even begun developing the structure for some data. One of the people in the group is also involved in another regional initiative working on standardization in the Northeastern IL area.
I guess what I am trying to say is I had believed it should be a national effort led by the federal government but in practice some regional efforts have already begun and seem to be making progress. Perhaps we just need a site to collect, organize, and build upon existing efforts?
August 10, 2010 at 1:41 pm #107573
In England, we’re lucky to have some central bodies that support local government – we’ve just established a transparency programme across the Local Government Association group bodies LGA, LG Improvement and ESD-toolkit and also with key professional bodies SOCITM (IT managers) and CIPFA (accountancy) ahead of the requirement for all local governments to publish expenditure over £500. We have to agree some very, very basic standards (e.g. how often to report, what to redact, £500 over what period, do you group multiple invoices under £500 to a single supplier, etc. etc.) as well as having other data standards such as ontologies to support linked data (or at least mashable data) so that the information is comparable for benchmarking purposes by practitioners. But it’s not going to be an easy road. Interestingly, we’ve already had push back from the data community that we shouldn’t spend so much time on agreeing standards but more on just ‘getting it out there’…
August 12, 2010 at 5:11 pm #107571
That’s really a shame–having data out there is great, but its applications (especially benchmarking as you mention) are limited unless you can have that context. Still, glad to hear of your efforts–best of luck!
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