Open Data: City Policies to Promote Transparency, Efficiency and Engagement

September 16, 2013

By Laurenellen McCann and Julie Bosland

From the White House to Philadelphia to Tulsa, Oklahoma, governments all over the country are making concerted efforts to use technology to bring their transparency policies up to date.  An idea that is increasingly catching on is the sharing of public data online to increase municipal transparency and capture efficiencies in fulfilling public information requests. 

At the same time, open data helps engage residents – including the tech community – in developing new solutions, either in a civic engagement capacity or through the development of small businesses that enhance the usability of public data and market it to consumers.

 Along with the rise of data portals in cities across the country, more and more communities are beginning to explore the development of new policies to support and expand emerging and ongoing initiatives. This year alone, six different state and local governments passed open data policies --  a considerable portion of the 19 total that have been enacted since 2006. Although there are an increasing number of resources available to cities to develop data portals and technical standards, there are few road signs to help navigate the open data policy landscape.

To this end, the Sunlight Foundation recently rereleased the “Open Data Policy Guidelines” a series of best practice provisions and  case studies to aid policymakers and data advocates in translating open data aspirations into actionable policy.

The National League of Cities will host a webinar showcasing the work of the Sunlight Foundation and the Harvard Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation on Tuesday, October 1st at 1:00 p.m. EST to dig deeper into what open data is and what role policy plays in its distribution and regulation. Webinar presenters will guide participants through current best practices and lessons learned from experienced municipal leaders and issue advocates. To register for the webinar, click here

This webinar will also lay the foundation for a deep dive session at NLC’s Congress of Cities and Exposition in Seattle, Engaging Residents in Solutions: Using Data and Technology to Improve Local Government (Saturday, November 16, 9:00 a.m.), which will feature Stephen Goldsmith of the Harvard Ash Center (and former mayor of Indianapolis), Mayor Vincent Gray of the District of Columbia and Laurenellen McCann of the Sunlight Foundation.

For more information, contact Julie Bosland, Director, NLC University, at Bosland@nlc.org or 202-626-3144.

Laurenellen McCann is the National Policy Manager for the Sunlight Foundation.