Connecticut law has long required the government to give access to documents when asked, but technology now makes it possible to give the public documents before they even know they exist.
Data mavens, number crunchers and policy wonks — not to mention taxpayers — should be excited by two recent developments in state government.
State Comptroller Kevin Lembo and his team launched Open Checkbook earlier this month. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Mr. Lembo launched Connecticut's data portal (data.ct.gov) at the end of March. The two sites are promising steps toward transparency.
These initiatives — following up on the General Assembly's transparency website — represent a new paradigm in government openness. Connecticut law has long required the government to give access to documents when asked. Technology now makes it possible to give the public documents before the public knows they exist.
Both sites need improvements to become more welcoming, especially for casual users, but they both represent good foundations. Meanwhile, let's have experts and civic entrepreneurs make the data dump more palatable.
The data portal represents a bright spot in Mr. Malloy's mixed record on transparency. Mr. Lembo has made transparency a focus as the state's chief accountant and is clearly invested in his daily updating checkbook —one part passion project, one part political platform — which is part of the larger Open Connecticut website.
These websites have the potential to make public unexpected information no one thought to ask for because no one knew it existed. What's more transparent than that?
©2014 The Hartford Courant (Hartford, Conn.)
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