Increase Innovation and Government Accountability Through Open Data

At its worst point, only half of Americans trusted their state governments. This lack of trust and belief that their vote doesn’t matter decreases voter participation. Making public integrity data, like campaign finance data, ethics filings, and budget and legislative material available through a state open data website gives voters the information they need to restore trust in government and increase civic participation. Open data also support economic development by making valuable government data -- from traffic patterns, to licensing, to labor statistics -- easily available for use by localities, researchers, and entrepreneurs. The Accountability and Engagement Through Transparency Act increases innovation and government accountability through open data....

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Frequently Asked Questions
How does this help promote transparency?
An open data portal is an easy-to-use, one-stop shop that allows residents to better access critical government data, which helps them learn more about the activities of their state government that impact their lives and inform their civic engagement. This policy leverages technology to bring citizens back into the fold of government, promote accountability and strengthen the democratic process.
Is this costly to the state?
No. Outside of start up and maintenance costs, which will decrease over time as more open source resources become available, an open data portal is not costly to states. And, over the long-term making data easily available and usable saves on government administrative costs and brings innovations that have significant economic benefits.
  • Tech community
  • Nonprofits
  • The federal government
  • Special interests that benefit from lack of transparency
Model Policy
This act shall be known as the Accountability and Engagement Through Transparency Act
To facilitate an accessible and useable database of publicly available information generated by state agencies.

(a) The STATE Chief Information Officer shall appoint a Chief Data Officer. Responsibilities of the Chief Data Officer shall include:
-(i) To support the proactive release all publishable state data, in open formats;
-(ii) To publish high quality, updated data with documentation (metadata) and permanence to encourage maximum use;
-(iii) To provide or support access to free, historical archives of all released state data;
-(iv) To measure the effectiveness of datasets made available through the Open Data Program by connecting open data efforts to the state’s programmatic priorities;
-(v) To minimize limitations on the disclosure of public information while appropriately safeguarding protected and sensitive information; and
-(vi) To support innovative uses of the state’s publishable data by agencies, the public, and other partners.

(b) The Chief Data Officer shall work with the state’s departments and agencies to:
-(i) For each state agency, identify and publish appropriate contact information for a lead open data coordinator who will be responsible for managing that agency’s participation in the Open Data Program;
-(ii) Oversee the creation of a comprehensive inventory of datasets held by each state agency which is published to the central open data location and is regularly updated;
-(iii) Develop and implement a process for determining the relative level of risk and public benefit associated with potentially sensitive, non-protected information so as to make a determination about whether and how to publish it;
-(iv) Develop and implement a process for prioritizing the release of datasets which takes into account new and existing signals of interest from the public (such as the frequency of public records requests), the state’s programmatic priorities, existing opportunities for data use in the public interest, and cost;
-(v) Proactively consult with members of the public, agency staff, journalists, researchers, and other stakeholders to identify the datasets which will have the greatest benefit to state residents if published in a high quality manner;
-(vi) Establish processes for publishing datasets to the central open data location, including processes for ensuring that datasets are high quality, up-to-date, are in use-appropriate formats, and exclude protected and sensitive information;
–(1) Ensure that appropriate metadata is provided for each dataset in order to facilitate its use;
–(2) Develop and oversee a routinely updated, public timeline for new dataset publication; and
–(3) Ensure that published datasets are available for bulk download without legal encumbrance.
-(vii) In order to increase and improve use of the state’s open data, the Chief Data Officer will actively encourage agency and public participation through providing regular opportunities for feedback and collaboration.
-(viii) The Chief Data Officer shall prioritize publication of data sets:
–(1) That increase the transparency and accountability of government, including campaign finance data, ethics reports, and budget and legislative material; and
–(2) Most likely to support economic development in STATE.

(c) The state will create and maintain a publicly available location on the state’s website or in another suitable online location where the state’s published data will be available for download.
-(i) Published datasets shall be placed into the public domain. Dedicating datasets to the public domain means that there are no restrictions or requirements placed on use of these datasets.
-(ii) Each published dataset should be associated with contact information for the appropriate manager of that dataset as well as with a file layout or data dictionary that provides information about field labels and values.

(d) Within one year of the effective date of this act, and thereafter no later than March 1st of each year, the Chief Data Officer shall publish an annual Open Data Report. The report shall include:
-(i) assessment of progress towards achievement of the goals of the state’s Open Data Program
-(ii) an assessment of how the state’s open data work has furthered or will further the state’s programmatic priorities;
-(iii) a description and publication timeline for datasets envisioned to be published by the state in the following year;
-(iv) suggestions for improving the state’s open data management processes in accordance with the stated goals in section (a).