20 Open Gov Leaders You Need to Know

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Trudy Raymundo

Trudy Raymundo

Director of Public Health
San Bernardino County, California

What’s your big project in open data/open government right now?

San Bernardino County’sDepartment of Public Health is currently working on two open performance initiatives.The first Community Vital Signs is connected with our current multi-sectoral efforts around community health assessment and improvement. The ultimate goal behind the Community Vital Signs Open Performance site was to provide a platform whereby the community could see the progress we were making in improving the health and wellness of our county and its residents.The site goes beyond simple health metrics, but looks at environmental and upstream determinants including education, crime, housing, employment and the built environment that can affect a communitys health.It also shares stories behind the data, as well as local strategies and policy recommendations to address certain issues. Finally, it is intended to act as a central point, whereby the community can have access to strategic data that can help them continue the conversation into their own neighborhoods.

The second is an Open Performance Dashboard specifically for the department.The goal for the departmental site is much the same as above, but addresses our own accountability to the community for certain activities, goals and objectives we drive as a department.

How is this work changing how government does business?

Our initial work with open performance helped to drive conversation and collaboration around complex issues.It provided the data that led to conversation with other sectors that may not have understood their role in creating a healthy community. The work has also created a deeper understanding of how each of the sectors are not only interrelated, but interdependent. It was a way to illustrate the effects of education on an individuals health, the effects of housing stability, the effects of crime, the effects of a retail food environment and lack of built environment, etc. on the health of the community and its residents.

It has also increased our focus on accountability, transparency, and performance.It is allowing us to move towards outcomes rather than outputs.

It has been said that data which is tracked, improves.Though this has proven not to be the case in every situation, the tenets behind open performance makes each partner accountable towards efforts to improve.

What’s one change you would like to see in the government and/or open data space?

Id love to see improved consolidation and coordination between platforms and capabilities.I would also like to see open data begin moving towards intentionality how can I use this data more meaningfully, whether its to better understand complex issues, use the data for decision making, gain a better understanding of unique communities or populations?

Ultimately, there should be greater conversation across all sectors regarding the value of shared data. Real discussions should occur about current and perceived obstacles, but more importantly, innovative solutions to address these obstacles.For too long, data has been seen as a commodity to control, but rather it should be seen as an asset to be shared.


John Ridener

John Ridener

Open Data Community Liaison
San Mateo County, California

What’s your big project in open data/open government right now?

The open data program in San Mateo County is in its fourth year and continues to mature, moving from a sprint to add datasets to our open data portal to ensuring we’re sharing the most useful data possible. This year’s largest effort is to work with departments to help increase the use and reuse of the data they already work with on a daily basis. Positioning data as a strategic asset within the county will help departments utilize their data more effectively and create context for releasing open data publicly.
We’re working on increasing data sharing internally, smoothing barriers that slow down data velocity, and focusing on how the internal use of data can help to solve service issues through performance reporting and program analytics. Determining what data to share openly will become a simple yes/no decision when departments are fully aware of what data is mission critical. The county is continuing to innovate on a variety of levels to make this data work possible including moving to cloud-based systems and pursuing business analytics solutions.

How is this work changing how government does business?

San Mateo County is the home to many tech companies like Facebook, Genentech, Oracle, and YouTube. The people who live and work in Silicon Valley expect to be able to interact with and do their business with the government as conveniently as ordering food from their phones. County government has been challenged to meet these needs, especially when it comes to data, a raw material for user experience. The open data program is working to change how county departments conceive of and use data to connect with users’ high expectations with regard to service availability.

The increased use of data within departments and sharing that data with the public helps to create responsive services that report progress through improved customer satisfaction and increased data sharing. It also makes it possible for the county to develop new insights into service delivery and identify areas of need. An example of this kind of tool is the Community Vulnerability Index (CVI) which shows areas of need in seven areas as well as an overall value for areas in San Mateo County. The CVI is used internally for targeting services and developing responsive programs.

What’s one change you would like to see in the government and/or open data space?

As open data as an area of practice continues to mature, it would serve its practitioners and users to integrate with services people already use. Governments provide unique data that has no other source, but the expectations governments have for people to find and use that data in a meaningful way are far too high. Currently, to find an answer to a question using open government data, someone needs to:

  1. Ask a question of the government they might answer with data
  2. Understand enough civics enough to go to the correct government data source, if available
  3. Find and identify useful data from the government source, like an open data portal
  4. Obtain or use the data via download or application programming interface (API)
  5. Analyze the data in a meaningful way
  6. Answer the question with the data a user could find

With each step in this process, users become frustrated and stop trying to answer their questions. Journalists and dashboards are useful shortcuts to take open data and create information from it, but open data publishers can do more to help. Through data curation around service or groups of services, data-driven storytelling, and embedding open data directly into platforms like Google, Facebookor Yelp, governments can ensure the data they publish is useful and used. To get open data to the point it can be consumed by services like this can be difficult, but worthwhile as goal for open data programs working to increase data visibility and use.


Ash Roughani

Ash Roughani

Bureaucracy Hacker
Sacramento, California, Mayors Office for Innovation & Entrepreneurship

What’s your big project in open data/open government right now?

I got into civic tech when I started our local Code for America Brigade, Code for Sacramento. At the time, I felt the challenge and frustration of wanting a deeper relationship with my government to collaborate toward shared goals. Now that Im working inside of government, I have a new appreciation for how busy people are. Everyone is constantly in meetings and can only focus on the highest priority issues among a seemingly infinite pool. I was extremely lucky to be hired as an outsider with an explicit goal of hacking bureaucracy. So in February, we started City Hall Hack Nights to better connect the civic technology community with city officials and build these critical relationships. Code for Sacramento meets in City Hall once a month usually during City Council meetings to listen to guest speakers and collaborate on projects.

How is this work changing how government does business?

Were certainly making progress toward becoming a more open, agile, and user-centered municipal government. However, theres still a lot of work to do. Weve taken the first step as a city of opening ourselves up and inviting the tech community in. And we recently refreshed our open data portal while increasing the number of datasets that are updated in close to real time. In fact, our 311 data is updated every 10minutes. But the next step needs to be identifying right-sized problems that are most appropriate for volunteer technologists to help us solve. Theyre obviously not going to develop a new ERP system. And its tempting to work on novelty projects that a developer might be interested in, but dont actually meet a user need or have a clear product owner. In other words, we cant just publish open data we also need to issue challenges where there is the most potential for volunteers to have an impact. That means engaging in a deliberative process with residents to surface insights and user needs. If we were to create this master list of priorities, it could help keep us focused and honest with ourselves about the friction our fellow residents experience in their citizen-government interactions.

What’s one change you would like to see in the government and/or open data space?

We need to start thinking about how to better deploy APIs that accurately model the relationships between agencies, departments, programs, revenues, expenditures, performance measures, and quality of life. Government isnt a monolith, but citizens should expect a consistent user experience across all of governments touchpoints, and thats going to require government to be interoperable with itself. That is, developing and adopting data standards that enable integration, not just among our enterprise systems, but across all of governments enterprise systems. And its not as complicated as it sounds. Really, we just need to move toward the singular goal of helping residents understand the relationship between the taxes they pay, the services we deliver, and the outcomes those ultimately influence. If you can do that across federal, stateand local agencies, then you can enable a more fact-based, data-driven conversation about how best to accelerate of quality of life improvements in every neighborhood in the country.


Al Webber

Al Webber

Director of Open Data
New York City

What’s your big project in open data/open government right now?

We are really focused on trying to update data as close to real time as possible. We just released the traffic speeds from DOT, which is updated every 5 minutes. Prior to that, it was the PlowNYC data, which is activated during a snow event and is updated every 15 minutes. So we really want to push the envelope in terms of updating data as close to real time as possible.

How is this work changing how government does business?

With open data, it’s really getting down to the nitty-gritty with operations its causing agencies to rethink how they are capturing and collecting data. By doing that, it is making them more efficient, because theyre having to get systems that can handle incoming data in a machine-readable, user-friendly format. Then they have to train people to capture this information in a certain way. Overall, it’s driving the city to be more efficient, user-friendly, and customer-service oriented because the data is specifically released to the public.

Open data is also pushing us to make better use of technology. Maybe we take it for granted here at DoITT because we are a technology agency, but not every agency is as tech-savvy. This forces them to modernize their systems.

As for my favorite piece of open data, I like the restaurant inspection results. If I see a restaurant and it looks really cool on the outside, I’m curious to know the score if I can’t see it while driving by. I really like the NYPD complaint data. Crime has decreased so much that its fascinating to get down to the incident level. I think it’s really helpful lately I was looking for a new apartment and every time I went near a building I would look within the four-block radius on open data to see what was going on in that area.

What’s one change you would like to see in the government and/or open data space?

I would like to see more public-private partnerships. There’s a lot of interesting information that the city is capturing. And when you look at the private sector, while not all of it is going to be publicly available, theres lots of data available via social media platforms like Twitter, how people are checking in on Foursquare, etc. When you combine some of that interesting crowdsourced type of information with what we have in the public sector, I think you could make some really good insights. Its a public and private partnership. I’d like to see more of that in the open data space.


Josh Wolff

Josh Wolff

Open Data Program Manager
Cambridge, Massachusetts

What’s your big project in open data/open government right now?

Were striving to build tools that empower residents and city staff to transform open data into insights. We want open data to be not only a source of transparency, but also a starting point for innovation, data-driven decision makingand civic engagement. That means creating more products like our employee diversity dashboard and our interactive foliage map. It means building out our analytics capabilities and writing new data stories initiatives in which well be investing significant time and resources over the coming years. And finally, it means creating new trainings so that city staff and residents acquire the skills and knowledge they need to use open data effectively. The unifying theme here is the reimagining of open data as a raw material for improving city operations.

How is this work changing how government does business?

Cambridges open data program began as a source of transparency, but has evolved into much more than that. Open data has started to change the whole culture of our organization. Staff across the city are more data literate than before the program existed. Information silos separating departments have started to disappear, and data analysis has become a more interdepartmental endeavor. But open datas true power lies in its ability to break down barriers between city staff and the public. Solving or even identifying almost any modern problem requires a lot of data. By supplying the public with that data, Cambridge equips an army of residents to help us find and fix our toughest local issues. Thats what our civic innovation challenge inventory is all about: city staff and residents teaming up and leveraging data to improve Cambridge. Each time we renew that partnership, city staff are introduced to new skills, technologies, and perspectives that will help us tackle future problems even more effectively.

What’s one change you would like to see in the government and/or open data space?

Id like to see governments and software providers pay more attention to internal data sharing. Open data certainly has given city departments better access to each others data, but just as nine-tenths of an iceberg lies beneath the waters surface, most government data remains isolated within databases accessible by only a single department or even a single analyst. Data needlessly trapped within one department is as closed to the rest of the city staff as to residents. Open data shouldnt be a binary concept: Just because a dataset is too sensitive to be posted online doesnt automatically mean it should be viewable by only a single municipal employee. We need new technologies and business practices for ensuring that data from departments across the organization can be internally shared, combined, analyzed, and when appropriate, opened to the public. I hope the day comes when public works or the fire department can with a few clicks share data with each other, with the entire city staff, or with the whole world.

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