While many jurisdictions in state and local government have established open data portals in the past few years, only a handful have formalized their commitment to this brand of transparency with legislation, an executive order or an official resolution. Government Technology editors pored through the list of formal policies, as published by the Sunlight Foundation, and picked out some of the highlights on the map above.
One thing that each policy made clear, however, is the fact that there’s a whole lot more to open data, than, well, the data. Government officials see open data as a way to be more transparent and engage citizens. Shining a light on government-held data also helps enhance services to citizens by improving coordination among agencies, and between internal and external stakeholders. Climbing aboard the open data bandwagon can deliver economic rewards too, as many jurisdictions have found. Releasing available data in machine-readable formats encourages civic-minded developers to build products and businesses around them, pumping sought-after tech jobs and related tax dollars into the local economy.
Most open data policies make explicit statements vowing to be mindful not to publish information that the law specifies should be kept private, but governments seem to be moving past this fear now, asking not why they should publish data, but why not? Perhaps Madison, Wis., CIO Paul Kronberger best answered this question in an interview with Government Technology last year: “We recognize that this data has been created with public funds, so it rightfully belongs to the public and should be made available to the public."