3 Keys to a Successful Open Data Program

January 17, 2013 12:57 pm PST | Effective Governing

As the use of open data continues to grow, so do the lessons learned. Compiled below is a sneak peek into our upcoming “Open Data Field Guide.” The guide features a compilation of stories and best practices on our customers for running a successful open data initiative. Please feel free to add information, questions, and insights below by leaving a comment.

1. Adopt an “Open by Default” Policy

Those just starting an open data program often ask the question, “Which data should I publish?” This is great question but it perpetuates the idea that you need a selection process for the data you publish on your open data portal. Rather than spending time on that question, we recommend an “Open by Default” approach like the City of New York and others have taken.

The City of New York considers all public information a public asset that should be made available to citizens in the most efficient way possible. New York City’s goal is to publish all non-personal, city information on its open data portal by 2016. 

2. Push for Broad Participation

How does your organization view open data? Is it a separate, one-off program or does it permeate the the entire organization? In order for your open data initiative to succeed, you must push for broad adoption. Pitch it to every agency and group in your organization and support their engagement. Open data creates greater efficiency in an organization as more stakeholders participate in it.

Take, for example, the state of Oregon. Wally Rogers, the e-government manager for Oregon, spent an entire summer going from agency to agency, using a pilot site to present his ambitious plans for open data in Oregon. He says,”We thought we would get 12 agencies to throw their hat in the ring and maybe end up with four that were active. We ended up with 13 active.”

Oregon now has over 20 agencies that have contributed data to its open data initiative. You can learn about some of the results of getting broad use of open data in the State of Oregon Marine Board Case Study. It tells how the State of Oregon Marine Board has saved $500,000 through the use of open data.

3. Set Specific Goals

Setting specific goals for your open data portal is essential to creating a successful program. While you may have broad, high-level goals like “increased transparency,” in order to achieve them you’ll need to get much more detailed.

Below is a list of example goals for you:

  • Transparency – “Publish line item budget for FY2013-14.” Kansas City, MO set this goal and achieved it. See the site: https://data.kcmo.org/
  • Improved Service Delivery – “Improve accessibility of election results by making them mobile-friendly.” King County in Washington state set this goal and created a mobile-friendly site in time for their Nov. 6, 2012 elections. See the site. https://electionsdata.kingcounty.gov/
  • Greater Efficiencies – “Create a dynamically-updated map of boat launch locations.” Oregon State’s Marine Board set this goal, moving most of their information to the open data portal, and saved 50 percent of the time they used to spend on map updates and print publications. See the site: http://www.oregon.gov/osmb/pages/access/access.aspx#Where_to_Launch_in_Oregon


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