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Price Tag Complicates California’s Push for a Chief Data Officer, Open Data Portal

California should expect to spend $4 million to $5 million in annual salaries to manage, develop and implement an open data policy, according to a report.

Two similar pieces of legislation in circulation at the State Capitol propose the creation of a chief data officer position for the state of California in tandem with a more robust open data portal.

As of Wednesday morning, AB 1215 by Assemblymember Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, is being held under submission in the Appropriations Committee, while SB 573 from State Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, has advanced out of committee and is headed to the Senate floor.

Few people oppose the idea in concept, but the price tag might be a complicating factor. Analyses of the bills indicate it could cost California millions of dollars, on top of the few hundred thousand dollars needed for the chief data officer’s position and salary.

An Appropriations Committee staff analysis of AB 1215 says there would be “unknown, but significant costs, likely in the millions of dollars statewide, to state agencies to collaborate with the statewide data portal and to review and inventory public data. For example, the California Department of Insurance estimates it would cost them $199,000 in FY 2015-16, $377,000 in 2016-17, and $180,000 ongoing to interact with the Internet Web portal and to inventory the department’s data and redact non-public information.”

Meanwhile, the Senate Floor analysis from Tuesday of SB 573 says:

According to the Senate Appropriations Committee, annual staffing costs of approximately $293,000 annually for an appointed Chief Data Officer and one data liaison. Costs to create a statewide open data portal could be as low as $125,000 to update the existing website, or approximately $234,000 for the Department of Technology to create the portal. Ongoing costs for maintenance and hosting could be in the range of $500,000 to $1 million annually. These operating costs could eventually be spread to participating agencies through the Office of Technology Services rate structure, but would initially be from the General Fund. Unknown costs, potentially in the low millions, for over 200 state entities to appoint a data coordinator, identify data sets, and create a plan for data publication. Additional cost pressures, potentially in the millions, for over 200 agencies to post available data. Actual costs upon full implementation would vary among state agencies depending on each entity’s function and inventory of public data. For illustrative purposes, the Office of Statewide Planning and Development will spend approximately $220,000 this year on its open data project. Smaller state entities with limited public data sets would likely incur expenditures in the tens of thousands annually, while larger agencies are likely to incur costs in the hundreds of thousands annually.
The upfront investment in open data would pay dividends, according to a March 2015 report from the Milken Institute: Based on the experience of other states, California should expect to spend $4 million to $5 million in annual salaries to manage, develop and implement an open data policy. Another large cost is the server space needed to house the open data, the report says.

But according to the think tank, the upfront investment would pay for itself in “several years.”

“An open-data program would create extensive opportunities for government savings from resulting efficiencies, as well as expanded tax revenue from new business development. With a moderate amount of short-term spending, California stands to gain from exponentially larger long-term benefits,” the report said.

The Milken Institute asserts open data would help power workload efficiencies within state agencies and departments: “If the annual operating cost of the California Department of Conservation were reduced by just 2 percent through open-data policies, this single agency could save the state nearly $2 million a year.”

This story was originally published by TechWire