Open Data Government Initiatives

Governments all over the world have the issue of finding ways to be transparent with its citizens, as the idea of allowing the population easy access to information which was once previously hidden is not on the agenda. Pulling up the curtain to show not only their own citizens their data but anyone who has access to internet can be seen as a negative which would create tension between the community and the local government. However, this is actually the opposite as open data government initiatives have been found through numerous studies to actually strengthen the relationship between the community and the local government. This is shown through the studies in Dallas, New York City, San Francisco, Michigan, and Eindhoven. The Dallas Police Department introduced the idea of “transforming with transparency” to their police department in order to rebuild the trust within the community and to hold officers accountable. With New York City being the leader of innovation, Michael Bloomberg pushed New York City to be transparent and thus implement open data by creating nyc.gov/data so all New Yorkers have easy access to public datasets and can find ways to improve the city. Alameda County, the eastern region of San Francisco turned to socrata to develop a user friendly open data platform which allowed the community to discover an improvement which saves the county more than $500,000 annually. With Michigan competing for federal funding and interest from businesses, Michigan’s government turned to open data to allow access to detailed information and earned an A+ transparency rating from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. Lastly, United States local governments aren’t the only ones making the switch as Eindhoven in the Netherlands developed one of the most comprehensive data programs in Europe. Transparency is a key in smart cities, as it sparks communal involvement and trust within the government.

The Dallas Police Department introduced the idea of “transforming with transparency” to their police department in order to rebuild the trust within the community and to hold officers accountable. The ultimate goal for the initiative was to rebuild trust within the community as there were false rumors and information being speculated upon by the media. The new access to factual data allows the user to download information, create visuals, and analyze the data in any way the reader wants to look at it (Socrata, 2017). Since implementation in 2015, incidents of deadly force were driven down by 45% and in 2016 excessive force complaints were reduced to four when in previous years the averaged was between 150-200 (Socrata, 2017). In addition, in 2016 the number of officer involved shootings was two when in the years before the initiative the average was between 18-25. These numbers alone are drastic improvements, as the Police Department was able to be held accountable by the community. Furthermore, a result of the implementation of open data the department has turned to community engagement events to strengthen the relationship between the community and the Police Department. As a result of the initiative, communal trust in the Dallas Police Department skyrocketed and are involved with the working men and women more than ever before as a result of the open data initiative.

With New York City being the leader of innovation, Michael Bloomberg pushed New York City to be transparent and thus implement open data by creating nyc.gov/data so all New Yorkers have easy access to public datasets and can find ways to improve the city. This website allows citizens to analyze real time data and is organized into categories for easy searching. The city offers a $30,000 dollar reward for finding solutions to solving the city’s most challenging issues. In addition, the website invites user involvement and promotes those to contribute to the website by providing information on smaller businesses that participants could provide information on. Since beginning in 2009, every year the city has grand prize winners from every category who develops the most innovative form of technology using the website’s information. In 2017, a passenger check in system called “On Board” was selected from the transportation category. The system’s goal is to improve the quality of traveling throughout the city by analyzing schedules and safety levels (Socrata, 2017). New York City’s twist of their open data initiative is consistent with the idea of innovation the city promotes. New York showed an innovative of way to not only implement open data and allow revolutionary access to real time data but actually promoting communal involvement on the site makes it so successful. Alameda County looked at New York City when implementing their own twist on open data government as well.

Alameda County, the eastern region of San Francisco turned to socrata to develop a user friendly open data platform which allowed the community to discover an improvement which saves the county more than $500,000 annually. Alameda County turned to open data government to show transparency and strengthen the relationship with the community. Alameda County looked to New York City for guidance on how open data should be constructed and promoted within the population. Like New York City, the access to data is so extensive that you can even search and find datasets on bed bugs (Socrata, 2017). In addition, Alameda County brought the community around the data and challenged the community to promote its open data through involvement. Every year, Alameda County puts on an “Apps Challenges” event which allows residents to pitch their innovative ideas to help the local government and the winners receive financial compensation or job opportunities (Socrata, 2017). In 2014, the event led to the creation of an app which reduced the time for verification from 40 hours to just eight. This app created a new system which saves the county more than $500,000 annually. Alameda County showed that benefits from open data does not take years like previously thought, as benefits can be seen rapidly. Michigan can attest to this, as the success within Michigan due to open data was nearly overnight.

With Michigan competing for federal funding and interest from businesses, Michigan’s government turned to open data to allow access to detailed information and earned an A+ transparency rating from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. Prior to implementing open data, Michigan failed to provide accurate and timely information for years and was experiencing an economic decline statewide. However, through turning to open data government initiatives the state benefited drastically. As Michigan got access to the proper technology to share government data and executed its implementation, Michigan’s U.S. Public Interest Research Group Grade shot from a C to an A- (Socrata, 2016). However, Michigan was determined to achieve that A+ rating for transparency and developed the website further to allow access to much more data once previously not shown. As a result, Michigan achieved their goal of receiving an A+ transparency grade from the U.S. PIRG. In addition, businesses started to become attracted to Michigan and develop themselves within the state as a result. Furthermore, trust within the government excelled expectations as the population within Michigan found solace in seeing where their money was going towards and the goals of the government. In total, economic and social stimulation since implementation of an open data government has benefitted the entire state tremendously. However, the United States is not the only one to experience serious benefits from having an open data government.

United States local governments aren’t the only ones making the switch as Eindhoven in the Netherlands developed one of the most comprehensive data programs in Europe. Eindhoven has developed their open data initiative just like some of the city’s previously mentioned, around involvement of the community. Like New York City and Alameda County, Eindhoven will be hosting events with specific themes and challenges to promote residents to pitch their app ideas to benefit the community. Although facing pressure from European countries to provide open source data, Eindhoven see open data as an advantage that should not be stopped. After recently winning an award for their state of the art geographical mapping due to their open data datasets, Eindhoven’s view on open data is strengthened (Socrata, 2017).

In conclusion, open data government initiatives benefit not only local communities but even states and countries as a whole. This is shown through studies in cities such as Dallas, New York City, San Francisco, Michigan, and Eindhoven. Although each city has their own twists and takes on the idea, the overall goal of implementing an open data government is the same. An open data government is essential for smart cities, as transparency is an important key in attracting the new creatives classes with each successive generation.
















Sources

  1. Open Data Rebuilds Trust in the Dallas Police Department. (n.d.). Retrieved December 09, 2017, from https://socrata.com/case-study/open-data-rebuilds-trust-dallas-police-department/

  2. New York City Asks Hackers to Solve Tough Issues. (n.d.). Retrieved December 09, 2017, from https://socrata.com/case-study/new-york-city-asks-hackers-solve-tough-issues/

  3. Goal Achieved: Michigan's Path to an A Transparency Rating. (n.d.). Retrieved December 09, 2017, from https://socrata.com/case-study/goal-achieved-michigans-path-transparency-rating/

  4. Alameda County Saves More Than $565,000 with Open Data. (n.d.). Retrieved December 09, 2017, from https://socrata.com/case-study/alameda-county-saves-565000-open-data/

  5. Eindhoven Chooses Socrata to Spark Citizen Engagement. (n.d.). Retrieved December 09, 2017, from https://socrata.com/case-study/eindhoven-chooses-socrata-spark-citizen-engagement/