There’s no denying that today’s technology provides immense opportunity to transform the way government engages with citizens. Through mobile, cloud, GIS and social media, government can be where the citizens are, and provide critical services when needed.
At the heart of this technological transformation lies data. That’s why so many agencies have committed themselves to becoming data-driven, and are building open data platforms. In doing so, not only have they provided a platform for innovation, but also are building a more transparent, participatory and collaborative government.
“Discoverable, explorable and accessible – those are the concepts we are embodying in our websites when we build them,” said Jason Wieringa, Software Engineer, Esri, at a GovLoop and Esri meetup, The Inside Track on Open Data. In doing so, Esri is helping governments and public consume data in new ways, and help tell stronger stories from the volumes of data collected.
“When we think about data, we think of it as a way to tell a story,” said Michael Colosimo, CEO of thrdPlace, an online collaboration toolkit that helps you map your project location, share your story, mobilize your fellow community members to action, and raise the funds, supplies, and volunteers needed to get things done.
“You are opening data because you are communicating something to a citizen.”
Colosimo commented that often data lacks context, and without context, it’s very hard to call citizens to action. By improving the management and sharing of data, agencies can improve the way government empowers citizens to engage with their community.
Maryland Takes on Open Data
The meetup also featured remarks from Barney Krucoff, Maryland State Geographic Information Officer (GIO). Krucoff detailed his role as GIO and the efforts the state of Maryland has taken to leverage GIS and make state data freely and publicly available. To achieve those means, Krucoff shared that this week that Governor O’Malley signed into law a bill that makes data open by default.
Similar to dozens of states, Maryland has now released legislation on Senate bill 644 & HB 1260. The law is a positive step in the right direction to advance the use of data in the state of Maryland. It now makes it standard practice for data be machine readable and released to the public, in ways that are easy to find and accessible.
“One of the things this law does is that it recognizes that both the geospatial and alphanumeric are governed by the same law,” said Krucoff.
Krucoff anticipates witnessing many benefits of an open data in Maryland, including:
- Increased citizen engagement
- More government transparency
- Improved decision making
- Reduced expenses related to FOIA, reporting and printing
- More entrepreneurship and application development
“We got data the citizens have paid for and is suitable for public consumption – and it’s our job to make that as easy as possible, ”said Krucoff.
In order to comply with the new legislation, Krucoff and his team have embarked on a mission to revamp the open data portal in his state. Much of Maryland’s open data platform is powered by Esri’s ArcGIS software, which helps dozens of states and local governments create a platform for data innovation.
The new site will include a map gallery, GIS data categories, and featured data sets. All of this information will make it easier to access data, and to connect with anyone who’s looking to build applications, mash-up data, or is interested in becoming more engaged with the state. Additionally, it will help state and local government agencies have access to the GIS data.
By releasing data to the public, developers, private sector and activists can leverage data in new, remarkable ways. This allows government to tap into the wisdom of their community, and provide a platform for innovation – powered by data.
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|When Esri was founded in 1969, it realized even then that geographic information system (GIS) technology could make a difference in society. GIS helps people to solve problems at local, regional, national, and global scales. Access maps and apps at ArcGIS.com. Be sure to check out all the GIS resources produced by Esri and GovLoop.|