Head To Head: Ranking US States By Their Open Data Policies And Portals

August 29, 2014 9:04 am PDT | Data as a Service

It’s fantasy football draft time! That means the Internet is filled with cheat sheets ranking the most effective wide receivers and quarterbacks. Stat geeks at ESPN and Sport Illustrated have been scouring the data to project this year’s best performers. But why should the sports enthusiasts have all the fun?

Good news, open data lovers, now there’s a cheat sheet for your state-versus-state data policy draft. (You do have one, don’t you?) On August 18th, the Center for Data Innovation published a report ranking all US states’ open data policies and portals. 

The report values something other than touchdowns and yardage. It awards two points for presence of an open data policy, whether it was enacted by executive order or legislation, or one point to state’s with transparency-only policies (meaning requiring publication of revenue and expenditure data.) No policy, no points, of course. 

Two points were given to states with an open data portal or one point for a transparency portal. A point was also given for machine readability, if a state’s portal had at least 50% of its data downloadable as CSV, JSON, KML, or other file formats. No points were awarded for PDFs or Word docs.

So, which states are going to be taken first and which will be left on the bench? In a six-way tie, each with the maximum earnable 8 points, the top scoring states are:

  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Maryland
  • New York
  • Oklahoma
  • Utah 

If you don’t see you favorite player…er…state here, we’ve teased out some suggestions from the Center for Data Innovation report that can help you improve your stats for the next assessment:

1. Enact an open data policy

As the Center for Data Innovation report states, “Given the significant opportunities that open data presents, all states should be developing open data policies and portals as an initial step towards greater use of open data.” Although transparency policies are a start, they are not sufficiently comprehensive to effect the kind of data-driven innovation that open data can.

2. Build an open data portal

Data that is published on a hard-to-find or otherwise obscure website won’t cut it. Nor will government transparency sites, which the report finds, “often link to other state agency sites that may or may not provide additional data, and each agency website may be organized differently.” Instead the report recommends “open data portals [which] organize data sets and make them searchable, thereby saving both public and private users a great deal of time and resources when looking for data.” 

3. Make your data machine readable

Machine readability means that your state’s data is accessible, non-proprietary, easily used and repurposed. In addition to making data available as a KML, JSON, CSV or other such formats, the Center for Data Innovation encourages making application programming interfaces (APIs) available to facilitate downloads and access to data sets.

4. Update your open data frequently

All of the above is all well and good (and, obviously crucial to having a high ranking open data policy) but it’s not worth much if your state is not stocking its open data portal with fresh, accurate data sets. “A frequently updated transparency portal that offers at least some machine-readable data may be more useful than an open data portal that is rarely updated or that contains very few datasets,” according to the report. So be sure your state is publishing data frequently and correctly.

If you follow these recommendations, your state will move up to join Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, New York, Oklahoma, and Utah in the open data rankings. Congratulations to those six states. And, to everyone, good luck in your draft.

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Improve Your Open Data Ranking

Want to improve how you rank amongst your peers? Not sure where you even stand? Contact Socrata to schedule an open data review and we can help you take the lead.

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