June 26, 2009 By Matt Williams
The National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) will work in partnership with the federal government to encourage all 50 states to build their own online "data catalogs" that are publicly available, the organization announced this week.
NASCIO will collaborate on the project with the Office of Management and Budget and the General Services Administration. The aim is to improve state government's transparency by collecting data that government has always generated, and making it available in one location.
"It may in fact turn out to be a data catalog or list of publicly available datasets in comparison with a full blown, well designed data warehouse -- which would involve developing the necessary data warehouse conceptual and logical data models that describe a structure that accommodates analysis. Is that what this is? I'm not sure yet," said Eric Sweden, the senior enterprise architect for NASCIO. "It's going to probably end up being, initially at least, a data catalog.
"We want to get something out there, and obviously this is all part of this citizen engagement, transparency and trying to make the data as available as possible to citizens.
These state-level Web portals likely will be modeled on Data.gov -- a Web portal recently launched by the Federal CIO Council and championed by national CIO Vivek Kundra, who works within the OMB. Data.gov offers government-owned data sets in different formats, like XML and ESRI Shapefile. Topics span the gamut -- from birth and death certificates to air quality statistics.
A NASCIO subcommittee is being assembled that will determine common standards for the data catalogs' metadata and URLs, Sweden said. The committee will eventually discuss how the projects might be funded, and how much it might cost each state, he added. Eventually the committee could tackle the issue of how to standardize the state data catalogs so that they could be automatically fed to federal agencies, Sweden said.
"Vivek Kundra is going to be the point person on the federal side, so he'll be on that committee," he added. "Issues to be considered early on will be, 'What are we going to accomplish initially?' Certainly we want to establish architecture principles. What are those principles? What's the top 10 list [of state datasets]? The developmentment of a standard meta model for public, consumable datasets. What sort of formats do we make available for citizens? Those would be the early discussion points."
Prior to his appointment to President Barack Obama's administration, Kundra created the D.C. Data Catalog, a government Web site that hosts more than 275 data sets -- everything from the locations of road kill pick-ups to crime incident reports. Like Data.gov, data sets available are retrievable in different file formats.
Washington, D.C., California and Utah are the only state-level governments that already have built their own data catalogs and/or data Web portals. Sweden said it's likely NASCIO would consult those governments for expertise.
Many state officials have praised the Obama administration's willingness to speak with them and take into consideration their concerns and suggestions for IT policy.
"This collaboration between NASCIO and the federal government will provide state IT leaders a unique opportunity to build upon their enterprise approach to managing government digital infrastructure," NASCIO President and Minnesota state CIO Gopal Khanna said in a statement. "It will further promote governors' call for transparency. This is major step toward developing a national architectural framework and responding to citizens' need for real-time, locally available, accessible data."
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