Wouldn’t you want to know how government is spending your tax dollars, and how successful the programs they fund really are? Can we “performance tune” our governments the same way we do our software? In some parts of the United States, both of these ideas are already becoming a reality, as city and state governments have begun to democratize their operational data.
Chris Rieth has seen that change first-hand with his work in the Director of the Governor’s Office in Maryland, where he drove open data programs aimed at reducing violence in crime-choked Baltimore in the 2000s. Under its ComStat program, the city saw the largest reduction in violent crime of any city in America, and those trends held even through the Great Recession. Chris currently works to replicate Maryland’s success as a product manager for Socrata’s GovStat program, which helps governments build their own open data portals.
In his recent FutureTalk on Big Data Meets Big Government at New Relic’s Portland office, Chris described the “inescapable nexus of accountability” that is created once government data (on everything from parking tickets to environmental health) is standardized and made available to the public. To keep pace with innovation in the private sphere, government bodies need to “put data and results online, be open about performance and results, and ask why they are turning out that way”.
Big goal, big challenges
His mission: to redefine civic engagement by making citizens stakeholders in the very processes that set government goals and measure their success.
But transparency isn’t as easy as just putting data up on a website. Meaningful open data initiatives require both technical resources and a cultural commitment to maintaining “portals” that are accurate, up to date, and easily accessible by the public through APIs.
Watch Chris’s FutureTalk below to find out how governments work to implement successful open-data initiatives, and hear more about the cities and states that have already gotten started: