The open data movement, which grants citizens easy access to the data paid for by their tax dollars, has been growing nationwide across all levels of government.
Today, Gov. Jack Markell took the next step for Delaware by signing Executive Order 57, which will create an open data portal for the executive branch. He signed the order in front of a small, but passionate, crowd of supportive citizens and government leaders.
Before making a speech, Markell gave the podium to Ryan Harrington, cofounder of Open Data Delaware and the education and nonprofit coordinator at 1313 Innovation, who cut right to the chase.
“Open data is such a fantastic way for technologists to interact with the community,” Harrington said.
Markell said he was inspired during a trip to Silicon Valley about a year ago. During the trip, people “talked to me about the steps a number of states are taking around opening up public data to the public at large, and all the value that gets created,” Markell said.
State Chief Information Officer James L. Collins called Markell “the most tech-savvy governor in the nation,” and said their relationship involved a lot of back and forth.
Collins looked beyond the Silicon Valley trip, and called the executive order a “logical progression” from Executive Order 20, which centralized IT services within the executive brach. That fostered sharing of data between agencies. Now the data will be shared with the public.
Delaware’s smaller size makes it easier to pull a project like this together.
1313’s Harrington grew up in New Jersey, and said he never met the governor there. The atmosphere is a lot different in Delaware, and today was not even his first time meeting Markell.
“There’s no six degrees here. It’s one and a half. Two, maybe, on a bad day,” Harrington said.
That made it easier for Harrington to reach out and push for a concrete open data policy.
“Ryan was really nice today, but they’ve been putting pressure on us, asking, ‘Where’s the data, where’s the data?'” CIO Collins said.
Harrington has been impressed with how quickly Open Data Delaware built a following. Six months ago, the group was just an idea that Harrington created because it was a group he wanted to join — but it didn’t exist.
Now the group is expanding beyond like-minded technologists and programmers. Harrington said he’s excited to involve “people who don’t have those skills, who are just interested in interfacing with their government better.”
Harrington also said that “Technical.ly has shined a light on the open data movement.”
At last year’s Delaware Innovation Week, Technical.ly hosted a Dev Conference. Harrington brought up two speakers who are also open data advocates. Mark Headd used to be the director of Delaware’s Government Information Center, and he recently wrote an article advocating for Delaware to be an national leader in open data. Wilmington City Council member Darius J. Brown has also been pushing for open data at the city level, especially budgetary data.
There is currently some information online, but it is scattered across many websites. The current portal simply links to those data sources, while this executive order will create a central hub. Citizens who have ideas for data sets can go to the site and submit ideas and requests.
This is Markell’s final year in office, and he wants it in place a few months before his term ends. Markell said the order will create a council that “will establish a state-wide data strategy, and recommend standards and policies related to open data.” The council will submit its plan within six months, and Markell wants the data portal implemented by Sept. 30.