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On March 18th I attended CA Fwd’s annual Summit on Data. Speakers touched on many themes related to the sustainability of open data programs, with a focus on how open data can create value for governments, the private sector and citizens. Making open data programs within government agencies sustainable has been a recurring theme that I have come across in my research on open data.

One point that Michael Chui, a partner from the McKinsey Global Institute, brought up was that opening data is not an end in itself. Rather, people need usable applications to contextualize the data and make it actionable. Referencing the McKinsey Global Institute’s study, which claims open data can unlock $3 trillion dollars of value or more in the economy, Chui asserted that one way open data can create value is by enabling governments and private sector companies to benchmark themselves off others.

Another trend related to augmenting the sustainability of open data programs, which was touched on during the event, is that governments are increasingly using public (open) and non-public data internally to make smarter decisions and be more data-driven organizations.

Mike Wilkening, Undersecretary of Program and Fiscal Affairs with the California Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), shared that open data has been very relevant for the department by breaking down internal silos as well as tracking and improving internal programs.

Similarly, Abhi Nemani, Los Angeles’ Chief Data Officer, spoke about how many government agencies in LA, including the mayor’s office, have requested dashboards to make use of internal data and track various metrics. Los Angeles’ Department of Recreation and Parks is even using open data to determine where to open new parks.

Another key pillar in making government open data programs sustainable is ensuring that information is relevant and accessible to citizens. Nemani also touched on this subject, discussing how he rebuilt the city of Los Angeles’ open data portal with a focus on user-centric design. The result was decreasing the City data portal’s bounce rate from 50 percent to 4 percent. The takeaway here is that if governments want citizens to engage with their information, data portals have to be designed in a way that is easy to use for the average citizen.

Another important question that governments often face when setting up and designing sustainable open data programs is what kind of data do citizens care about? According to a Public Data Survey put out by CA Fwd that had over 600 respondents, the top five most important types of datasets for citizens are (in order of popularity): education, health, public safety & justice, financial, campaign finance & election.

One of our goals at Accela is to help government agencies in their mission of setting up sustainable open data programs in order to achieve a greater level of transparency with citizens while also becoming more data-driven organizations. We do that through CivicData, which provides all the functionality of a premium open data solution at only a fraction of the cost — because we believe that it should be easy for government agencies to uncover value from the volumes of data they are already generating every day.


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