By: Andrew Rinaldi, Digital & Social Media Specialist, City of Toledo

One of the items that has emerged out of the Future of Toledo Initiative from the teams working on their projects has been the ability to locate and share data easily.  There are a couple of initiatives happening at the federal government level and a community of government organizations working to assist with making data more readily available digitally. The Federal Government under President Obama’s Administration has been working to provide the data from the Executive level of our nation’s government to the public digitally to easily understand and share. Another program which helps to provide open score code of applications for government and non-profit agencies is Code for America. Code for America is non-partisan, non-political 501(c)(3).

President Obama Open Data Initiative

The following information is from the White House website –

The Open Data Initiatives project is “liberating” government data and voluntarily-contributed corporate data to fuel entrepreneurship, create jobs, and improve the lives of Americans in tangible ways. As a model, decades ago, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration began making weather data available for free electronic download by anyone. Entrepreneurs used these data to create weather newscasts, websites, mobile applications, insurance, and much more. Similarly, the government’s decision to make the Global Positioning System (GPS) freely available has fueled a vast array of private-sector innovations ranging from navigation systems to precision crop farming, creating massive public benefit and contributing significantly to economic growth.

Working closely with the US Chief Technology Officer, the US Chief Information Officer, and an array of agencies, the Open Data Initiatives team has launched and is continuing to scale open data efforts in Health, Energy, Education, Finance, Public Safety, and Global Development. These efforts involve government releasing general data resources in computer-readable form and in accordance with policies that rigorously protect privacy. The goal is to stimulate a rising tide of private-sector entrepreneurship that leverages these data to create tools that help Americans find the right health care provider for them, identify the college that provides the best value for their money, save money on their electricity bills through smarter shopping for the right rate plan, keep their families safe by knowing which products have been recalled, and much more – a rising tide of innovation that also contributes to economic growth and creates jobs.

Code for America

The following is from the Code for America Website –

Through the Fellowship, Brigade, Accelerator, Peer Network and Code for All, Code for America aims to improve the relationships between citizens and government. We help governments restructure to create low-risk settings for innovation, engage citizens to create better services, and support ongoing competition in the govtech marketplace.

Code for America builds low-risk setting for innovation, by helping governments build new departments, positions, and practices including open government policies and liberating datasets. Code for America engages citizens in building apps, sharing knowledge, and workshops. In the civic tech marketplace, we support civic startups, public/private collaborations, and open procurement.

Sharing Data Equals Transparency

Sharing data to citizens has become a critical element in government, especially in local governments. Citizens want to know what is going on in their city with facts and information to back up those facts. Digital Technology is the future for sharing this information. An example of this is with Oakland Answers where the City of Oakland used the open source code from Honolulu Answers to build their own FAQ type platform. This platform allows for citizens to type in keywords, phrases or questions and find an answer. This platform better helps the citizen understand what to do if they have an issue with something in their city and unsure what to do. Providing this detailed information online can increase the happiness of a citizen as they are not spending lengthy times on hold or getting the run around with transfers to get their question answered. This type of platform also increases the amount of information online which in turn shows an increase in being transparent.

Other cities are providing multiple datasets of information online for review by the public. These data sets range from crime statistics to expenditure reports for the city’s finances. Some of these cities include: Louisville, Houston, New York City, and Chicago.