Zoom in and click on various jurisdictions for more information on their open data policies. Map sources include the Sunlight Foundation, Civic Commons and original research.

 

While many jurisdictions in state and local government have established open data portals in the past few years, only a handful have formalized their commitment to this brand of transparency with legislation, an executive order or an official resolution. Government Technology editors pored through the list of formal policies, as published by the Sunlight Foundation, and picked out some of the highlights on the map above.

One thing that each policy made clear, however, is the fact that there’s a whole lot more to open data, than, well, the data. Government officials see open data as a way to be more transparent and engage citizens. Shining a light on government-held data also helps enhance services to citizens by improving coordination among agencies, and between internal and external stakeholders. Climbing aboard the open data bandwagon can deliver economic rewards too, as many jurisdictions have found. Releasing available data in machine-readable formats encourages civic-minded developers to build products and businesses around them, pumping sought-after tech jobs and related tax dollars into the local economy.

Most open data policies make explicit statements vowing to be mindful not to publish information that the law specifies should be kept private, but governments seem to be moving past this fear now, asking not why they should publish data, but why not? Perhaps Madison, Wis., CIO Paul Kronberger best answered this question in an interview with Government Technology last year: “We recognize that this data has been created with public funds, so it rightfully belongs to the public and should be made available to the public."

Map data is repeated below.

Austin, Texas (2011)

Austin, Texas, saw the importance of open data as it prepared to launch a new version of the city’s online portal in 2011. The city’s resolution highlighted that the new website would include a mobile-enabled data portal and said open source platforms promote accessible government by fostering collaboration. The resolution also mentioned Austin’s partnership with Code for America, which was announced in October 2011, touting that it would be an opportunity to share tech with other jurisdictions. In another example of thinking outside city boundaries, the document said Austin would participate in a national dialog on standards for open data initiatives at the municipal level.

Open data policy

Story links: Austin Texas Gets Website Refresh, How Technology is Changing Citizen Engagement in Austin

Chicago (2012)

A 2012 executive order from Mayor Rahm Emanuel directed the city to create an open data portal and hire a chief data officer, who would lead development of an open data policy for the city. It also directed city departments to designate open data coordinators, all of whom would be members of a new Open Data Advisory Group chaired by the chief data officer. Emanuel’s order says city agencies shall make all appropriate data sets and associated metadata under their control available online “to the extent practicable.” Chicago’s open data portal now lists nearly 1,000 available data sets.

Open data policy

Story links: How Open Data is Transforming Chicago, How Chicago's Data Dictionary is Enhancing Open Government

Connecticut (2014)

Gov. Dannel Malloy’s executive order, signed Feb. 20, 2014, mandates the creation of Connecticut’s open data portal, which while not yet live, will be located at www.data.ct.gov. State departments had 30 days from the signing of the order to identify an agency data officer who was tasked with proposing which data sets from his or her organization should be posted on the state’s website. The agency data officer also is responsible for ensuring that the data sets do not contain protected information. Connecticut’s chief data officer was charged with managing the open data portal and implementing the executive order.

Open data policy

Cook County, Ill. (2011)

Cook County’s 2011 Open Government Plan directed county departments and the offices of elected officials to post most of their data online in a machine-readable, open format. The plan says county data is presumed to be open to the extent permitted by law. Today, the county’s open data site lists 489 data sets. The plan also directs county departments to publish FOIA requests in an open format on the website.

Open data policy

Story link: Cook County, Ill. Hopes Open Data Will Rehab Image

Hawaii (2013)

Hawaii’s open data policy was passed in 2013, a year in which the movement gained considerable momentum in state and local government. The legislation references former CIO Sonny Bhagowalia’s Business and Information Technology/Information Resource Management Transformation Plan, a multifaceted initiative that called on the state to publish its information on a public portal to further transparency efforts, engage citizens and encourage innovation. The portal pre-dated the state’s adoption of a formal policy and now hosts a wide variety of data sets, some of which have logged nearly 15,000 views apiece.

Open data policy

Honolulu, Hawaii (2013)

Honolulu lawmakers followed in the state’s shoes by creating an open data portal in 2012, and then once again by mandating that city agencies make data available to the public in November 2013. Before the open data bill was passed, information posted on the website covered budgets, crime and pothole reporting, for example, and the new law called on all Honolulu agencies to “use reasonable efforts” to make data sets available to the public. Today more than 70 data sets are on the portal, and citizens can suggest what types of information they would like to see added to the site.

Open data policy

Illinois (2012)

Illinois publicly declared its commitment to transparency in 2012 with an executive order from Gov. Pat Quinn that sets an open operating standard to advance governmental efficiencies and cost savings. The order goes on to specify that a cloud-based platform would be used for the state open data portal, and that any governmental entity functioning on behalf of the state of Illinois “will undertake best efforts” to make its data public. Nearly 8,000 sets of data are now hosted on the site, which includes microsites for the cities of Rockford, Champaign and Belleville, as well as the South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association.

Open data policy

Story link: Open Data Victories Come to Illinois

Lexington-Fayette County, Kentucky (2011)

Lexington-Fayette County’s 2011 resolution laid out its intentions to share data freely to not only foster open government but also to develop opportunities for economic development and commerce. The resolution did not highlight the type of data Lexington-Fayette wanted to publicly release on its portal, but said the county will release the “greatest amount of data possible” while keeping security and privacy concerns in mind.

Open data policy

Los Angeles (2013)

Mayor Eric Garcetti issued an executive directive establishing Los Angeles’ open data initiative in December 2013. The document highlighted the success of the L.A. Police Department’s CompStat crime mapping program as an example of what can be accomplished using data and analysis. The directive called for the creation of an open data portal and for all city departments to update their public information on a regular basis, preferably as an automatic function. While highlighting drivers including greater citizen participation with government, promoting innovation among entrepreneurs and businesses, the directive said “most significantly, it fosters creative new thinking about solving our most intractable challenges through public-private partnerships.”

Open data policy

Story link: Garcetti: LA City Agencies Must Get on Board with Open Data

Louisville/Jefferson County, Kentucky (2013)

The Louisville Metro Government (joint government of Louisville and Jefferson County) passed its open data plan in 2013 by executive order. Among the familiar objectives laid out are an open-by-default policy relative to government data in the interest of transparency and improved citizen service. In a likely nod to the digital urban planning initiative championed by Ted Smith, Louisville’s chief of economic growth and innovation, the plan specifies that “an open government also makes certain that every aspect of the built environment also has reliable digital descriptions available to citizens and entrepreneurs for deep engagement mediated by smart devices.”

Open data policy

Story link: Louisville to Adopt Open by Default Plan

Madison, Wisconsin (2012)

The city of Madison announced its open data ordinance in 2013, modeled after the cities that already had policies on the books. With the exception of personally identifiable information or otherwise protected data, city departments now release data to the public via Madison’s comprehensive portal. Property information, crime stats, transit data and a calendar of events are among the most accessed data sets on the site. “We recognize that this data has been created with public funds," CIO Paul Kronberger told Government Technology last year, "so it rightfully belongs to the public and should be made available to the public."

Open data policy

Story links: Madison, Wisconsin Opens Up City Data, Madison, Wisconsin Passes Open Data Platform

Memphis, Tennessee (2009)

Mayor A C Wharton Jr.’s 2009 executive order states that “the people’s defense from government corruption is reasonable and timely access to the public’s records” and calls for open government, transparency and standards to facilitate access to information. Data sets moved online included city employees’ salary information, contract statuses including the amount and vendor, property information and the value of Memphis’ pension fund.

Open data policy

Montgomery County, Maryland (2012)

Montgomery County’s bill supporting open government programs was unanimously passed in December 2012, calling for the launch of its open data portal, dataMontgomery. The law charged the county’s chief administrative officer with developing the Open Data Implementation Plan and determining how agencies would participate. The bill as introduced called for all public data sets to be online within one year, but was amended to say that some will be online within that time frame and the open data plan would set the deadline for other sets. Currently there are more than 90 data sets on the portal.

Open data policy

Story links: Montgomery County, Maryland Online Platform Maps Digital Future

New Hampshire (2012, 2013)

New Hampshire’s open data policy stems from 2012 legislation that also directed state agencies to consider open source software when purchasing new technology. The bill directed the state CIO to develop a policy to make all public data available — unless subject to privacy, security or other limitations — in a machine-readable format. In addition, the bill specifies the release of primary data “with the highest possible level of granularity” and that the information should be downloadable by anyone without a registration requirement.

Open data policy

New York (2013)

In 2013, Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered the state Office of Information Technology Services (ITS) to create an open data website that would be a “one-stop” source for publishable data from all state government entities. Cuomo’s executive order also established a state chief data officer within ITS and directed all state entities covered by the order to appoint a data coordinator. The state open data site also is open to local governments, and Cuomo directed ITS to offer technical help and other resources to localities interested in posting data to the site. More than 1,100 data sets are now available on the New York state open data portal.

Open data policy

Story links: New York Launches Open Data Portal

New York City, New York (2011)

Legislation approved in 2012 directed all city departments to make their data available online using open standards. Departments were given one year from the law’s effective date (March 7, 2012) to make public data sets available on a single Web portal that is linked to nyc.gov. In addition, departments were required to release technical standards for publishing raw data online and adopt APIs that permit apps to request public data sets directly from the portal. More than 1,100 data sets are now available on the NYC Open Data portal, according to the city, along with stories about how the data is being used.

Open data policy

Story links: All NYC Data to be Open by 2018, New York City Crime Map Adds to Interactive Data Trend

Oakland, California (2013)

While Oakland’s open data efforts started much earlier, its 2013 open data resolution formalized those efforts and aligned with its selection as a 2013 Code for America partner city. Preference for publishing on the portal went to high value and high interest data sets, driven by public input. Today, the top seven most viewed sets of information are crime-related, and the Socrata-powered site hosts 110 data sets in all.

Open data policy

Philadelphia (2012)

Mayor Michael Nutter’s 2012 executive order spelled out the city’s open data policy and created a chief data officer position, which was filled by Mark Headd. The order also established a nine-member Data Governance Advisory Board — which includes the city CIO and chief data officer — charged with developing an open government plan. Among other things, the policy ordered a review of existing city practices for impediments to open government. City departments were required to publish open data catalogs and release at least three high-value data sets through a new open government portal within 120 days of the chief data officer’s hiring. The OpenDataPhilly portal today provides access to more than 175 data sets, applications and APIs related to the Philadelphia region.

Open data policy

Story links: Philadelphia Gets a Chief Data Officer, Inside the Civic Hacking Movement

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (2014)

Pittsburgh added its name to the list in March 2014 by finalizing its open data addition to the administrative code of ordinances. Open data is identified as a means of improving service to citizens, and enhancing collaboration between city departments and its external stakeholders. The legislation talks about creating an open data portal that will be managed by the chief performance and innovation officer, a position recently filled by Debra Lam. With the exception of otherwise protected information, Pittsburgh also establishes through its law that government data going forward will be open by default.

Open data policy

Portland, Oregon (2009)

When Portland, Ore., passed its open data resolution in 2009, the city’s stated goal was to bring together the area’s tech community through open government initiatives and broad-based partnerships involving stakeholders in the public and private sectors and beyond. Economic development goals run through the resolution, which also includes several mentions of the city’s intentions to explore open source software options for enterprise tech purchases.

Open data policy

Providence, Rhode Island (Study -- 2011)

A 2012 City Council resolution underscored the importance of access to public data and created the Open Providence Commission for Transparency and Accountability. The organization was charged with investigating current technologies and, among other things, proposing the development of a state-of-the-art citizen dashboard. In 2013, Providence became the first city in Rhode Island to launch an open data portal.

Open data policy

Raleigh, North Carolina (2011)

Raleigh saw open source as key to its open data policy. The 2011 resolution tasked the city’s IT department with establishing a procurement policy with specifications in RFPs to encourage tech solutions that have an open source licensing model, allowing data to be stored using industry-standard open protocols. It also called on Raleigh to launch an open data portal.

Open data policy

San Francisco (2009, 2010, 2013)

San Francisco initially passed its open data resolution under former mayor and current California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom — a vocal champion of open, transparent government. Evidence of the considerable tech community tuned in to information on San Francisco are the tens of thousands of views to popular data sets, which include 311 call info, crime data, a neighborhood group map and movies that were filmed in the city between 1924 and 2010. Recent amendments to San Francisco’s open data policy include additional privacy protections, deadlines for future data releases and the creation of a chief data officer position, filled in March 2014 by Joy Bonaguro.

Open data policy

Story link: SF Mayor Signs Landmark Open Data Policy and Procedures Legislation

San Mateo County, California (Admin Memo - 2013)

Through a resolution on Jan. 29, 2013, San Mateo County’s manager and CIO were directed to develop an open data policy, with the resolution declaring that each department would provide appropriate data sets for inclusion on the portal. Signed on March 7, 2013, the policy outlined the county’s transition toward an open government. In addition to providing data sets, the county departments’ responsibilities include conducting quarterly reviews of the quality of their data, progress in providing access to data sets requested by the public and inclusion of new sets. An Open Data Committee was also created to establish rules and standards for implementing the policy and keeping the portal up to date.

Open data policy

South Bend, Indiana (2013)

Mayor Pete Buttigieg announced the launch of South Bend’s open data portal in August 2013, with the release of 12 data sets and 10 GIS maps. The site put a public face on the city’s open data executive order, which aligns with the transparency goals of the Indiana Access to Public Records Act. The city’s Division of Information Technologies is charged with publishing new data sets, with help from department-level coordinators across the organization.

Open data policy

Tulsa, Oklahoma (2013)

Like many other early adopters of open data policies, Tulsa, Okla.’s official resolution includes support for open standards and open source software. The brief document also ties the effort to citizen engagement; government transparency and accountability; and economic development in the tech sector. As of March 2014, the city is offering 26 different data sets on its site, many in more than one format.

Open data policy

U.S. (2009, 2013)

The federal government first issued an open government directive in 2009. The document was issued by Office of Management and Budget Director Peter R. Orszag, responding to direction from President Obama earlier that year. Formally establishing a “presumption of openness,” the document set deadlines for executive departments and agencies to advance their own open government plans, and publish data sets online. A May 2013 executive order defines White House open data policy more explicitly, setting the new default for government data as open and machine-readable. Broadly cited as an impetus for many open data policies that followed, the federal policy brought forth an improved Data.gov site built on open source, and today hosts more than 85,000 sets of data.

Open data policy

Story link: Updated Data.gov Relies Heavily on Open Source

Utah (Advisory Board - 2013)

Utah’s open data legislation, passed in March 2013, calls on the Transparency Advisory Board to develop plans, make recommendations and determine what information state and local agencies will provide. Comprised of a well rounded group of people — including legislators, technologists, local government representatives and two members of the public — the board was tasked with making recommendations for the state’s open data portal and released its first report in November 2013. Recommendations from that document said the open data portal should prominently feature: financial transparency, open access to public data repositories, and a single point of access for government records requests.

Open data policy

Story links: Utah Legislature Embraces Voluntary Open Email Policy

Washington, D.C. (Admin Memo -- 2006)

A 2006 memo from then city Administrator Robert Bobb outlines the District of Columbia’s intention to publish its data, previously only accessible to city staff through an intranet site, to the public website. The effort was closely aligned with the DCStat program, intended to provide real-time metrics to help better manage city operations. Data sets included in the initial effort were service requests, property information, permits and licensing, and crime incidents. Today, the District’s Data Catalog includes 495 data sets, accessible in multiple formats.

Open data policy

West Sacramento, California (2013)

West Sacramento’s open data framework, established in 2013, includes an agreement with Socrata to host an online portal. Citizen engagement through transparency and accountability are goals referenced in the resolution, which points to open data efforts under way in larger jurisdictions like San Francisco, Chicago and New York as reasons to get on board. “It’s about putting the data in the hands of the citizens, developers, entrepreneurs, and letting them analyze and visualize the data for their own needs and purposes,” it reads.

Open data policy

 
Noelle Knell, Assistant Web Editor Noelle Knell  |  Managing Editor

Government Technology managing editor Noelle Knell has more than 15 years of marketing and communications experience, writing about public projects, transportation, business and technology. A California native, she graduated from the University of California, Davis, with majors in political science and American history. She can be reached via email and @GovTechNoelle on Twitter.

 

Elaine Pittman  |  Associate Editor

Elaine Pittman is the associate editor for Government Technology, Public CIO and Emergency Management. Before coming to Government Technology, she worked for The Coloradoan daily newspaper in Fort Collins, Colo. She can be reached via email and @elainerpittman on Twitter.

Steve Towns, Editor Steve Towns  |  Editor

Steve Towns is editor of Government Technology, and executive editor for e.Republic Inc., publisher of GOVERNING, Government TechnologyPublic CIO and Emergency Management magazines. He has more than 20 years of writing and editing experience at newspapers and magazines, including more than 15 years of covering technology in the state and local government market.

Jessica Mulholland  |  Web Editor/Photographer

Jessica Mulholland has been a writer and editor for more than 10 years. She was previously the editor of Emergency Management magazine, and she loves that she can incorporate her love of photography into her work as a part of the Government Technology editorial team. Jessica can be reached at jmulholland@govtech.com@jbronwen on Twitter and on Google+.