This month, California’s Sacramento County released a new open data portal intended to drive transparency and innovation through the county’s collection of public records and data.
The portal was officially announced on July 8 and complements the region’s sister portal in the city of Sacramento. The site features information on utilities, transportation, public works, finance, permits, resident demographics, GIS data and other information utilized to inspire transparency through public use and the county’s developer community.
Kristin Echols, a county IT manager, said the county IT team intends for the portal to be updated on a weekly and even daily basis -- or as needed. In an interview with Government Technology, Echols elaborated on the portal and the county’s plans for it. Below are a few of her insights.
Government Technology: What technology does the open data portal draw from? Is it related to technology from the city of Sacramento’s open data portal?
Kristin Echols: No. We’re using the same company that they use -- Junar -- but our data sets are completely separate and our portals [are] completely separate.
GT: Why is that?
KE: I don’t know that we’ve ever considered combining them. We provide different sets of services to different constituents, so I don’t know how we would necessarily mesh the data, but because we are on the same [Junar cloud] platform I think there would be opportunity if someone wanted to see something across the whole county.
GT: How were the specific data sets chosen?
KE: First of all, we wanted to find data that we could quickly extract without programming or reformatting -- because this is in addition to our normal work -- so we didn’t want to spend a lot of time trying to manipulate the data. We also wanted to find data that we receive many public requests for, the data that people typically ask for. We have our 311 [emergency] calls there, our census data for community development, we have business permits that have been issued with both residential and commercial. And then we’ve put some financial and crime data out there -- basically the things people have asked for regarding the services and quality of life in their neighborhood.
GT: What was the overall budget to create the portal?
KE: I don’t know that we had a budget. I think our annual subscription [to Junar] is about $19,000 per year.
GT: What's the process like for citizens to suggest open data sets?
KE: On the [open data portal] website, they can request new data sets, and those would come to my team. We would contact the department that has that data -- to find out if that’s something we can publish and make sure it doesn’t have any personally identifiable information in it -- and then we could put it out there.
GT: What data sets is the county considering next?
KE: The one that we’re working on now is business licensing, so a list of all the businesses that are licensed in the county; budget data is something that people ask for a lot; campaign contributions; more GIS data such as schools and public safety locations like fire house station and police stations; residential data; some of the more obscure stuff like crop and insect data.
GT: What's the long-term vision for the Sacramento County Data Portal?
KE: Well the main goal is to promote transparency within the county: to show what we’re spending money on, to show what services we’re providing, what are employees are doing day to day, and then finding the data sets that are providing that information. That’s our commitment to transparency.
To see the data for yourself, jump to it by clicking here. Or view some of the data examples below.
Jason Shueh is a former staff writer for Government Technology magazine.